Ranking of Irish Universities (and Economics Departments)

Rankings are funny things. Economists love them. There are rankings by department, by citation, and by subdiscipline. My favourite one is the top dead economist. You’d think it would be Adam Smith, but no.

Some people even rank their rankings.

There are even rankings of business schools, academics, and celebrity economists in Ireland, thanks to Richard Tol and colleagues. The rankings aren’t without controversy. In particular, some see ranking as academic bureaucracy and nothing more, others (like frequent IrishEconomy poster Ernie Ball) point to the perverse incentives such rankings produce in academic life, as well as other serious issues. Ferdinand Von Prondzynski summarises the arguments well here. Here is another particularly harsh assessment of these rankings.

Today’s university rankings show two Irish universities and economics departments in a particularly good light. TCD and UCD come out really well in several areas. Other universities, including mine, don’t feature as prominently at all. Brian Lucey has done the spade work on his blog going through the report, and I reproduce his summary below the fold. Some remarkable findings in there–TCD mathematics is 15th in the world, TCD psychology is top 50, for example–as well as the news that UCD and TCD economics departments are both in the top 50 100 (ht Enda H). Well done to them.

I’m particularly interested in commenters’ reactions to this latest report, and what it might mean for universities in Ireland that a. don’t make the cut in terms of rankings, and b. those that do. Rather than rehashing the tired “rankings-good/rankings-bad” argument, let’s focus, if we can, on what these rankings imply for the funding each university receives by subject area, in the light of the Hunt Report and it’s eventual implementation.  Should resources flow disproportionately to the ‘winners’–TCD and UCD–or alternatively to other universities to bring up capacity? Should all universities do everything, or should there be partitions by subject area? Should UCD’s mathematics department, to pick an example at random, give up and go home, given than TCD’s is so obviously world class? Take a look at the summary below to begin.

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Sociology:  TCD 48; UCD 51-100

Statistics and OR: no Irish university in top 200, which is worrying as this is a key business analytics function and one that has great job opportunities.

Politics and International Relations: TCD 50, UCD 51-100

Law: TCD, QUB, UCD and UCC all in the 51-100 ranking, indicating a massive strength in legal scholarship on the island. We rarely hear of law as an area in which the government is going to invest, but clearly we have strength and it would make sense to build on this.

Economics and Econometrics: TCD and UCD are both ranked in the 51-100 area, and it is interesting that there is in place a jointly taught PhD programme in this area. Again it shows a cluster, Dublin based, of world ranked excellence in this area, which if one were to take the ESRI into account is even stronger

Accounting and Finance: TCD 51-100, QUB and UCD 100-151; some potential here it would seem especially when one considers the close linkages with economics. I might also modestly note, being in that area, that there are significant size differences between the three schools – TCD has 4 finance faculty and 3 accounting, the others have…more

English: TCD 32, UCD 51-100

Modern Languages TCD 51-100

History: TCD 39, QUB and UCD 51-100

Philosophy: TCD and UCD both 51-100

Geography: TCD and UCD 51-100, QUB 151-200

Linguistics: no Irish university was ranked in the top 200 here

Computer Science and Engineering: UCD 51-100, TCD 101-150,

Civil and Structural Engineering: TCD and UCD 100-151, QUB 151-200

Chemical Engineering: TCD QUB and UCD 51-100, NUIG 101-150, UCC 151-200

Electrical/Electronic Engineering: TCD and QUB 51-100, UCC 100-150, DIT (its only entry in a subject in the top 200) 151-200, also NUIG and UCD here

Mechanical Engineering: TCD and UCC 51-100, NUIG 101-150, UCD and QUB 151-200, again another engineering cluster of excellence

Medicine: TCD 51-100, UCD 101-150, UCC and QUB 151-200. Interesting that there is no mention of the RCSI here…

Biological Science: TCD 51-100, UCD and UCC 101-150, NUIG 151-200,

Psychology: TCD 48, UCD 51-100, QUB 151-200

Chemistry: TCD 36, QUB 51-100, UCD 101-150, UCC 151-200, which when combined with the chemical engineering rankings suggests that this is an area in which as an island we punch heavily worldwide

Physics: TCD 49, UCC QUB and UCD 151-200

Metallurgy and Material Science: UCD 151-200

Mathematics: TCD 15, a fantastic achievement indeed…UCD 101-150, UCC and QUB 151-200

Environmental Sciences: TCD, UCD and UCC all 101-150, QUB 151-200

Earth Science: TCD 101-150, NUIG, UCC and UCD 151-200

Author: Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

60 thoughts on “Ranking of Irish Universities (and Economics Departments)”

  1. Most interesting. Spanish universities do not do nearly as well from my quick perusal…qué vergüenza

  2. Bullshit in! Bullshit out! Is TCD really the most cited math dept in the world? Are employers of Stanford and MIT alumni really less satisfied than Oxford Cambridge and LSE employers?

