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. It is the fifth occasion that UCC has been selected for this award and UCC has enjoyed unparalleled success in this competition with previous triumphs in 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2015.
The Sunday Times Good University Guide provides Ireland’s only league table with definitive rankings of all 21 Irish third-level multi-faculty third-level institutions. The guide with extended profiles on each institution, also features fully searchable tables on which the institutions are ranked and contains the measures used to measure their performance. UCC has seen improvements in these 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. Furthermore, the University was also declared to have the third best progression rate from first to second year of all higher education institutions nationally — with just a 10% drop out rate. It also had a high proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds — 22%.
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). However, the University also has the highest number of academic staff (70%) with a qualification in teaching and learning. Furthermore University College Cork is also the first in Ireland to develop an online programme in teaching and learning for staff in higher education.
In the words of Alastair McCall, Editor of The Sunday Times Good University Guide “UCC has enjoyed unparalleled success in our annual University of the Year award…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.”
UCC was also praised for its efforts in helping reducing student debt. According to Alastair McCall, “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.”
In response to the prestigious announcement, Dr Michael Murphy, President of UCC 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.”
Dr Murphy further praised the university, the staff and the student body saying “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.” Speaking about the students and the philosophy of the university he added “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.”
The Guide Ranked Trinity College Dublin in second place, while the award for best institute of technology was awarded to DIT, with Athlone Institute of Technology in second place.