More uni rankings

THE and QS are now divorced, so more rankings for all.

The Times Higher Education ranking is out too (the number in brackets is QS):

TCD: 72 (52)

UCD: 94 (114)

Cork: >199 (184)

Numbers 200-399 can only be had with an iPhone.

The THE ranking is of course far superior than the QS ranking because the Vrije U Amsterdam does much better according to THE (139 v 171) and ranks higher than U Amsterdam.

See Indo and Times.

38 replies on “More uni rankings”

Some conclusions can be drawn from the figures:

(1) High taxation does not produce good higher education.

We are always being told by Irish Times journalists, and by the likes of Fintan O’Toole in particular, that, although taxation as a percentage of GDP is lower in Ireland than in the continental EU countries, we pay for it with an inferior education system, which will hold back our economy compared with their’s in the years to come. Not so. The highest-ranked Irish university (TCD) came higher than the highest-ranked university in other small (although larger than Ireland) countries such as Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Denmark, Norway. If I was a resident of one of the latter 3 countries, I’d be writing an angry letter to the Finland Times, Denmark Times or Norway Times asking: “The government takes 55pc to 60pc of our incomes in taxation, so how come we haven’t got a university as good as Ireland, which takes 25pc to 30pc?” This result is also seen in the figures for the larger countries. The US and the UK totally outperform Germany and France.

(2) Ireland is fundamentally different to the other ‘PIIGS’.

I never use the term ‘PIIGS’ myself. Its racist. But, Ireland is clearly different to Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. Ireland has a population of 4.5 million and has 2 universities in the top 200. The other so-called PIIGS have a population of 120 million between them and also have 2 universities in the top 200. Spain (population 40m) has 2, Italy (population 60m) has 0, Portugal (population 10m) has 0, Greece (population 10m) has 0.

(3) The economic threat to Ireland from Eastern Europe is exaggerated.

Wages in eastern Europe are low and this has led to predictions of a mass exodus of companies from Ireland (and other relativlely high-wage countries) to that region. Undoubtedly, some at the lower-skill end of the spectrum will do just that. But, all the countries of eastern Europe don’t have a single university in the top 200 between them (at least, none that I could find in a quick early-morning bleary-eyed scan through the figures). So, it is very unlikely that companies at the higher-skill end of the spectrum will be following them.

Will posters on here and media commentators draw these conclusions?

Of course not.

They will simply claim that the results are biased in favour of English-speaking countries (although nearly every one in the Netherlands and the Nordic counties speaks perfect English).

All valid points, and thanks for adding the bit of depth that I did not have time for.

However, while Ireland outperforms most countries, we should aim to outperform all. Irish universities could do better through reform without extra money.

In so far as these are useful…
TCD/UCD get the following scores (from 100)
Teaching 48 / 42
International 82 / 87
indusry income 36 / not supplied
research 45 / 37
citations 84 / 87

Some glossing on this (in the word, not primping sense) ; from their site they note the 5 elements are
* Teaching — the learning environment (worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score)
* Research — volume, income and reputation (worth 30 per cent)
* Citations — research influence (worth 32.5 per cent)
* Industry income — innovation (worth 2.5 per cent)
* International mix — staff and students (worth 5 per cent).
which are derived from 13 seperate metrics which are given here

The largest single one of the 13 metrics is a reputational survey (in which ITIR taking part) of research, at 20%. In this context, science ministers and creationists dont help, nor does overall perceptions of Ireland as a place where we cannot “mind the shop”. In this as in so many other areas, reputation matters.
On teaching : i have no doubt some will jump on this and say “aha, irish university academics are crap teachers”. Well, no…some, too many, are, but again the metrics are Reputational survey 15% (if people see irish academics mumbling and bumbling at conferences, or their students come back from ireland after a year there and say it was shocking…). The others are
PhD awards per academic ; undergraduate staff/student ratio ; income per academic (richer generally means more resources to deploy to the students) ; and phd/undergrad ratio. So the teaching is skewed to those that teach smaller classes at undergrad and who are heavier into the fourth level.

“I never use the term ‘PIIGS’ myself. Its racist.”

all of these countries primarily host people of the same race. and pigs, as in farm animals, are a different species, not race.

on the international high scores, from what i have seen, much recruitment of international staff was likely driven by the inflated lecturer salaries here compared to the rest of europe. wonder how fast those scores change as that wage premium gets levied away and the starting salary in ireland doesn’t blow competing european institutions out of the water.