    And those who are so enamoured of lists may do well to remember GDP per capita lists that a certain little nation used to regularly top.

  3. Maynooth doesn’t feature…again!

    We pay 1 million in rent for office space to the priests every year – money that should be used to employ staff – we cannot seem to capture PRTLI money (for biology at least) EVER and no matter whether somebody is working their ass off or barely doing the minimum, the pay differential is almost non-existent.

    Yes, we have improved in rankings in the past 4 years, but these rankings become a real downer each year.

    We rank very highly in evolutionary biology (according to a report from the ISI, see http://bioinf.nuim.ie/), telecommunications engineering and a coupe of other things, but when lumped in with people who do almost nothing, in a university that seems incapable of pulling in any large-scale institutional research funding, it comes out very depressingly.

    My research group are going great guns, but its too small (~8 researchers) to make a difference to world rankings. The result for Maynooth is that people like Kingston Mills, Seamus Martin and Derek Doherty have left Maynooth and take up jobs in TCD. Why wouldn’t they? Resulting in a choice for those of us why work there now: leave or accept that you will never have the resources to make significant research progress.

  4. as well as the news that UCD and TCD economics departments are both in the top 50.

    They did well Stephen, but not that well! (Top 100)

  5. Its intersting that the QS ranking is used and refererred to in this article as ‘univeristy ranking’ as if there is only one. I actually thought ‘The Times’ rankings were more respected than QS. There are also other named rankings. The thing that confuses me is that if you look at the same university it can come out quite differently depending on the named ranking used.
    So to answer the question on wheter university funding should be allocated according to the QS ranking, I would say no.
    Perhaps a combined score from 3 or 4 of the most respected named rankings could be used when considering funding. However it should obviously not be the leading indicator and just a mimimal one.
    I could give the example of the indicator of salary after graduation. This is clearly not properly collected with no proof of income
    required.

  6. @Garo/Desmond
    on citations : its apparently not ‘raw’ citations but citations on average per paper ; so a small school with good papers that are well cited gets a higher rank than a large school with lots of uncited papers. So Garo to say (gasp! shock! style no less) “Is TCD really the most cited math dept in the world? ” clearly the answer is no…as would have been apparent from reading the post or the links.
    @Garo
    “Are employers of Stanford and MIT alumni really less satisfied than Oxford Cambridge and LSE employers?”
    Maybe. Employers will have expectation. on average one might expect, based at least on their own mythos, MIT employees to perform better (at least two patentable ideas per hour, three walkings on water per week, and a funny practical joke involving the repudiation of a presupposed natural law) than mere Oxbridge chappies. So, yeah, maybe they might be?

  7. Far too may ‘universities’ with duplicated departments, bureaucracies, research units and of course academic political playing to beat any particular band you may wish to name – massive restructuring required….

  8. It should hardly be a surprise that the economics departments of the two biggest universities would do better than smaller ones.

    As for the rankings, English clearly helps: UK has 34 institutions and in Asia, Singlish helps in the city state as it has 5 compared with 3 from Japan and 4 from Korea.

    Germany has 9 and as for BRIC countries: Brazil 0, Russia 0, India 1 and China 9.

    Ferdinand Von Prondzynski says ‘Countries wanting to be recognised as knowledge societies need their universities to perform well in global rankings.’

    I don’t accept this.

    Finland is not in the current rankings but both it and South Korea could be termed knowledge economies and their PISA rankings are very impressive.

    Stephen Kinsella says ‘We rarely hear of law as an area in which the government is going to invest, but clearly we have strength and it would make sense to build on this.’

    The other common law countries my not need our lawyers.

    As for all the papers and cross-citations during the so-called ‘Great Moderation,’ when the crash came it was the work of a dead economist, Hyman Minsky, from an obscure university, which received belated attention.

