Back in the day when we’d hang around the telly on a Thursday night to watch Top of the Pops, we’d keep an eye on our favourite artists and hope that they’d made a move into the Top Ten, and even to the top of the charts. And you’d never hope that your fave artists would get to No 1 ‘cos that meant that everyone liked them and they weren’t ‘your artists’ anymore.
We like league tables, we love to know where we’re sitting. Whether it’s your ticket at the tax office, or your place in the queue for the NCT, or waiting for a pizza in Papa Johns, we all like to know where we sit and where we stand.
People will not admit it, but privately, they all love being ranked. Just for curiosity.
So when we hear that our colleges are ranked in league tables in world terms we are always initially happy to have avoided relegation. But this year there has been a move that has seen us watch them with a lot more keenness.
In the past, there was a tendency to not regard these league tables with much seriousness, but in these more straitened times, they have taken on an extra significance. And there is a very good reason why they impact on us all.
In the case of NUI Galway, there is reason for celebration this week because for the second time in a month, they have moved significantly higher up the international university rankings.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, now in their 13th year, apply rigorous standards, using global benchmarks across all university’s key missions — teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.
Last month, NUI Galway was the only Irish university to have improved its rank in the QS University Rankings — there was bleating from the other colleges about lack of funding, but whatever the reason, NUI Galway, which exists in the same financial environment, was doing something right.
Over the last few days there was some apprehension nationally about the publication of The Times Higher Education World University Rankings today.
And yet again, there is good news for NUI Galway.
The university has gone from the 350-400 mark in 2012 to the 201 to 250 rank in 2016 — a remarkable jump in straitened times.
The ranking announced today is more significant because The Times results are generally accepted as being the more influential of the two. This is because The Times rankings are relied upon by many involved in international research funding.
Yes, the Kerrrrchinnnng!
And this is where we all benefit. If the university and other third level institutions are able to attract high levels of research funding, then these centres of excellence are a ready-made source of innovation, creativity, and intelligence to attract clean well-paid sustainable jobs to Galway city and county.
You will have noticed the increased number of news stories about academic, scientific and entrepreneurial advances that are emanating from the university in the past while. A can-do will-do attitude has been created that is elevating it globally.
Almost every company that comes here, and there have been many this year who have indicated their willingness to do so, claim that they are attracted by the availability of a high level of graduate and of a culture of research and development which fine tunes the minds of those who they want to employ. Where there is a cluster of expertise, they will follow.
And when you add that into all of myriad reasons for setting up in Galway, you can see why we should all be jumping up and and down when we hear that the university is moving up the rankings.
Let us not believe for a second that our institutions are without blemish or without some unproductive cultures, but they can only solve those issues by having the light shone on them; when they’re stress tested by the sort of questioning they need to be able to answer in order to stay high up the charts.
Well done to NUI Galway, and also to GMIT who this week have signed their own alliance with Galway Community College, that will enable greater access to education for all. Our city is fortunate to have two strong third-level institutions — their desire to make themselves better will benefit us all.