Time for the state to shift its AHSS on higher education policy?

Ranking season is upon us with the QS rankings of subject areas (not, as is commonly though, Departments) now revealed. Again we find that despite the hype Irish universities are stronger in Arts and Humanities than in the STEM areas. This is in stark contrast to the financial flows to these areas and in even starker contrast to the government and regulatory thrust. Evidence of sustained internationally recognised quality in the AHSS (arts, humanities and social science) area does not translate into funding, support or recognition. Perhaps its time it did?

QS rankings are a mixture of reputation (derived from surveys of academics and employers) and excellence (measured in the main by scientific output). They provide ranking for each subject area. We now have data since 2011. Subjects from 1-50 are given individual ranks thereafter it is in undifferentiated bands of 50, say 151-200. To get a sense of how the areas rate I assigned each university subject to its rank (if in the top 50) or to the midpoint of the band. If we average the ranks thus given by AHSS and STEM subjects across each year we see the below. Note that the ranks for the universities so given here will not be the same as the QS overall scores. Those are for the institution as a whole.

Institution 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
DCU 175 175 175
AHSS 175 175
STEM 175 175
DIT 175
STEM 175
NCAD 75
AHSS 75
NUIG 155 158 150 175 150
AHSS 125 150 175 150
STEM 155 175 150 175 150
NUIM 150 150 100 125
AHSS 150 150 100 125
RCSI 175
STEM 175
TCD 69 85 93 99 102
AHSS 61 74 74 80 82
STEM 77 98 116 125 127
UCC 143 145 130 140 142
AHSS 75 150 115 125 150
STEM 150 142 142 150 137
UCD 110 139 123 127 128
AHSS 80 131 102 107 103
STEM 132 150 146 148 150
UL 175 175
AHSS 175 175

It is very clear that across the system as a whole AHSS subjects are seen in higher international regard than are STEM.

Across the disciplines we see the following rankings, again 2011-2015 averages

DCU DIT NCAD NUIG NUIM RCSI TCD UCC UCD UL
Accounting & Finance 175 95 115
Agriculture 175 75
Art and Design 75
Biological Sciences 175 70 115 135
Business and Management 125 125
Chemical Engineering 125 175 115
Chemistry 77 175 153
Civil Engineering 155 125
Communication & Media Studies 175
Computer Science 175 142 95 105
Development Studies 45
Earth & Marine Science 175 125 175 175
Economics & Econometrics 85 105
Education 100 150 163 175
Electrical Engineering 175 175 125 125 155
English Language & Literature 175 142 26 158 70 175
Environmental Science 145 145 158
Geography 125 68 175 95
History 125 39 175 75
Law 150 75 95 95
Linguistics 138 142
Material Science 175
Mathematics 110 175 150
Mechanical Engineering 150 135 75 175
Medicine 175 75 165 155
Metallurgy 175
Modern Languages 57 100 100 175
Pharmacy & Pharmacology 175 88 131 175
Philosophy 95 125
Physics 110 175 175
Politics & International Studies 175 41 85
Psychology 70 125
Sociology 175 90 125
Statistics and OR 175

AHSS courses are cheaper to run than the STEM courses. But one might wonder if perhaps some additional investment in these cheaper courses might not pay rich dividends in terms of rankings, and from same in terms of perceptions around the irish higher education sector.

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6 thoughts on “Time for the state to shift its AHSS on higher education policy?

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Time for the state to shift its AHSS on higher education policy?

  2. Greg Foley

    By any metric Ireland is much more an AHSS country than a STEM one. The interesting question is whether a renewed emphasis on AHSS would reap economic dividends. But universities seem to be dominated by STEM people while politicians know very little about STEM so the potential role of AHSS in economic development is not being discussed seriously.

    Reply
  3. Ernie Ball

    The fact is, AH (whatever about SS) disciplines, despite being relatively cheap, are being starved of resources in order to fund STEM disciplines. At least that’s the case at UCD, where for every 4 permanent members of staff we lose to retirement, we’re lucky if we get one temporary contract. And this at a time when enrolments have skyrocketed. Everyone’s workload has more than doubled and we are barely functional. The administration response? “Bring in more foreign students and then we can talk about more staff.” Every instance of staff going the extra mile to keep the show on the road is treated by the administration as proof that we haven’t yet been stretched to the breaking point. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to attract paying students to a programme that is barely functional, becoming salespeople not scholars in the process. The students, of course, are the ones who suffer but they generally have nothing better to compare it to.

    There are going to be some closures of high-profile (and, indeed, high-ranking) Schools and Deparatments in the next 5 years and it will be utterly shameful when it happens.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Renua(ing) Education | Brian M. Lucey

  5. Pingback: How good are Irish University Subject Areas ? | Brian M. Lucey

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