  9. Briefly, age and ethos come into it too.

    A quick glance shows the older extant universities in any area doing well. I expect there’s mutiple reasons for that: the self fulfilling prophecy of reputation, famous graduates, classy buildings, libraries, ability to generate funding through bequests, etc.

    Ethos plays a part. It doesn’t surprise me that TCD does well where the intelligent, sceptical individual has the chance to inquire into a subject. It is the university of Swift, Berkeley and Beckett. TCD though, gave up on its acting course – not bookish enough, too expensive and collaborative. It has probably rightly gone with the independent Lir.

    Which makes me sympathetic with DCU. Only 25 years old, a can-do outward looking ethos, emphasis on social engagement, doing and embodied knowledge as much as ‘book’ knowledge.

    Compare and contrast the two respective emphases in Film Studies courses at TCD and DCU.

    http://www.tcd.ie/film/postgraduate/theory-history/

    http://www.dcu.ie/prospective/deginfo.php?classname=MTV&originating_school=60

  10. @Stephen Kinsella

    Statistics and OR:

    No Irish university in top 200, which is worrying as this is a key business analytics function and one that has great job opportunities.

    JTO again:

    I’d have to agree with you there, although it comes as no surprise.

    As I have posted many times here, the standard of statistical expertise south of the border in Ireland is pathetic. It was much better in my young day (late 60s, early 70s) at Queen’s University, Belfast. There have been a few people who are clearly proficient in statistics, like Garret Fitzgerald, Brendan Walsh, now Seamus Coffey and Ronnie O’Toole. But, they are the exception.

    The census figures last week are the latest in a long line of debacles. It is no coincidence that one of the very few to get them right, namely JTO, comes from north of the border. Anybody, with a modicum of expertise at statistics, could have deduced from the available data that the figures being bandied about pre-census, by various politicians, academic ‘experts’ and celebrity economists, for the supposed level of net emigration and population growth were absurd. Joan Burton’s claim that the population was falling at the rate of 500,000 a year, being merely the worst of a very bad lot, yet she is rewarded with a post in government, for which some proficiency in statistics would seem to be a reasonable requirement. Earlier in the decade, we had numerous false claims about the alleged pernicious effect of the Celtic Tiger (for example: Maev Ann Wren’s IT articles and the book: “Growth: The Celtic Cancer) on the nation’s health. But, we now know from the latest mortality figures that these claims were also absurd. It was simply that those making the claims couldn’t analyse statistics properly.

  11. There are many rankings. Each tell a different story, but the general picture is that TCD and UCD are internationally respectable universities, while some universities are mediocre and other universities do not feature at all.

    @Chris: QS is one of the more intelligent rankings, by the way. They used to be behind the THE rankings.

    What are the implications? As I have argued time and again, there are too many universities in this country, particularly if you consider the ITs that grant PhDs (the common definition of the university). Oversupply means excessive overheads, small and invisible research groups, and incoherent curricula.

    I think we should follow Jack Welch, and close those departments that are not in the global top 500. Departments that are not in the top 200 should be stripped of the right to grant PhDs and be denied SFI and PRTLI funding.

  12. From the QS methedology section of their website:

    “Student Faculty Ratio is, at present, the only globally comparable and available indicator that has been identified to address the stated objective of evaluating teaching quality. Clearly it is not a satisfactory as a qualitative classroom evaluation as might be considered for a domestic teaching assessment, but it does speak to the notion of “commitment to teaching”, which ought to correlate strongly, if not completely with the level of teaching quality.”

    In other words, the only attempt these rankings make to measure teaching quality is an indicator QS deems unsatisfactory, but which “ought” to correlate strongly with teaching quality. This fact is less worrying than the fact that no of the academics seems to be concerned about this.

    I wonder if the Irish taxpayer is as sympathetic to the research / career ambitions of reseach academics, in terms of their publications and marketability internationally, as the focus on research would suggest.

    How much of the HEA’s agenda is dictated by academics and their desire to lock themselves away in cosy offices and think lofty thoughts?

    How much student engagement do these highly ranked types have?

    Can Ireland afford to be competing with the US for research? After all, PhDs are the least likely to stay in the country thorughout the recession.

    Would it not be more in the national interest to develop better teaching colleges?

  13. Richard Tol
    Woud that not fly against the analysis of the Economic Policy paper Dr Harmon has drawn our attention to and linked above – is competition not a good thing?

