Home > Education policy, European Universities, Research Impact and Quality, Returns on R and D Investments, science education, University Education, University Quality > How will Irish Universities perform in future world rankings? Prediction: slippage!

How will Irish Universities perform in future world rankings? Prediction: slippage!

There’s been a lot of comment (and a lot of skepticism) on this blog about the ‘meaning’ of university rankings. Issues regarding reliability and validity (e.g. predictive, construct, face, internal validity) of measurement, and a lack of attention to basic measurement theory, have been particularly discussed.

These rankings should not be taken be taken as some absolute measure of quality (however defined). As noted here previously, ‘ the nature of the variables measured and the weightings applied to them to generate the overall composite ranking makes a huge difference to the outcomes generated’.

But, these caveats aside, here is a simple prediction based on the Employment Control Framework. This demands ‘A minimum 6% reduction in the number of overall core staff … will be required across the HE sector by end of 2010, as compared with the numbers in place at 31 December 2008.’

The QS methodology (2009) gave a 20% weighting to the student faculty ratio and a further 5% based onthe  proportion of international faculty. The loss of academic staff at all levels is palpable in my own institution; I suspect the situation is no different in the other Irish universities. Reductions in staffing, without corresponding reductions in student numbers, inevitably lead an increase in the staff-student ratio. So, assuming nothing else changes, these reductions in staffing will result in a lower placement of our universities in international ranking systems that place a weight on staff:student ratios.

(As an aside, has no-one in Government wondered to themselves how the universities will deliver the Innovation Agenda, when staff numbers are dramatically and arbitrarily cut? Want to know why there is no Irish Google? It’s because there is no Irish Stanford! See also this post on science funding and the lack of an Irish Nokia.)

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