UCC is named Sunday Times University of the year – again

Sunday Times

University College Cork (UCC) has been named The Sunday Times University of the Year for the second successive year and the fifth time overall, with Trinity College Dublin as the runner-up in The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017, a special 16-page supplement to be published free with The Sunday Times this Sunday, October 9, with extended coverage in its tablet and online editions.

Dublin Institute of Technology is named The Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year, with Athlone IT the runner-up. The guide contains Ireland’s only league table that measures the performance of all 21 multi-faculty third-level institutions, which will be published on Sunday.

UCC is the University of the Year for the fifth time in the history of the guide, which was first published in 2002. UCC follows up its triumphs in 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2015. It is the only time in 15 years of the award that a university has successfully defended its crown.


The university’s success is underpinned by making teaching as much of a priority as research. So while UCC 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), the university also has the highest number of academic staff (70%) with a qualification in teaching and learning.


UCC president Michael Murphy told The Sunday Times: “Today, anyone who is appointed to UCC who doesn’t have certification [to teach] has to undergo training before being considered for permanency. You must have a driver’s licence to drive; likewise to teach.” The university is the first in Ireland to develop an online programme in teaching and learning for staff in higher education.


The university ranks second or third in Ireland on all measures in The Sunday Times university league table, with the exception of staffing levels. It 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.


UCC 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%.


And only Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin spend more per capita on its students than UCC, with €10,605 a year spent on services and facilities for each student, according to the latest data in The Sunday Times Good University Guide.

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.”

Trinity College Dublin is the runner-up for the University of the Year award. It finishes top in four of the seven measures used by The Sunday Times Good University Guide to rank Ireland’s universities and institutes of technology.


It now has the highest research income per head of academic staff, generating just under €140,000 per head, and the best student progression rate of 93% between the first and second year of study. This is in addition to its students entering the university with the highest points total from their Leaving Certificates and the university spending the highest amount of any university on facilities per head of student population.


According to an assessment by a private equity group, Trinity has produced more entrepreneurs than any other university in Europe over the past five years. The Universities Report found that TCD produced 114 entrepreneurs and 106 companies, raising €575.7m in capital between 2010 and 2015.


The university also has one of the most successful access schemes, the Trinity Access Programme (TAP), which has been running for 17 years and provides an on-campus foundation year for around 125 students annually, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. A pilot scheme modelled on the TAP is currently being trialled at the University of Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall.

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), The Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year, has risen to the highest ranking ever achieved by an institute of technology in The Sunday Times Good University Guide league table. Ranking seventh this year, it has become the first institute of technology to overtake one of Ireland’s seven universities in the definitive rankings for third level performance.

DIT’s success has been achieved in part through a sharp rise in the number of Leaving Certificate points held by its students on entry to the institution. DIT now ranks fifth in Ireland on this measure, an indication of both the increased academic standards being demanded and extra competition for places.

Savvy partnerships with key industrial players have resulted in sponsorship and programme development at the institution. Students are performing strongly with 68.3% gaining firsts or 2:1s, ranking DIT in the top five in Ireland on this measure, while the graduate unemployment rate is low at 4.7%.

McCall said: “DIT has upset the established order in third level education this year by beating a university in our rankings for the first time in our 15 years of publication.

“It shows the strength of the leading institutes of technology and the key role they play in delivering a top-class education to students.

“Recent developments on the Grangegorman campus make DIT one of the most exciting places to study right now and our award recognises the huge efforts being made to deliver an outstanding student experience with excellent graduate prospects to one of the biggest student populations in Ireland.”

Athlone IT is runner up as Institute of Technology of the Year this year, having risen one place to rank 10th in the new Sunday Times Good University Guide league table. It is one of several institutes of education to be making a bid for Technological University (TU) status, but is making the case for a standalone TU in the Midlands, without going down the partnership route favoured by other institutes of technology.

A reflection of its high academic standing, AIT has been granted the authority to award PhDs in software engineering and network communications this year, in addition to the current areas of polymer engineering, microbiology and toxicology.


Government departments are increasingly looking to AIT to develop and boost jobs in the Midlands, and also to improve production outputs. This year, the department of agriculture, food and marine is funding a project run by AIT and NUI Galway to upgrade management and efficiency at inland aquaculture sites.



The Sunday Times Good University Guide is now in its 15th year of publication. It 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. It also contains the first full listing of 2017 degree courses and the first round entry points needed to access these courses from the recently-completed 2016 admissions cycle. There is a tablet edition, plus extended online coverage at www.thesundaytimes.ie/gooduniversityguide features fully searchable tables on each of the measures on which institutions are ranked, together with extended profiles of each. It also contains full access to the newspaper’s UK university guide published on September 25.