Institute of the Year 2009

Ireland“… It’s a good result, but one must admit that the poll is not a scientific study. For example, some academics question the ’student grades’ category: a high percentage of 2.1s or above is awarded a high score, but it’s always possible that such a score reflects exam standards rather than better teaching (colleges set their own exams). This is an argument for another day, but let me note that even if this were true, I’m not mad about the other extreme: a recent study confirmed that throughout the 1980s, UCC and UCD graded their students far harder than Trinity, a habit that advantaged nobody and disadvantaged their students. As regards the university rankings in the Sunday Times study, NUI Maynooth came top of this year, up from 7th place last year. This is pretty impressive for one of Ireland’s smallest universities, but it does raise a question: how could any college change this much in one year? …” (more)

[Cormac O’Raifeartaigh, Antimatter, 22 September]

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7 Responses to “Institute of the Year 2009”

  1. Colin Scott Says:

    I think this blogger may have misread the Sunday Times Legal Tables. The award for University of the Year (which went to NUIM) is not the same as topping the league tables (TCD, again).

  2. kevin denny Says:

    I don’t know why anyone with even modest intelligence takes these things seriously. If people in universities do that’s depressing. The pitfalls are so well known its hardly worth repeating but here goes..
    First of all these rankings are arbitrary: why include these variables and not others and why give them equal waiting? Who sez? More tellingly the rankings are incoherent: they confuse inputs and outputs. Research income is an input, yet research output is not counted so a less efficient university will score higher, other things being equal. Likewise median CAO points: it might be interesting to know the value added of a university. So if a university gets lots of good students but they don’t teach them much then VA is low, so the index should be decreasing in CAO points. Staff-student ratio: is high good or bad ? Well if its high then maybe students get more attention but it also pushes up costs – which are not accounted for separately. In fact its probably a lousy proxy for how much contact students gets which depends on office hours, class size not to mention the culture of an institution etc.
    Having worked in UCD since 1992 and having some familiarity with the other universities I simply don’t know what it means to say that UCD is better or worse than any of other places. As an economist I am certainly not averse to quantifying things but meaningless numbers do not help anyone beside making good copy for Sunday Times readers.

  3. cormac Says:

    broadly, I agree….but i think that’s an argument for improving the methods of comparison rather than scrapping it altogether

  4. cormac Says:

    re Colin’s point above, as far as I can figure out, Maynooth is university of the year this year, as I said on the blog. TCD tops the list if previous years are taken into account

  5. kevin denny Says:

    As who has argued in favour of releasing school level data on results (despite their limitations) I take your point. A key difference is that universities are much more heterogenous so I think that to some extent they are incomparable or at least cannot be ranked. Can you rank the best fruit? Well no, it depends on what you like. Is Berlin better than Vienna?
    I think it is potentially worthwhile publishing a bunch of indicators and let people make their own minds up depending on what they think is important. For the same reason I am against these composite rankings of countries (like the UN’s HDI) which are arbitrary combinations of a bunch of inputs and outputs.

  6. cormac Says:

    i agree – comparing cities is a good analogy. all one can do is list the main indicators..

  7. Institute of the Year 2009/10 « Antimatter Says:

    […] this post has been reproduced on the 9th level Ireland website, you can see the comments there Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Teachers, students […]

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