University rankings, 2014

Always a controversial topic, the latest university rankings by QS have been published. More details here. The aim is to identify the top 200, meaning something of an abrupt stop once they get to 200. (I feel the need to put a disclaimer here that I post this not because I stand over the ranking’s exact methodology, but rather rankings such as these are used by both prospective students and policymakers, hence they are important.)

Of interest to this readership, the ranking of Economics Departments in Europe is here. Trinity features in the 51-100 cohort and UCD in the 100-150. (Digression: nice to see a popular ranking recognise the bounds of uncertainty, although this may not be the best way to do it.) Six of the top seven Economics departments in Europe are British, with one each from Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and France also in the top dozen.

9th-level Ireland has a handy table of Ireland’s top ranking departments across all disciplines from 2011 to 2014. Four departments (all in TCD) are in the top 50 in their discipline. A further 18 are in the 51-100 group (including three law departments).

26 replies on “University rankings, 2014”

“Six of the top seven Economics departments in Europe are British, with one each from Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and France also in the top dozen.”

Yeah, but what sort of stuff are they teaching ?
Ha Joon Chang is still pretty much an outcast at Cambridge

“I am one of the most successful economists, according to what markets tell us, though most of my professional colleagues, who are much keener to accept market outcomes than I am, would dismiss me as a crank or – the worst of all abuses among economists – a ‘sociologist’.”

Maybe it’s like restaurants. McDonalds is number 1 in the world …

“One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continuing struggle against the veneration of “crap.”―Neil Postman

While not wishing to get into a prolonged debate about rankings, it should be pointed out that TCDs ranking (the research part of it anyway) is artificially inflated by the inclusion of economists from the ESRI ( and Patrick Honohan!) some of whom are listed as having 50% affiliation with TCD. If just TCD staff were included I suspect the research ranking would be different and they would be behind UCD. They might well rank ahead of UCD on dimensions such as staff-student ratio etc.

The rankings are “important” because they are “used” and not, apparently, because they are worth anything. Similarly, maps of the cosmos showing the sun, planets and stars revolving around the earth were also “used” and, therefore, “important.”

Must be nice to produce such self-justifying “research.”

“Six of the top seven Economics departments in Europe are British”

Is that because most neoliberal orthodoxy is written in English ?
I wonder how one decides that economic thinking as taught in the various universities is actually of any practical use.

Even the Fed is a bit lost at the moment. Lorenzo Bini Smather said recently that he had no idea what was going on in the advanced economies.

And this comment about auditing is also germane

“As somebody who has been audited many times and qualified as an accountant, I am also breathless with admiration how so many capable and intelligent people can deliver so little value to society. Most big four accountants are capable individuals but put them together and they seem incapable of delivering anything of value to companies. “

meanwhile the Accounting and Finance (and they are subject areas not departments) probably show the other side of the coin. UCD has a lot of adjuncts – we have Constantin…:)

According to all major rankings the LSE economics dept is the only premier economics dept outside of North America. Ten former members or students of this dept have been awarded the Nobel prize in economics,Sir John Hicks,Frederick Von Hayek,James Meade,Sir Arthur Lewis,Merton Miller,Ronald Coase,Amartya Sen,Robert Mundell,George Akerlof and Christopher Pissarides.

For sure Brian, I have no doubt UCD are as capable of gaming the rankings as any other institution. I don’t know the details of UCD Accounting and Finance Schools in terms of adjuncts etc but as a general rule it seems to me that many universities game these rankings to some degree at least.

I think this obsession with rankings is a real neolib fetish. I always wonder what the point is behind these listings and how good the measuring is.

They also do it with MBA schools but MBAs haven’t made much headway against financial chaos.

I bet the ultimate aim of the rankings is to build an index for hedge funds that they can price derivatives off so if you feel like shorting Oxford you just ring up your IB and they’ll sort it out for you. You’d be able to buy it back then if the price was low enough.


“No meteorologist would link the recent series of storms to climate change”

Why not? Maybe she’s afraid of that Dutch economics prof who went to Sussex

Some years ago I had a conversation with a layman about flying saucers — because I am scientific I know all about flying saucers! I said “I don’t think there are flying saucers”. So my antagonist said, “Is it impossible that there are flying saucers? Can you prove that it’s impossible?” “No”, I said, “I can’t prove it’s impossible. It’s just very unlikely”. At that he said, “You are very unscientific. If you can’t prove it impossible then how can you say that it’s unlikely?” But that is the way that is scientific. It is scientific only to say what is more likely and what less likely, and not to be proving all the time the possible and impossible. To define what I mean, I might have said to him, “Listen, I mean that from my knowledge of the world that I see around me, I think that it is much more likely that the reports of flying saucers are the results of the known irrational characteristics of terrestrial intelligence than of the unknown rational efforts of extra-terrestrial intelligence.” It is just more likely. That is all

I think Evelyn is a deeper thinker than Gerry Fleming

“Mr Fleming said that time would tell if extreme weather events seen lately were part of a more general change in pattern in the Irish climate. He said it would be “our grandchildren or great grandchildren who make that call”.

