So, the THES world rankings are out and there will no doubt be the usual wailing and fingerpointing. Why are no Irish universities in the top 10? the top 100? etc etc (hint…its expensive to be there….) .
Yes, there are issues in what the rankings tell us, and I will return to that. But for the moment, look at the chart here. Its a graph of the number of top 200 universities per country scaled to millions of population. If we were the same size as the larger island next door this suggests we would have approx the same number as they do. Is UK higher ed in a terminal crisis (feel free to not answer!).
The reality is that we have world class universities. We need to invest more in them. The only question is where the money comes from. But bear in mind – there are 16,000 or so universities in the world. The top 400 where we have 5 ( in addition to TCD and UCD in the top 200 we also have UCC, NUIG and NUIM) represents the top 2.5%. The top 200 is the top 1.25%.
How many of the reporters, commentators, pundits, critics and analysts who will opine on the awful state of universities are in the top 3% of their profession in the world? How many of the politicians….?