Irish universities failed once more to feature in the international top 100 university rankings, released by UK-based Times Higher Education.

The World Reputation Rankings 2014 uses the largest invitation-only academic opinion poll in order to compile the list. The league table is based upon 10,536 responses from 133 countries, with all respondents required to be published, active scholars with an average of 18 years’ experience in higher education.

Forty-six US universities achieved places in the top 100, with the top three spots dominated by Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University. Other well-known American universities included Yale and Columbia.

The UK accounted for 10 places on the list. However, the rankings reflect a newfound shift from West to East, with a decline evident in a number of British, French and Swedish universities. In Asia, the University of Tokyo took the 11th place, with four other universities appearing on the list. Seoul National University, South Korea, demonstrated the emergence of Eastern universities, shifting from 41st to 26th place.

Experts have emphasised the importance of placing on the list in order to maintain a university’s global reputation, as well as to attract valuable funding, international collaborations, and high-class talent from abroad. Phil Baty, rankings editor, called it worrying for Ireland that it has no universities on the list.

Although Trinity College Dublin was highest with regards to reputation, Baty stated that it still did not come close to making one of the 100 spots. Irish universities have never featured on the list across its four years of publication. Baty added that the data they have compiled suggests that Irish institutions are in fact “falling further away”. 

This result likely comes as a consequence of reduced investment in Irish universities by the government. According to Hans de Wit, professor of internationalisation of higher education at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, “national governments in Europe have reduced or frozen investment in higher education and research as a result of the economic crisis,” despite claiming the opposite. In Asia “funding is on the rise, both by public and private means”, which explains the radical shift in reputation scores from West to East.

The importance of a university’s reputation in attracting students was further cited by Baty as a factor that Irish institutions must consider. Research by recruitment agents IDP has demonstrated that a university’s good name is the “prime consideration” for international students when choosing a place to study. International higher education expert, Simon Marginson, acknowledged that although this reputation can often be subjective or unfair, it nevertheless “is real and cannot be wished away”.

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