I agree we could do better – but the reforms that would be needed, within and more potently across the sector would be so politically toxic that they wont happen easily if at all.

@Richard Tol

Where does Queen’s University, Belfast (QUB) come in the rankings?

I can’t see it in the top 200.

If so, this is another disastrous outcome from the artificial partition. When I was a student at QUB in the late 1960s, the idea that QUB would ever rank below UCD or TCD would have been laughed at. Over the previous 150 years, QUB had produced a long line of world-class scientists and inventors, such as UCD or TCD even to this day never have. People north of the border have always had a far stronger tradition in science, technology and invention, while people south of the border have had a far stronger tradition in the arts, culture and poor-mouthing. Even to this day, I can’t think of a single product in daily use that was invented by someone south of the border in Ireland (before or after partition), while there are lots that were invented by people north of the border (bicycle tyres and portable defibrillators among them). That was why the north had world-class technologically-advanced industries over a century ago, while the south had then only agriculture.

The inventive scientific northern mind should be one of the major resources for the whole island. The demise of QUB as a serious university shows that it is being lost. The raw material north of the border is still there, but it is heading off to other UK universities across the water. As with so many areas, there is an urgent need to restore All-Ireland integration to the area of education. Do that, and QUB will quickly be up alongside UCD and TCD.

The difference between the Times and QS rankings is informative. Times dumped the QS system because it relied too much on asking people how good they thought various places were. It is therefore trying to measure research performance using more objective criteria.

So: as far as research is concerned, TCD is objectively less good than its reputation suggests. UCD is better than its reputation suggests. The two universities are closer in terms of quality than their reputations suggest.

JtO –
If I was resident in Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Denmark or Norway I’d send my kid to Uni in Ireland, it’s free

I believe them furreners have better transport & health systems though

A question: I was not able to see (from a very quick scan) for what year the data were collected. The rankings are branded “2010”, but the latest year the data could refer to is the academic year 2008-09. Given that the impact of public expenditure cuts was not all that great in 08-09, and that such cuts probably take effect with a fairly long lag (at least as far as research is concerned), then please spare us any bleating of University bosses about the latest rankings being all due to cuts in funding

@Brian Lucey

In this context, science ministers and creationists dont help.

JTO again:

This is totally uncalled for in this thread. If you want to attack peoples’ religious views (and this is not the first time that you’ve done it on this site), might I suggest that you do it on Their paltry numbers ensure that you will be warmly welcomed. This is a site for debating economics and economics-related matters, not theology or the origins of the universe. While I don’t go one hundred per cent of the way with the creationists, I see nothing that indicates that they are a barrier to a country achieving a high ranking for academic research. I haven’t actually heard of a lot of research papers being produced by monkeys myself but, if Dawkins is correct, all I need to do is hang around a bit and they will come. When that happens, by all means scoff at the creationists.

The US has far more creationists per capita than any other country. Many of its
universities are faith-based universities. Yet, it totally dominates these rankings. I counted that the US accounts for almost half of the top 200 in these rankings, some of them Baptist, Methodist or Catholic institutions. A far better record than more secular countries like Germany of France. Meantime, I read that a UK government minister has stated today that “the new UK government intends to restore religious faith to the heart of British public life and will underpin its efforts to improve society”. If a government minister here said that, the Dublin 4 media would call for his/her lynching. Presumably, if your theory is correct, there should now be a mass exodus of academics from the UK.

@John the Omniscient:
“This is a site for debating economics and economics-related matters, not theology or the origins of the universe.”

Are you any relation to the bloke who was on another thread yesterday praising the USA because many of its citizens believe in religions and telling us about visiting a Baptist church?


These “league tables” are idiotic, which makes anyone who takes them seriously. . .? They amount to outsourcing to self-appointed groups responsibility for deciding what the missions of our universities should be.

The fact that the rankings fluctuate from year to year (or even from week to week is only the most obvious sign that they are completely bogus. That many of you are willing to lend them credence says more about Irish universities than the rankings themselves.

Regardless of the merits of creationism and freedom of religion, fact is that, because of the Culture Wars, creationism has an extremely bad reputation in parts of the USA — specifically among those who control investment decisions in high-tech foreign direct investment. The actions of the Minister of Science and brother of the Taoiseach-in-waiting were not prudent.