  14. @Philip II
    In a competitive market, a number of Irish universities would have closed or merged a long time ago.

    This is not a competitive market, though. The Irish university system disburses a variety of subsidies.

    I would favour liberalization and privatization of the universities, as they primarily offer private services. Absent that, enforcement of quality standards is the least the owner/regulator should do.

  15. “Should UCD’s mathematics department, to pick an example at random, give up and go home, given than TCD’s is so obviously world class?”

    The question is probably better put as

    “Should UCD, to pick an example at random, give up and go home, given than TCD is so obviously world class?”

  16. @Ludwig
    “Would it not be more in the national interest to develop better teaching colleges?”
    Shhhh. That’s heresy round these parts…

  17. The Ranking for TCD in respect of Accounting and Finance as being ahead of UCD is pure rubbish. They forgot DCU which excells in this area. The two best Departments in Accounting are in UCD and DCU. If they are ranking Finance based on appearances in the press and media TCD would have the edge but that to me has little to do with Teaching and Research.

  18. Just an aside but NUIG does not have a Chemical Engineering dept which just brings these rankings into question slightly

  19. It is an interesting question as to whether “funding” from govt should follow surveys like these. If you imagine a free market fee on undergraduate places for example, you would have the money going predominantly to some universities near the top of these lists and more interestingly, to some universities that are not – but would be able to charge a lot for more subtle reasons.

    The some of those in the campaign for the removal of fee caps for example in the UK would cash in from that much more than list based funding.

  20. @ Philip II: “… is competition not a good thing?”

    Def. not Philip. Despite all the exhortations of econs alive and dead – and their sycophantic followers.

    Big if about this ‘competition’ hogwash. Think about it!

    @ hoganmahew + Ludwig: Teaching Quality: this is the real key indicator. Its measurable, but resources needed are considerable and if carried out diligently would expose vast majority of third-level teachers as ill-suited to practice. Big, big embarrassment to their bosses. Now we cannot have that, can we?

    My own undergrad experiences in science and arts wrt course delivery were not good. With one heroic exception, the variety of teaching ranged from poor to mediocre. And again, with one exception, any suggestion for improvement was either ignored or treated with administrative contempt. The arrogance of some adminstrators is truly breathtaking.

    Forget these rating rants. They are as true and accurate as the rubbish from Moody, S+P and the like. Good for pub talk and blogs only.

    Brian Snr.

  21. @Brian Snr

    You certainly used to find some useless communicators and uninterested, almost grudging teachers at very good universities, with the quality the students overriding that. Some very “ordinary” universities’ dynamics being the other way round.

  22. @philipII @richardtol

    Yes, if you take the Mas-Colell/Hoxby et al paper, Richard is broadly correct that the Irish system would not have survived intact over the past decade.

    The other point in that paper is autonomy. Again I agree with Richard on liberalizing. If the regulator (i.e. HEA) was able to enforce standards I could live with that, but the issue is that they firmly hold the view as best I can tell that all institutions are broadly the same quality.

  23. Is there anything useful to be gained by correlating country/university rankings with unemployment rates?

    Politicians, judging from the sea of spin about the importance of research that occupies the Irish Times opinion pages on occasion, must appear to academics to be in need of constant reassurance concerning the debatable economic importance of rankings. The Lord forbid they start thinking for themselves about the costs/benefits to the taxpayer.

    What happened to that marriage between UCD and TCD that occupied the news media a couple of years back. Wasn’t that a rankings outcome, guaranteeing the exchequer payola would continue to roll? How many jobs were promised, 10,000, 30,000, … Any rankings available on the accuracy of jobs forecast from these exercises?

  24. @Philip II

    That paper says, other things equal, independence and competition promote better outcomes.

    That is a long long way from saying that the paper supports a proposition that Ireland does not have wasteful duplication in university departments.

    To me it appears that to say otherwise is to suggest that the authors are denying that there could EVER be wasteful duplication and that more competition is ALWAYS better. That’s not what the paper says. There is an “other things equal” assumption in there

  25. I tend to pay very little attention to those rankings. The US are in a different league and these universities have the ability to attract millions in funding.

