University College Cork and Maynooth University are the only two Irish colleges to improve their placings in the latest Times Higher Education World University rankings.
Trinity College Dublin remains Ireland’s best-placed institution but has slipped three places to 120th in a table topped again by British universities at Oxford and Cambridge.
TCD is followed by University College Dublin (UCD) and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), both retaining places ranked between 201 and 250.
University College Cork has moved up a banding to be ranked between 301 and 350, but NUI Galway slips something between 50 and 150 places by dropping into the same category from being ranked 201-250 a year ago.
“Rankings are fragile measures," said President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh.
"This year, NUI Galway improved its score in all measures but one (citations, which are measured backwards over a five year period) yet fell back in the rankings. This indicates that standing still means others pass you by.
"In a highly competitive context internationally, maintaining rather than increasing investment in education also means others pass you by."
Maynooth University also made gains by entering the top 400 of the 2019 Times Higher Education (THE) rankings, but Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) has fallen out of the top 800.
"To have entered the top 400 universities worldwide is a remarkable achievement, and reflects the internationally recognised quality of our teaching, research and scholarship," a Maynooth University spokesperson said.
"Maynooth University is the fastest growing university with more than 12,500 students, including almost 1,600 taught postgraduate and professional students and a growing cohort of over 400 research students."
Dublin City University and University of Limerick retain their placings, ranked between 401 and 500, and from 501 to 600, respectively.
They attributed the slight fall in TCD’s ranking to a dip in its score on teaching, one of the several metrics used to compile the rankings. It reverses a jump from 131st to 117th last year, but the university said remaining in the top 120 global universities is a testament to its quality.
“We have seen an increase in performance across four of the five categories in which we are ranked, which is to be welcomed. However, it is a measure of how competitive the field is that better performance on our part is not reflected in the rankings,” said TCD dean of research Professor Linda Doyle.
This increased competition was also cited as a factor by the rankings editor Ellie Bothwell, with continuing improvements by Asian universities affecting many European colleges.
Japan replaces the UK as second-most represented nation, with US universities continuing to dominate. China’s new top university at Tshingua has overtaken the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh.
The main criteria under which universities are measured include teaching, the volume, income and reputation of their research, citations showing the influence of their research, international staff, students and research collaborations, and knowledge transfer through collaborations with industry and others.
For more on this story, see tomorrow's Irish Examiner.