What evidence is there that ‘potential clients’ (clients for what?) take these best dressed person contests seriously? If we correlate rankings with unemployment, public debt, transport infrastructure, etc, Ireland would fare very badly. The belief that Ireland with its tiny population should lead the world in research is verging on the delusional – the very expensive delusional. As Sean O’Driscoll put it last week (paraphrased) the cost of pursuing the smart economy has been the neglect of indigenous industry especially light engineering. These Laputa initiatives will bring wealth and kudos to a few (and hats off to research achievements) and little else.

If there is any merit in the rankings perhaps they indicate how few institutions are worth keeping open?

@Richard Tol

Where to begin?

So, apparently, it doesn’t matter if the rankings are utterly specious because “clients” (the very word in this context makes me throw up in my mouth a little) take them seriously.

So much for the centuries-old conception of the university as devoted above all to the pursuit of disinterested knowledge and truth. “Who cares whether the data is any good; the powerful like it.” Apparently, the institution is now so abased that any notion that it might have higher purposes than the rankest sort of prostitution doesn’t even enter anyone’s head.

Like I said: this discussion speaks volumes about the poor quality of Irish academics. Do you think at Harvard they waste even a minute thinking about such things? “That’s because they’re number one!” you say. Well, if you do say that, you’ve got it exactly backwards: it’s not that Harvard pays no attention to such inanities because it is great; it’s that Harvard is great (in part) because it pays no attention to such inanities.

It’s seems to me that this is an overcomplicated ranking method and should be viewed in two different aspects.

1) Ability to produce a labour force equipped with ‘holding the fort’ and at the same time, grasp a sense of innovation,
2) Ability to have a high output of quality research.
We’ve had this argument before, and one does not go hand in hand with the other. 2 separate rankings would seem more in line.

A sensible way to measure a universities ability for 1) and 2) would be to look at a universities output into the labour force (adjust for labour market etc),
And its ability to keep output in workforce…after all that’s a Universities task. You would essentially need feedback from employers to get an end result on this method though, to be fair.
I don’t see the extra analysis necessary unless you want to go into a research debate.

Teaching being based on learning environment? What? Doesn’t seem like it would capture everything.

@Ernie Ball:
“it’s that Harvard is great (in part) because it pays no attention to such inanities.”

The other part being, perhaps, that it has an endowment worth (see Wikipedia) twenty-five billion dollars?



Citations are seriously skewed by dominance of US journals, and more importantly – the ENGLISH language.

Considering our size – top1000 not bad, top100 pretty good … but I remain somewhat skeptical of most of these rankings …..


‘Even to this day, I can’t think of a single product in daily use that was invented by someone south of the border in Ireland (before or after partition), while there are lots that were invented by people north of the border (bicycle tyres and portable defibrillators among them).’

Ah here now, Dunlop and Harland were Edinburgh educated Scots and Wolff was a Hamburg-born German. Though I suppose Dunlop was technically north of the border (though he wouldn’t have known at the time) when he invented and patented the pneumatic tyre.

And let us not forget that John Holland was a Clareman by birth as well as the developer of the US Navy’s first commissioned submarine.

That said, Prof. Patridge was a Down man.

Isn’t the real truth that Brian Lenihan isn’t the only spoofer in Ireland. So are our Universities…full of spoof. The old QS ranking system allowed Ireland to do what it does best- project an image far in excess of reality. In otherwords we made contacts with other academics worldwide, sucked up to them and bluffed them of our worth. The king may not have clothes on though as anyone who has endeavoured to study in an Irish University would know, waited around in cold lecture theatres until 20 past the hour for lecturers off abroad at some conference who hadn’t the courtesy to cancel, dared ask a lecturer for some time to explain stuff after the lecture to find they were too busy putting together a grant application to the Quango of Science etc

If you want good universities and a good economy then start failing and helping students learn properly where they went wrong rather than manipulating statistics, missing lectures, hinting at exam questions, offering sample exams that are the real one (+/- different figures/words), inflating grades and students heads with first class honours etc.

God bless the days when it was the students who skipped lectures?????

University rankings need to taken with a pinch of salt. But the general impression from them is that Irish universities are at least on a par with other prosperous countries. It is relatively rare to find public expenditure in Ireland giving value for money when compared to other countries. By and large Irish education gives decent outcomes while being somewhat less well funded per student than other countries. This is not true of other areas of public spending where services lag behind that found elsewhere.