    I’d much rather see a measure in the level of quality output. Lets not beat around the bush – the days of students prepping the night before an exam and coming out with 70-80% is still in tact. The quality and level of a master degree is falling, they’re nearly fashion items at this stage. It’s embarrassing and doesn’t reflect a high quality of output and education rather an ability to pop €5,000, piss about for a few months and study wickedly the night before an exam to receive it and MBA, MSc or MA.

    TCD and UCD can have all the citations they want…but it doesn’t reflect a universities ability to produce high quality graduates.

  26. @Salmac
    This isnt as far as can be seen on depts but on “areas”.
    @Christy et al
    yes, point taken on the other things being equal.
    @TRP
    Well, the data are on one empirical issue : citations per paper, and on two surveys of international academics and employers. DCU may well have a fine accounting and finance school, but evidently they dont “rate” on the metrics here. I think its not that they “forgot”. On the TCD/UCD issue, in all cases the three measures given academic rank, employer view and citations, TCD comes ahead : 22.4/10.9, 36.1/35 and 22.6/18.8. Apart from the 20% higher citation rate for TCD the other main element of academic perspective may reflect a more international footprint, a greater awareness or if your right more international viewers of TV3….Occams razor suggests the latter is unlikely

  27. Onre thing possibly you can miss on the employer satisfaction metric is this.

    Imagine you work in a senior position in a multinational or other large company. You are asked about your satisfaction with graduates from Limerick, or Lancaster. Are you really aware of which ones if any are from there? Why would you remember?

    Ask the same question of the LSE or the unuasual sounding “Trinity” or Yale, and for probably different reasons, you miught have actually noted that so and so went there.

    Ask an employer in London about NUIG and they probably won’t even know what it is.

  28. These ranking are largely meaningless, the result of a modern affliction of society to metricate absolutely everything. You end up with pretty meaningless numbers and statistics and basing any decisions on them is foolish at best, and damaging at worst. That doesn’t stop decision makers though.

    As a basic example, why were employers given a 30% rating in mathematics? (Why 30%? What not 35%, or 32.4%? How do you decide this?) Do people think that employers really so qualified as to assess the performance of university mathematics departments?

    I happen to know that employers in Ireland–generally possessed of no more than a Junior Certificate expertise in the subject–have a somewhat awestruck view of mathematicians, as though we are some intellectually superior species, who actually understand those numbers and formulae written in the memos(There are no mathematicians in the Department of Finance). No wonder TCD ranks so highly if such attitudes are being factored in.

    And regardless of that, how can you simply add employers’ opinions, citation influences, and academic performance? They’re not the same things, and probably not even in the same dimension, if they have any. Anyone who would laugh at the mistake in this sign, might want to reconsider their opinion of these university rankings.

  29. Whatever about the university rankings: where are this year’s “person of the year” rankings? They would be about as meaningful.

  30. Richard Tol’s proposal to mothball/merge underperforming departments is an excellent one. Ireland’s third level academics are very well paid, but salaries are similar/the same for the best and worst. Focusing on excellence would mean more overseas academics attracted – and with Ireland’s status as English speaking EU outpost, we should prove quite attractive.

    All that said though….nothing will happen, as the Irish left hate performance measurement…and our universities are stashed full of unioned, bearded lefties.

  31. @OMF
    ” why were employers given a 30% rating in mathematics?” because in the initial focus groups that was deemed appropriate. Dont get all hung on the numbers. Look at the ranks
    “I happen to know that employers in Ireland” good job most of the ones surveyed are not in ireland then isnt it?

  32. @consaw”I’d much rather see a measure in the level of quality output. Lets not beat around the bush – the days of students prepping the night before an exam and coming out with 70-80% is still in tact. The quality and level of a master degree is falling, they’re nearly fashion items at this stage. It’s embarrassing and doesn’t reflect a high quality of output and education rather an ability to pop €5,000, piss about for a few months and study wickedly the night before an exam to receive it and MBA, MSc or MA.

    TCD and UCD can have all the citations they want…but it doesn’t reflect a universities ability to produce high quality graduates.”
    If only it were so. I suspect, no scratch that, know , that at least for TCD/UCD and for the others im almost sure that this just aint so.
    As for the second point – see the employers rankings.
    Some analysis, as opposed to reflexive bile, might help, na?

  33. @grumpy

    You make a fair point ( in the context of employer satisfaction metrics) about perceptions of employees’ university qualifications. Outside of professional HR departments or functions, senior managements’ understanding of this is close to anecdotal.

