Comment & Analysis
Oct 22, 2014

Universities Deserve Praise for Success in Spite of Climate

With significantly less funding than top institutions across the world, Irish universities should be praised for staying up there.

By The Editorial Board

That Trinity, like all Irish universities and higher education institutes, is falling in global university rankings isn’t exactly breaking news. Whether or not these rankings actually accurately capture the strength of a university and the quality of education you would receive by attending it – and there is debate about what rankings actually capture – when our universities fall in the rankings, people begin to panic. But these rankings typically ignore many of the core purposes of the universities, such as the quality of education and teaching. When looking for a university, one of the first things one would want to know is what level of education you can receive for the amount of money you are willing to pay.

A new way of looking at the worth and strength of a university is needed, and the Tionchar project, which analyses the efficiency and impact of the Irish higher education system, and features Trinity Professor Brian Lucey as Principal Investigator, has found that third-level institutions in Ireland deliver some of the best value for money globally.

That institutes of higher education in Ireland provide a very good education for the fraction of the price of equivalent schooling in other countries is certainly something to sing about, and a testament to the resilience of the institutes during a very difficult time.


We need to remember that, when Ireland falls in the rankings, it does not necessarily imply that the quality of education being provided is also being diminished. Perhaps our expectation of receiving education which is primarily funded by the exchequer in Ireland means that we forget about the advantage we have: receiving an excellent education at the fraction of the cost of comparable institutions.

However, regardless of the accuracy of rankings, they remain important for attracting both students and investment. Ireland’s fall is typically attributed to the lack of funding to the education sector, yet the fact that Ireland has managed to keep four universities in the top 300 globally is an extremely impressive feat. As the Provost recently pointed out at the recent Irish Universities Symposium on the performance and sustainability of Irish Universities: “On a per academic basis, Trinity’s annual budget is 45 percent lower than that of the average top 200 university”. It’s almost frightening to think that, if universities were ranked on budgets, Ireland would not have a single university in the top 300.

This does not mean that we should be content with an inadequately funded higher-education sector. Yet, despite all of our complaints about the cuts to our education budget, we should not forget to praise those who have managed to keep the quality of our education so high when, compared to the rest of the world, we pay so little.

Also in Editorial this week: Praise for Challenging the College Admissions System