This is good as well
“Just as models of collateralised debt obligations all but assumed the impossibility of default, however, models of climate change all but assume it cannot have a catastrophic effect on the economy, no matter how bad global warming becomes. Far from exaggerating the threat, economists tend to understate it.

The judgment from academics on their existing models is damning. So-called integrated assessment models of climate change come “close to assuming directly that the impacts and costs will be modest, and close to excluding the possibility of catastrophic outcomes”, writes Nicholas Stern. According to Robert Pindyck of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “The bottom line here is that the damage functions in most IAMs are completely made up, with no theoretical or empirical foundation.”
These models matter. They lie behind the estimates that carbon has a social cost of $36 a tonne the Obama administration is using to regulate coal. Admittedly, that is better than nothing, and the world’s determination to ignore climate change means a higher estimate would not have much immediate impact. Lobbyists have already lined up to claim $36 is too much.
But the lessons of the financial crisis are clear: economists should strive to tell it like it is, then let fools, knaves and politicians try to justify inaction as best they may. History will judge harshly anyone who underplays the price of global warming.”

BTW did you see Private Eye recently “?

Scientists claim that badgers
• Build homes above flood levels
• Don’t rip up hedgerows, trees, grass verges and other rain absorbing material
• Don’t tarmac over the entrances to their homes

Rankings like political opinion polls are popular with the people who get positive results.

Trinity does well in a small country, but it’s a con to count ESRI researchers – it’s not as if it is like the Ifo institute which has always been part of the University of Munich.

It’s daft to aspire to be world class in science and technology in a country with a tiny indigenous research base and more than 70% of foreign firms spending nothing on R&D.

So it’s not surprising that no college gets within the top 100 in this area.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has an audacious or delusional target: “in which Ireland in 2020 is the best country in the world for scientific research excellence and impact.”

It would take more than a big welfare programme to realise that dubious goal.

Looking at the Ninth Level Ireland summary causes me to have some rather sad reactions. Based on my experiences in Ireland over the last several years, how is it possible that the top ranked University departments in Ireland are the following;

– English Language and Literature
. – actually, I believe that
– Modern Languages
. – Ireland is very poor in the multilingual stakes
– Politics and International Studies
. – our politics are a slum.
– History
. – dunno- maybe
– Accounting and Finance
. – doubtless the denizens of our audit firms and Dept of Finance

It seems that academic excellence doesn’t translate into the real world.

On Michael Hennigan’s point, the Irish universities face a potentially more significant and immediate challenge. With places like Georgia Tech offering online Masters in Computer Science for something like $7000, the future of technical education in Ireland has a major challenge. Now there are limitations to the capabilities of online education, but not that many. UCC or Georgia Tech? I love UCC, but it’s not a fair fight.

Meantime, I note that “Ernie” still refuses to apologize in any way for calling my children half-wits.


Well, Janet did sense the reality of that odious ill-wind a few years ago while being surrounded by fawning ayn_randite idiots; wonder is she sensing something more ominous? The Derivatives Death Star might be moving from its recent position over Frankfurt …

BTW, Blind Biddy is considering launching the Blind Biddy Hedge School Rankings next year; any chance you might throw together a good bunch of harmless derivatives to add a little spice to the mix?

@Ernie. A good start. Now follow up with an apology for all the other insulting and inaccurate stuff you said on the other pages. And have the courage to do it in public.

Actually, Hugh, the only person continuing here is you. I apologised and that, apparently, isn’t enough (because nothing is), so you use it as an occasion to pile on the insults.

That tells me all I need to know about you.

[Aside to mods: Hugh is not only repeatedly derailing this thread but, when his irrelevant demands are met, he persists in insulting me when he’s not outright threatening me with physical violence. Can you please see to it that he stops?]

Have you two guys considered a ‘duel’ – 6 o’clock in the morning, Merrion Square. The blog has a little ‘form’ here …. candy-floss batons and a U-Tube rave guaranteed; the blog could do with the publicity [Anony_Mask is OK Ernie; no election posters Hugh].

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