    As a former employer of multilingual graduates from and in Europe, the Americas and Asia, my experience is that multinational CEOs would only consult university rankings out of curiosity to see how their alma mater fares or if they were looking for confirmation of a choice ( usually already made) of where to send a son or daughter.

    I personally am aware of UCD because I’m a graduate. Otherwise,
    (rightly or wrongly), Trinity is the only Irish university that has global “brand equity”. I stress rightly or wrongly as, in senior management eyes, it, Trinity, would have the same global notoriété as “The Sorbonne”. And that’s all I’ll say about that!

  34. @ Richard Tol

    “I think we should follow Jack Welch, and close those departments that are not in the global top 500. Departments that are not in the top 200 should be stripped of the right to grant PhDs and be denied SFI and PRTLI funding.”

    This site truly is an irony-free zone. Surely Mr. Tol’s own ESRI is the prime candidate for culling, given its appalling failure in the run-up to the crash?

    These rankings clearly measure English-speakingness and nothing more. That is staring you in the face, you have to wait till the late twenties for a non-anglo saxon department.

    Every year this charade goes in this site, pretending that Ireland’s shocking economic performance has nothing to do with the inadequacy of its economics practictioners.

    Have you people no shame? How big an economic disaster would be need before someone here would suggest clsoing down the ESRI? Or questioning the ideology that has caused us to gamble away our independance?

  35. Sorry, folks these rankings are a joke – just look at Sociology within the UK. Oxford and Cambridge 20-25 places above Manchester, Edinburgh and Warwick and fifty or so places above Lancaster and Essex. That is a ranking from 25 years ago. God help us if these works of fiction/ indicator gaming are taken as indicators of real performance and used to shut down departments. You could very efficiently wipe out a good chunk of Irish research excellence in one fell swoop.

  36. This site truly is an irony-free zone. Surely Mr. Tol’s own ESRI is the prime candidate for culling, given its appalling failure in the run-up to the crash?

    Whatever about not giving them projects to do, ’tis hard for the government to close private organisations.

    Every year this charade goes in this site, pretending that Ireland’s shocking economic performance has nothing to do with the inadequacy of its economics practictioners.

    – Peter Neary (Mimeo, 1997) wished to “call attention to the contours and crevasses of the icebergs towards which we are now blithely steaming.”
    – Philip Lane (IBR, 1998) called on the establishment of a reserve fund because we were due to lose our monetary policy.
    -IMF (Report on Ireland, 2003) house values are “16.5 per cent higher than [their] long-run equilibrium.”
    – John Fitzgerald (QEC, 2005) warned about the large number of vacant dwellings, and that in “some cases these dwellings may have been financed under various tax incentive schemes.”
    – Morgan Kelly (QEC, 2007) “predict falls of real house prices of 40 to 60 per cent over a period of 8 to 9 years. The unusually large size of the Irish house building industry suggest that any significant house price fall that does occur could impose a difficult adjustment on the economy” and “[problems of the boom] may require a lengthy period of high unemployment to reverse.”

    With an undergrad from UCD, a masters from the LSE and a Barrington award (most promising Irish economist under 30 award) George Lee is probably the most qualified journalist in the country to talk about the economy. George Lee was telling the nation about an over-reliance on construction since at least 2005.

    Sure Tim do you not remember Bertie telling Morgan Kelly and all his pessimistic predictions to go jump off a bridge? Sincere question: what do you do when nobody listens to you?

  37. @sean o’Rian
    What aspects do you think are laughable? The citations, the peer review or the employability aspects? Might your perspective, here presented void of any analysis, be just as susceptible to being wrong? I would be genuinely interested in seeing how you would propose to create any metric?

  38. @ Enda H

    Morgan Kelly, Richard curran , David McWilliams and George Lee are honourable exceptions, but the other 246 professional economists were silent or cheerleaders.

    John Fitzgerald specifically went on the radio in the summer of 2008 to reassure listeners that if he thought there was a bublle in Irish property he would sell his house and make an easy kiling, but there was no bubble.

    If the economits that middle Ireland knew and trusted, like the Fitzgeralds Jnr and Snr , and Colm McCarthy , Middle Ireland’s true celebrity economists had come out against the madness the voices of the ‘Chief Economists’ of th banks would have been drowned out and sanity might have prevailed.

