Dublin City University fell twenty-seven places in the QS World University Rankings published this month, dropping from 353rd to 380th.
DCU is one of seven Irish third-level institutions that now place lower in the rankings. The only Irish university to move up was NUI Galway, which broke into the top 250.
In the wake of the rankings release, DCU President Brian MacCraith echoed calls made by the presidents of Trinity College and UCD regarding the Government’s need to invest emergency funding into third level education.
However, in the same speech, MacCraith talked about the upcoming redevelopment of the university’s four campuses. This redevelopment will cost €230 million.
It seems at least one plan to improve the university is underway and funding appears to be no obstacle. Is the lack of Government investment really the cause of the falling standing of Irish universities?
DCU is a better university today than it was two years ago. The full completion of the Incorporation has led to a massive increase in students, staff and facilities.
The larger community of students has already been responsible for successes. The societies continue to win awards. The sports teams continue to win trophies.
There is an argument that this drop has very little to do with DCU. Rather than a decline in standards, the fall is more likely due to the strives forward made by other universities.
Belarus State University and the University of the Philippines now rank higher than DCU. It feels churlish to focus on this university’s supposed decline rather than celebrating the success of universities in poorer countries.
No longer being the undisputed best is a price first world countries must be prepared to pay. As the developing world continues to improve, the institutions of the richest countries will face tougher competition.
It is also an important and often forgotten point that Ireland is a small country that consistently punches above its weight. Ireland has eight entries in the QS Rankings, five of which sit inside the top 500.
Belarus has almost twice the population of Ireland. The Philippines’ population is in the ballpark of 100 million people. Neither of those countries have a second entry in the top 500.
In fact, Ireland has a smaller population than any other country with a university ranked among the top 100 in the world. These rankings provide us with much opportunity for national pride.
DCU is a very young university, only taking in its first students in 1980, only granted university status in 1989. It still holds a proud place in the rankings for the top 50 young universities.
The university is improving with every passing year. This is made evident by the experience of attending DCU, not by the college climbing up a ranking system.
Image Credit: Darragh Culhane