Both Trinity College and University College Dublin (UCD) have dropped out of the top 100 in the latest Times Higher Education's World University Rankings.
Trinity has plunged from 76th to 117th place, while UCD has plummeted from 94th to 159th, with the scale of the falls compounding concerns.
University College Cork (UCC) and NUI Galway have slipped out of the top 300. Only NUI Maynooth has increased in ranking and moved into the top 400. Dublin City University(DCU) and DIT are now out of the top 400.
Since 2008, Irish third-level college budgets have been slashed by up to 9pc and they have suffered a 6pc staff reduction while first-year enrolments have increased by 15pc.
The latest findings will do immense damage to Ireland's drive to cash in on the lucrative market in non-EU students who rely on such tables to guide their college choice and its image with international investors.
The focus on the impact of cuts raises new questions about how well the third-level sector is funded, and, inevitably, the possible return of fees.
This is the second blow to the reputation of Ireland's third-level sector in a month. The recent QS World University rankings also blamed cuts for Trinity, UCD and NUI Galway losing ground to international competitors.
The Times Higher Education rankings use 13 measures to rate universities including research, income and reputation, teaching reputation, staff-student ratio, PhDs awarded, overall income and citations in academic journals.
A Department of Education spokesman said that league tables needed to be interpreted with caution, but it was recognised that they were referenced by international investors, employers and students as a marker of quality across systems and as such they could not be ignored.
Higher Education Authority chief executive Tom Boland said it highlighted the challenges facing the sector, which required the reform now under way.
TCD Provost Dr Paddy Prendergast said that the drop in Trinity's overall position was to be expected, especially given the decrease in funding levels.
UCD president Dr Hugh Brady warned that " the impact of our fall in international rankings will have a very negative affect on the perceptions of Irish universities among a wide overseas audience, which includes industrial investors".
- Katherine Donnelly
Article courtesy of independent.ie