    In 2005 the ESRI did in fact give warning, but in 2007 they said everythng was all right in their medium term review, though in fact the crisis was even more imminent. Mr. Tol as I recall was a co-author of the 2007 report.

    As I say its an irony free zone. And a shame free zone.

  39. @DB: “our universities are stashed full of unioned, bearded lefties.”

    Really? I do not recall seen any of the forementioned. Anyway, its the poor quality of their teaching thats the principal issue here.

    @ EH: “Sincere question: what do you do when nobody listens to you?”

    Sincere answer: you walk – fast and far. If you can find it: “Developing Attitude Toward Teaching” by Robert Mager explains the matter.

    The research/teaching nexus is regularly prised from beneath its little rock and asserted to be vital (like the sky will fall, or tanks in street). John Kelly was at it again recently. The published empirical evidence says conclusively: there is no correlation. Like none! The two are completely separate career paths. Of the two, teaching (and I am using a very broad stroke here) – is heavily psychological and you can measure the quality of teaching. The quality level of graduate output is a factor of personal input and intrinsic motivation, hence is only reliable as a measure of an individual’s application and effort).

    “ProfScam” by Charles Sykes ???

    Using the number of published research papers and/or citations as a metric of third-level quality is totally useless – but very easy to accomplish. Hence it is done.

    Someone wants to reduce number of Irish third-level colleges. Very good! Now which ones would you have in mind? Just be careful. This is a dangerous political minefield.

    Brian Snr.

  40. Morgan Kelly, Richard curran , David McWilliams and George Lee are honourable exceptions, but the other 246 professional economists were silent or cheerleaders.

    There’s more to economics than macroeconomic forecasting. Of course health economists, transport economists and labour economists were silent – would you expect an electrical engineer to warn about the structural stability of a railway?

    Have a look at Ireland’s top economists – http://ideas.repec.org/top/top.ireland.html. Here’s a quick summary of their research interests. Number 1 warned as early as 1998 that Ireland faced problems. Number 2 mostly researches US inflation. Number 3 researches economic history. Number 4 researches globalisation. Number 5 we all know about. Number 6 looks at Norwegian data to find the effects of parenting on wages. Number 7 researches carbon taxes. Number 8 researches famines. Number 9 researches the wages of minorities in the US. Number 10 researches how nations set corporation tax rates. We can continue this game and see that the majority of economists don’t research, well, anything to do with the Irish banking sector. So of course the majority of the 250 were silent – they have little or no interest in the Irish economy.

    This is not to say that academic economists were perfect or anything like it. However it’s irrefutable that a large proportion of those researching the Irish economy gave strong, public warnings that things were amiss. I think that probably the best argument is that the economics profession did not hire enough people studying the Irish economy — but that’s a very different argument to saying that those that did were useless and that the ESRI should be “culled”. If anything, it’s an argument that the ESRI and others should hire more. Mentioning the ESRI 2008 Outlook – which was undoubtedly a million miles off – in a thread about the evaluation of Irish universities is a bit facetious.

  41. @ Desmond Brennan

    TCD Maths had the 7th most cited guy in the world. (note, “..had…”)

    TCD’s University Chair of Natural Philosophy (1847) (covering Applied Maths & Theoretical Physics) had until recently as its holder Adrian Constantin.

    “According to the 2005 ISI Essential Science Indicators web product database, Professor Constantin’s rank is in the top 1% as the most cited researchers in 19 fields of science. In the 2008 ranking, his position was 7 on the list of the most cited researchers in the field of mathematics. ”

    http://www.math.utpa.edu/nsf-cbms2010_constantin.html

    Sadly he left ~recently to take up another prestigious chair in Vienna, and so be nearer his Central European relatives.

    I’m not sure but the rankings probably included him. One reason that some of his papers were amongst the most read in the world (in the “fast-breaking papers” for various months, http://sciencewatch.com/dr/fbp/2008/08febfbp/08febConst/) is that, besides being very good, they are about (or have application to) water waves and tsunamis. “The results could be of importance for tsunami warning systems”.
    http://www.sciencenewsline.com/nature/2010081900003222.html?continue=y

    He continues his high-impact work in Vienna.