@dearg doom

(showing your age or taste in music – I liked Horslips live BTW)

“By and large Irish education gives decent outcomes while being somewhat less well funded per student than other countries.”

Can someone explain to me why the RTCs are factored out of the debate on the smart economy. Originally they were listed to provide niche tech training. Has mission drift tumbled them over?

@richard Tol

The actions of the Minister of Science and brother of the Taoiseach-in-waiting were not prudent.

JTO again:

So, would you be against a Mormon being allowed to be Minister of Science?

With the greatest possible respect to their beliefs, they are somewhat less mainstream than Creationists.

I still cannot understand that we pay our academics about twice the average in the UK and more than twice European academics and we find that TCD is 14th and UCD 26th in the European rankings. Somebody is codding us – either the academics here are useless or the Times is a useless survey.


Perhaps it will astonish you – it astonished me – but the C&AG has reported that hundred so senior staff in the universities are paid handsomely above what the Department of Education sanctions. Extra allowances, extra pension years and unscrutinized ‘consultancy’ time. Fantastic news isn’ t it?

Naturally one jumps through the report (PDF) to one’s former places of suffering erm… learning. This one was particularly interesting.

University of Limerick
4.70 It was noted in the course of audit that during the financial years 2007 and 2008 there were three persons being paid, contemporaneously, through the university payroll at the president scale.

There are three factors at play.

First, the market is thin. People stay with the same job for a long time. There are few vacancies. It therefore takes a long time for the market to clear. The surge in academic salaries in Ireland is only a decade or so old. The distribution of talent has yet to adjust to the distribution of wages.

Second, academics want to work in a reputable and challenging place. Many would accept a lower salary to be at a better university.

Third, academics hire one another. Knowing people is as important as performing well. This again prevents a full equilibration of wage and performance.

Are there any separate rankings produced for individual faculties? Why should faculties of engineering, medicine, economics, and sociology all be lumped in together? A university could have a Faculty of Economics full of the best economists in the world and a Faculty of Engineering full of the worst engineers in the world. Or vice-versa. Are there any rankings produced that would show this, or are they all subsumed within an overall university ranking. What good would it be for attracting top-quality engineering lecturers if the overall university ranking was high, but the Faculty of Engineering within in it was very poor. I’d say that in Ireland there are quite a few useless faculties and departments, that may be hiding behind the reasonably high overall university rankings. The UCD Department of Sociology for starters, which really should be renamed the UCD Department of Socialism, since many of its senior staff appear to waste more time and taxpayers’ money in ridiculous attempts to foment revolution than in serious research.

@Richard Tol

“Academics hire one another. Knowing people is as important as performing well”.

JTO again:

Is this ‘crony academicism’?. How does it differ from the ‘crony capitalism’ they are always going on about? In the company I am employed in (an evil American multi-national company), this would not be tolerated. There are strict rules to ensure that senior managers can’t simply give jobs to their friends. The criterion would always have to be the prospective employee’s qualifications, record and likelihood of performing well in the job. I suppose the academics get away with it because the taxpayers are paying for it all.

@JohnThe Optimist

Nice one. You manage to slander baselessly the entire UCD School of Sociology and to do so on the very day that we learn that UCD management (and not, as is sometimes reported, all academic staff) have been giving themselves generous top ups that add up to many multiples of the entire staffing costs of the School of Sociology.

Misplaced priorities?


JTO again:

Is this ‘crony academicism’?. How does it differ from the ‘crony capitalism’ they are always going on about? In the company I am employed in (an evil American multi-national company), this would not be tolerated. There are strict rules to ensure that senior managers can’t simply give jobs to their friends.

A friend of mine who taught in the UK (in a ‘ranked’ university) told me that as a general rule spouses are not allowed to be recruited into departments where the other spouse has a professorial position. Professors don’t employ their husbands or wives for fear of being accused of cronyism and conflicts of interest. I have no idea whether this is generally true or just an anecdote. What’s the position in Ireland? Are husband and wife teams common in academic departments? I notice that TDs and Ministers can no longer employ the wife or husband in as cavalier a fashion as before.

I know of one multinational where a senior executive had a relationship with a junior staff member (not an extramarital affair) and his bosses were so concerned by the suggested indiscipline (implied cronyism) that they contemplated firing him.

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