The Humanities in Ireland

Anne Enright, author and winner of the Man Booker Prize<br />
Photo credit: Domnick Walsh
Anne Enright, author and winner of the Man Booker Prize
Photo credit: Domnick Walsh
CoisCéim Dance Theatre
CoisCéim Dance Theatre
Seámus Heaney, Nobel Prize for Literature 1995
Seámus Heaney, Nobel Prize for Literature 1995
Lady Gregory, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre
Lady Gregory, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre

The QS World University Rankings are the most widely read international university comparison. They are used as a guide to identify excellence and expertise within universities, by students (international and domestic), career advisors, academics and policy makers.

By breaking the rankings down by subject area for 2015/2016 we see that in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Humanities and Social Science subject areas perform significantly above the overall individual university rankings. They improve each university's ranking as shown below.

Trinity College Dublin ranked in 78th place in the 2015/ 2016 QS University Rankings. Three of the four subjects in the top fifty were Humanities and Social Science (HSS) subjects: English Language and Literature, Modern Languages and Politics (32, 39 and 43 in the world respectively). Two of these are Humanities subjects, and overall its highest Faculty Area ranking was Arts and Humanities at 61.

University College Dublin was the second highest placed Irish university and ranked 154th. Its highest Faculty Area ranking is for Arts and Humanities at 135. They had eleven subjects in the top 100 and of those:

  • Four are Humanities subjects (English Language and Literature, History and Archaeology, and Modern Languages),

  • Four are Social Sciences and Management subjects (Social Policy and Administration, Law, Politics and Development Studies), and

  • Three are in Life Sciences (Agriculture and Forestry, Nursing and Veterinary Science).

In Queen's University Belfast, the Humanities and Social Science subjects also performed better than the university average. QUB placed 182nd in the rankings, with Performing Arts ranked at number 50 and two of the three subjects in the top 50-100 are Humanities subjects (Archaeology and English Language and Literature). Again, this was in line with the trend of Humanities and Social Sciences performing well above the university average.

In University College Cork, which ranked 233rd overall, there were seven subjects in the top 200 including English Language and Literature, Modern Languages and Law, representing two Humanities subjects and one Social Sciences subject.

There were also some notable successes for other universities in the 2016 QS Subject Rankings. Dublin City University ranked in the top 200 and University of Limerick ranked in the top 250 for Modern Languages, and Maynooth University ranked in the top 200 for English Language and Literature. 

Although rankings are at best only an estimate of performance, they are indicative, and to that extent it is clear the Humanities are the strongest performers and boost the university rankings overall. Humanities subjects not only have a strong tradition in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but are currently leading the way in terms of international performance benchmarks. This is especially important in the context of internationalising student populations and promoting unique world class research and teaching.

Anne Enright, author and winner of the Man Booker Prize<br />
Photo credit: Domnick Walsh
Anne Enright, author and winner of the Man Booker Prize
Photo credit: Domnick Walsh
CoisCéim Dance Theatre
CoisCéim Dance Theatre
Seámus Heaney, Nobel Prize for Literature 1995
Seámus Heaney, Nobel Prize for Literature 1995
Lady Gregory, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre
Lady Gregory, co-founder of the Abbey Theatre