by Gillian Fitzsimons
University College Cork (UCC) is this year’s Sunday Times Irish University of the year. The 166 year old institution topped the poll, followed closely by National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM).
The poll assesses various aspects of the University’s performance including the average leaving certificate points gained by new entrants, proportion of top degrees awarded, graduate employment and the drop-out rate of students.
This is the third time UCC has won the title, having won it previously in 2003 and 2005.
UCC President, Dr. Michael Murphy said, “This prestigious award reflects UCC’s outstanding reputation as a centre of excellence for teaching and research, the highly successful Access programme, the ability to attract international students and establish links overseas.”
Dr Murphy said there were two reasons for the university’s success, “The high calibre of students choosing the university along with the outstanding quality of the student experience clearly places the university as a world-class education provider.”
UCC has recently been named as Ireland’s only five star university. It also went from 184th in 2010 to 181st in 2011 in the QS World University rankings.
Two of UCC’s projects were recently selected as Irelands “Best Inventions” in 2011. The projects included a device for treating lung cancer.
However, the poll proved damaging for the University of Limerick (UL) which dropped one place in this year’s study; it is now placed below every other university in Ireland. A separate study, also carried out by the Sunday Times, found UL to be “one of the most difficult universities from which to gain a high honours degree.”
UL Students’ Union President Derek Daly agreed with the study’s findings, “Many would see the difficulty in gaining a first or 2.1 degree as a stumbling block, however employers know that someone with a first or 2.1 award from UL is somewhat of a scarce commodity and respect that, even those with a 2.2 or a third have a solid opportunity with their cooperative employer having showcased their practical skills for six or eight months.”
He added, “Rankings are a measure that cannot be ignored, but it would be irresponsible and remiss in respect of the student experience to drive an agenda based on rankings. They should be utilized as a small part of the overall continuous improvement undertaken through innovation and quality reviews.”