It seems everybody wants to know how and why Trinity, of all places, could have suffered the worst fall among any of the world’s individually ranked universities.
However, Trinity’s overall score did not fall. In fact, it increased by a small margin. The problem is that more than 40 universities in other countries scores rose at a much faster rate.
Many universities are improving faster than their Irish counterparts, and if things progress like this, Ireland will soon join a small percentage of western countries with no universities in the top 200. And the blame will rest mostly on the Government.
Our education system is flawed, struggling to make ends meet due to lack of government funding at all levels from primary to third level. Despite all of the lovely new changes here at DCU and other Irish institutions, abroad, things are progressing at a much faster rate. Even in DCU, the new facilities we came back to this semester, required multiple terms where students had to walk past construction work on campus.
And even now students face outrageous wait times to rent insufficient amounts of camera and other equipment, that is often, quite dated. The money issue is impossible to disprove, OECD figures show that only one other EU member state spends less on third-level education than Ireland. This lack of investment comes at a time when we have rising numbers of young people, meaning we are throwing away our talent pool and sending our educated young people abroad in the process.
It’s not just a shortage of money, Ireland doesn’t have a sufficient research strategy to help universities progress. Public money previously used to fund original research is now mainly going towards other things. The failure to back individual researchers has had a knock-on effect on university reputation and rankings for not only Trinity but a lot of universities.
Ireland has funded only a dozen such grants in three years and all of them were funded by the Irish Research Council, and the fact is, it would be impossible to keep up with state-of-the-art universities, with mediocre funding. Ireland has used tax advantages in recent years to attract investment, but such advantages won’t always be available in the future. It takes just one look at the current situation with Apple to tell us that tax breaks may be fleeting, making universities and Ireland’s future, something that has never been more crucial to invest in.
Many countries in Europe have came back from a similar ranking hit. Germany, 13 years ago, attempted to reverse a decline in the rankings with a new excellence strategy that highly funded colleges. And there are now eight German universities in the top 100. Meaning the possibility of Trinity and other colleges climbing the rankings is not impossible, however, it is, in the government’s hands.
Image: Flickr William Murphy