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Many institutes of technology outrank universities in new EU higher education table

Irish Universities

By Joe Humphreys

Several institutes of technology have outperformed Irish universities in areas such as innovation and industry collaboration, a new EU-sponsored ranking for higher education shows.

U-Multirank, which was launched yesterday by the European Commission, aims to break the stranglehold of existing private publishers’ rankings, which have been widely blamed for skewing the goals of higher education.

Unlike the three big international rankings – Shanghai, Times Higher Education and QS – U-Multirank avoids producing composite league tables. Instead it allows students and other stakeholders to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of universities across different headings using an internet tool (

Institutions are graded in 30 criteria on a five-point scale from A (very good) to E (weak).

Data was taken from existing, published sources and complemented by further surveying of institutions that agreed to participate in this first phase of the scheme.

Wait and see

TCD and UCD chose not to participate in these surveys, taking the “wait and see” approach of many universities globally to the scheme. But four Irish universities took part – UCC, NUI Galway, University of Limerick and DCU – and five institutes of technology – Dublin, Cork, Galway-Mayo, Tallaght, and Letterkenny – opening them up to increased scrutiny.

In Ireland, TCD is unsurprisingly identified as the leading research institution, with A grades under the headings of citation rate, number of publications, top-cited papers and international joint publications.

UCD received two A grades and two B grades across the same four categories, DCU an A and three Cs and DIT two Bs, one C and one D.

Top marks

A number of ITs, however, scored top marks in other categories, with Cork IT getting an A for co-publication of research with industry partners, the only higher education institute here to achieve such a grade.

Similarly, Tallaght IT was the only institution to get an A in “interdisciplinary publications”, which measures the range of areas on which an institution is publishing.

While Irish institutions emphasised the positive results in press statements yesterday, inevitably there were negatives too.

DCU, for example, scored well in business studies and links to industry, getting A grades for master’s students graduating on time, patents awarded and spin-off industries, among other criteria.

However, it scored poorly on “art-related output”, receiving an E grade, notwithstanding its school of communications. This measurement, which is unique to U-Multirank, counts such things as exhibitions and musical recitals.

Five other Irish institutions were surveyed under the heading, with the University of Limerick, DIT and Letterkenny IoT receiving As, UCC a B and GMIT a D.

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