    TCD attracted him when he was already well on-the-up, and hopefully will continue to attract good people, but sadly there may be an embargo on recruitment?
    Interestingly TCD had problems in getting people to finally accept chairs when they looked at house-prices. Then, if the candidate already owned a house somewhere else TCD were sort-of restricted to people who already owned one in another expensive city and could ‘swop’. Else the salary was not so attractive to a brilliant outsider when (s)he looked at costs.

    All that cheap money destroyed so many things.

  42. @Enda H “There’s more to economics than macroeconomic forecasting. Of course health economists, transport economists and labour economists were silent – would you expect an electrical engineer to warn about the structural stability of a railway?”

    Yes if there was no track.

    We had the biggest relative property bubble in history and biggest banking bust in recorded, your logical is the equivalent of an surgeon not recognizing a patient with a flu because he is not a GP. There was a conspiracy of silence among the economic academic community in Ireland and like other interest groups they were effectively bought off.

  43. @Enda H.

    ” However it’s irrefutable that a large proportion of those researching the Irish economy gave strong, public warnings that things were amiss. ”

    We need names and dates. If any economists, beyond those 4 I mentioned , opened their mouths in public I ‘d like to know.

    Actually the majority of people heard no public warnings only the uncontested voices of the ‘Chief Economists” over the radio. Many many people who had never read an economics article in their life regurgitated to me the NCB ‘demographics’ argument for permanently high Irish house prices, whenever I tried to dissauade them from throwing away their future . There was no counter-argument, except for those I’ve mentioned.

    Morgan Kelly does not specialise in macro-economic forecasting but he did his duty as a public servant. The others didn’t.

    Nobody was asking anyone to do any real work, just to go on the fecking radio and say there was no reason in the wide earthly world that Irish property prices should be so high. That’s all.

    Either from ideological blindness or naked ambition most stayed silent.

  44. The only ranking that really matters at the moment is that political economy in Ireland is, and has been for some time, in a catastrophic and ludicrous mess. The probable correlation is that the local mass of academe was, is, insufficiently tuned to the local, and effects of the global on the local. The only future ranking that matters is whether the mass of academe makes any contribution, either postive or negative, to how Ireland gets out of its present ludicrous position.

  45. It was a good trick of TCD to have one of the top 50 chemical engineering depts in the world, and of NUIG to have one of the top 100 depts, while neither actually have a dept in that field.

    And I don’t think it’s explained by “the work being done in another dept.” (like the way UCD’s best historian is not in the History Dept (it’s O’Grada in the Economics Dept.)).

    So, if they can get that wrong, can we trust the rest of it?
    how are the rankings validated exactly?

  46. sorry, that should be +50 in the numbers,
    so TCD’s in the top 51-100,
    and NUIG’s in the top 101-150.

    still, not bad when you don’t actually have a dept. in that area.

  47. John O’Brien
    yes, they clearly made it up. Or they instead asked : think of your area (eg chem engineering, drama, politics, math) and then rank places , either in terms of you as an employer looking at desirability of graduates or as a peer. Cop on.

  48. Philip II

    There is no chemical engineering in TCD (nor in NUIG as far as I know).

    How then are they in the top 100, & top 150 ?

  49. “Statistics and OR: no Irish university in top 200, which is worrying as this is a key business analytics function and one that has great job opportunities.”

    The Business Analytics chair in UCD, is vacant. If the government regards these sectors as important, and it should, then it needs a plan to ensure resources for these economically important areas. Such an allocation of resources is very likely to have a direct payback in economic terms.

  50. Philip II,

    You’ve gone quiet (true, not often enough), but on this occasion can you, or someone else, please answer the question,

    “There is no chemical engineering in TCD (nor in NUIG as far as I know).

    How then are they in the top 100, & top 150 ? “

  51. These are very bizarre rankings. Univ of Oxford is ranked number 1 for Geography. Until the last RAE it had been a 4* dept in the UK for the previous 20 years and I doubt many in the discipline would have it in the top ten in the UK. Harvard is ranked number 3, which is quite a feat since it doesn’t have a geography department! As for Ireland, I doubt you’ll find many Irish geographers who would dispute that Maynooth is the strongest department in terms of citation, research income and international reputation. It has three large research institutes – NIRSA, NCG and ICARUS (80+ people in addition to dept faculty) – hanging off of the Geog department. The idea that these rankings are being used to judge academic scholarship when they quite clearly display very poor scholarship is deeply ironic and somewhat worrying given how seriously people seem to take them.

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