7 October 2016
By Bryan T. Smyth
University College Cork (UCC) has become the first University to be named The Sunday Times University of the Year for two consecutive years in the 15-year history of the award.
According to the Sunday Times, UCC’s success is underpinned by making teaching as much of a priority as research. The University has seen a 15% growth in research funding over the past five years, generating the second highest amount of research income in Ireland per head of academic staff (around €128,000). Moreover, the University has the highest number of academic staff (70%) with a qualification in teaching and learning.
The University is the first in Ireland to develop an online programme in teaching and learning for staff in higher education.
UCC has seen improvements in its rankings in the past year both for the low level of graduate unemployment, currently standing at around 4%, and for the proportion of students leaving with high class degrees – firsts or 2:1s – a feat achieved by 70% of students, benefiting from that high quality teaching.
The University has the third best progression rate from first to second year of all higher education institutions nationally — just 10% drop out. It also has a high proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds — 22%.
Trinity College Dublin is the runner-up for the University of the Year award while Dublin Institute of Technology is named The Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year.
UCC is the University of the Year for the fifth time in the history of the guide, which was first published in 2002. The University follows up its triumphs in 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2015.
Dr Michael Murphy, President of University College Cork said: “We are delighted to be acknowledged as Sunday Times University of the Year 2017 and particularly by becoming the first institution to retain the distinction. It is recognition, in my view, that UCC is confident in its understanding of the role of a university, and is clearly committed to discharging that role to very high standards.
“We exist primarily to teach our students, to learn with and from them, and to provide all students and staff with opportunities to grow, to improve continuously, to experiment and to innovate. Key to success for me is the uniqueness of our teaching development programme to ensure the highest teaching quality standards among academic staff. This is matched by a strong research ethos. Our students are active citizens of the university and of the city, they are culturally diverse, from all parts of the globe, inclusive of all abilities and disabilities, and yet passionate about their own brand, strongest student image in the country – the ‘skull and crossbones’. We live our strapline ‘a tradition of independent thinking’, resisting fads and preferring the longer view over transient short-term gain. Challenge, debate, criticism and contrariness are all welcome; UCC is a real university and a really good one. Thank you for endorsing us.”
Alastair McCall, Editor of The Sunday Times Good University Guide, said: “UCC has enjoyed unparalleled success in our annual University of the Year award: a winner on five occasions and now the first to win the award in two successive years.
“It is not hard to see why. The institution prioritises teaching excellence alongside an undoubted research pedigree. At UCC, teaching and research excellence are not either/or options. Students benefit from this on a daily basis, enjoying high-class teaching, graduating with high-class degrees and going on to get excellent jobs, the name of their University standing them in excellent stead with prospective employers.
“We were also impressed by the efforts the university has taken to reduce the level of student debt – working with the student body to tackle the problem rather than resorting to the use of debt collection agencies to recover outstanding fees. This social conscience reflects well on an institution that seeks to precipitate change in the world by making such a positive impact through third level education.”
The Sunday Times Good University Guide, to be published this Sunday, provides the definitive rankings for Irish third-level institutions, together with profiles of each institution and a view from students of what it is like to study there.
The guide features fully searchable tables on each of the measures on which institutions are ranked, together with extended profiles of each, and contains Ireland’s only league table that measures the performance of all 21 multi-faculty third-level institutions.