So the QS World University Ranking 2015 is out, and for what it’s worth this is what it looks like for Ireland’s HEIs from 2010 to the present. The QS methodology is heavy on the reputation surveys, clocking in at 50% of the total, over which the institutions have very little influence themselves – and government, the HEA, the IRC, or whoever else has even less. The remaining 50% is down to faculty/student ratio (20%), international staff and student ratio (5% and 5%), and finally citations per faculty at 20%.
Citations is probably the one thing that institutions might be able to do something about more readily than other areas (i.e., it doesn’t require new hires) but note that the bibliometric indicators and databases that are used to calculate such scores are biased against some areas in which Ireland does well (humanities).
The University Times in Trinity has some brief coverage, noting the fall over time. What’s probably worth saying here is that in this case, as with the Time Higher Education World University Ranking (previous post), because rankings are zero sum, even if an Irish HEI’s performance stayed the same or even improved, that would not necessarily be sufficient to maintain or improve ranking. What’s key is to improve faster than everybody else. It’s the archetypal Red Queen scenario as per Through the Looking Glass:
“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
It’s not enough simply to change or improve, because this is only sufficient for survival. So how do Irish HEIs compete in a world like that?
[Note: Maynooth University is still labelled NUIM as I am slow to change, so apologies to Kildare-based colleagues. For DIT, Maynooth, and UL, their positions reflect the upper value in the bandings which they sit.]