Europe has 345 universities in the world top 800, meaning its institutions comprise more than two-fifths of the expanded Times Higher Education (THE) ranking in the 2015/16 edition. Among the Irish universities, UCD (University College Dublin) has closed the gap with its main rival, Trinity College (University of Dublin), to 16 ranks.


The world dominance of universities in the US has further waned in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016, despite the fact that the country has almost a fifth of institutions in the table. It has 39 institutions in the top 100, down from 45 last year.

A total of 147 US universities feature in the top 800 — the largest THE rankings to date — including the California Institute of Technology, which claims the top position for the fifth consecutive year.

US institutions have held on to their dominant position. After Caltech, these are: Stanford (third), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (fifth), Harvard (sixth — its first time outside the top four in the rankings’ 12-year history), Princeton (seventh) and the University of Chicago (10th). The UK’s universities of Oxford (second), Cambridge (fourth) and Imperial College London (eighth), and Switzerland’s ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ninth) fill the rest of the top 10.

The UK has 34 universities in the top 200 — up from 29 last year; Germany at 20 — is up 8; Netherlands has 12 — up 1; Switzerland has 7; France 5 and Ireland 2.

Trinity dropped from 138th in the world to 160th while UCD rose more than 50 places to 176th. It had dipped to 226-250 in 2014/15 from 161 in the previous year.

In 2010/11, Trinity was ranked at 77th and the previous year, in a joint survey between THE and another rankings firm QS, it was 43rd in the world. UCD was ranked 94th in 2010/11.

NUI Galway remained in the range 251-300, while the Royal College of Surgeons joined it from 351-400 last year. UCC dipped from 276-300 to 351-400.

Meanwhile the expansion of numbers sees Maynooth University (350 to 400 range), Dublin City University (400-500), University of Limerick (500-600), and the Dublin Institute of Technology (600-800) included in the rankings.

Separate data show that the number of overseas students in Germany rose 6.7% from 2013 to 2014, compared with a 2.4% rise in the UK during the same period.

A report from the Higher Education Policy Institute earlier this month said:

"The German research base is characterised by non-teaching institutions and looks complicated, but also relatively well-funded, when compared to the UK’s. Its structure also leads to underperformance in the global league tables, making German research appear less good than it really is. For example, if the Max Planck Society were included in the Shanghai Jiao Tong University league table, they could displace Cambridge as the top placed European university and knock Oxford out of the top ten. However, there appears to be some convergence between how research is undertaken in the UK and Germany. On higher education, there are stronger parallels between Scotland and Germany than between England and Germany — not only on tuition fees but also on demographic concerns and the autonomy of higher education."

Phil Baty, editor of the rankings, told the Financial Times that the combination of cuts to UK higher education funding — down £150m this year — and visa restrictions risked hindering the UK’s performance in the long run.

University rankings IrelandHe said: “The German universities are increasingly offering courses in English, explicitly to attract students from China and to get them into German campuses. The Dutch are doing the same: they are offering more and more courses in English, so that they are very actively competing for market share with Britain.

“Their numbers are smaller but their growth is larger...And it comes down to this perception...that the UK is not welcoming.”

Baty added that the US’ movement is to some degree owing to significant improvements to the rankings’ data sources this year, with “improved coverage of research not published in English and a better geographical spread of responses to our academic reputation survey.”

Overall, institutions from 70 countries, 29 more than last year, feature in this year’s rankings, with several countries including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Kenya being represented for the first time.

Pic above: Photograph of the "Turning the Sod" ceremony at UCD : President Éamon de Valera kneeling and kissing Archbishop McQuaid's ring, Belfield, Dublin, Sept 1962. Photo: UCD Digital Library

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