Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has been doing extremely well over the last few years, especially in research. It has risen in the Shanghai ARWU rankings from the 201-300 to the 151-200 band and from 174th to 102nd in the RUR rankings.
You would have thought that would be enough for any aspiring university and that they would be flying banners all over the place. But TCD has been too busy lamenting its fall in the Times Higher Education (THE) and QS world rankings, which it attributed to the reluctance of the government to give it as much money as it wanted. Inevitably, a high powered Rankings Steering Group headed by the Provost was formed to turn TCD around.
In September last year the Irish Times reported that the reason or part of the reason for the fall in the THE world rankings was that incorrect data had been supplied. The newspaper said that:
"The error is understood to have been spotted when the college – which ranked in 160th place last year – fell even further in this year’s rankings.
The data error – which sources insist was an innocent mistake – is likely to have adversely affected its ranking position both this year and last. "I am wondering why "sources" were so keen to insist that it was an innocent mistake. Has someone been hinting that it might have been deliberate?
It now seems that the mistake was not just a misplaced decimal point. It was a decimal point moved six places to the left so that TCD reported a total income of 355 Euro, a research income of 111 Euro and 5 Euro income from industry instead of 355, 111, and 5 million respectively. I wonder what will happen to applications to the business school.
What is even more disturbing, although perhaps not entirely surprising, is that THE's game-changing auditors did not notice.