Thursday, October 8, 2009

3rd Level Rankings

Good to see the Irish Universities moving further up the table in today's THES-QS rankings. With Trinity now at 43 and UCD at 89 the state now has two institutions in the top 100. These are followed up with another three colleges in the 200-300 range (UCC, NUIG, DCU). For 5 out of the top 300 to be in a country of this size is a great achievement especially when you consider the per capita drop in funding across the 3rd level sector since the introduction of the free fees scheme.

The metrics used by the THES-QS scheme are interesting
  • Peer review score
  • Employer review score
  • Staff/student ratio
  • Citations ratio
  • International staff
  • International students
The first two are completely subjective. It is impossible to remove bias from the sample set. If you interview an employer in Mexico they're not going to have an opinion on NUIG any more than a researcher in Cork will know much about the Yonsei University in South Korea.

The staff/student ratio is at least objective and highlights the low numbers of lecturers in Irish academia compared to other countries. Of course if the figure was academic pay costs per student it might show a different result but luckily we can park that issue for the moment.

The citations figure is the real damning one. It really shows that by and large the research being carried out in Irish universities is not leading edge. Considering the budgets that HEA and SFI in particular have pumped into 4th level and the efforts of IDA to engage the multinationals in joint R&D we have really dropped the ball on this one.

Luckily, we are a small open economy and so our scores in attracting international staff and students are high. One wonders however, if the student figures are boosted by the free fees scheme attracting undergrads from other EU countries who would end up paying for their education in their home country.

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