Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reaping what you sow: Irish education spending

University College Cork: climbed 23 places to 184th
The latest QS World University Rankings are out and they make for mixed reading for the country's third-level institutions. While TCD and UCD both dropped down the rankings, UCC and NUIG have improved their ranking since last year.

Trinity College Dublin is still Ireland's highest ranked university in 52nd place worldwide, but this is down from 43rd last year. University College Dublin remains second highest in Ireland at 114th place, but this is again down from 89th place in 2009.

On the plus side, NUI Galway increased its ranking from 243rd place, up to 232nd. At University College Cork (still ranked third in Ireland), the worldwide ranking was improved from 207nd place in 2009, up to 184th place this year.

The rise of UCC is one of the high points of the ranking system. Annual rises since 2006 have seen the university rise from 386th position to 184th.

The results come as the latest OECD (Organisation for Economic Development) reports confirm that the government spends just €12,631 for every third-level student. This figure is below that in 30 other developed countries studied.

When measured against GDP, Ireland's total spend on education is just 4.7%, which places it in 25th place out of 28 OECD countries. This is significantly less than the OECD average of 5.7% and below the EU19 average of 5.3% of GDP.

What is most disturbing about the OECD data is that the results are based on data from 2007, before the huge raft of cutbacks ordered by the Government were implemented.

Concerning too is the news that, at primary-level, just 4% of pupils time is spent on science education. This compares to 29% spent on reading and writing (including Irish). The time spent on science in primary schools here is just half of that in other EU countries.

Combined with this bad news for science, just one-eight of pupils' time at primary-level is spent learning maths. This is the lowest of all countries measured. And we wonder why maths achievement at Leaving Certificate level is so low!

One wonders whether Irish universities can sustain such rankings given more cutbacks planned for next year.


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