December 18, 2023

Big Dreams at University of Limerick – a look back on the year

By Professor Kerstin Mey, President of University of Limerick

‘Little Gifts, Big Dreams at University of Limerick’ is the theme of this year’s UL Christmas message which showcases how the magic of Christmas is intrinsically linked to the possibilities that education can bring, as both are opportunities for the unexpected and wonderful to happen.

The festive, feel-good video captures the childhood sense of imagination and curiosity through the eyes of two young girls who see their letters to Santa brought to life on the UL campus.

Watch the video:

And it is through this lens that we take a very quick look back at the past twelve months in University of Limerick (UL).

Each one of us has a part to play in our society, our contribution is equally valuable irrespective of its impact.

On the up

UL has seen its ranking across all the major rankings agencies significantly improve throughout the year.

We are now ranked in the Top 500 by two of the most influential agencies in the sector – Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

We are ranked in the 401-500 bracket by THE, marking a significant improvement on last year’s 601-800, while QS has ranked us as 426th best university in the world, a jump of more than 100 places on the previous results.

Other notable rankings that UL has received are:

  • 86th in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings when it comes to delivering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • 175th in the QS World University Rankings for Sustainability out of 1403 universities, climbing from 301-320 out of 700 institutions in last year’s rankings.
  • 152nd place in the first-ever Europe University Ranking by QS.
  • 22nd in the UI GreenMetric University Rankings for environmental commitment and initiatives to support sustainable development.

These rankings are testament to the unwavering dedication and commitment of our university community in the pursuit of excellence and innovation. Together, we have forged a path of excellence and innovation that propels us forward, shaping a brighter future for all. In doing so, we have achieved a milestone that reflects the power of collective effort and the limitless potential of University of Limerick.

Improving university world rankings holds significance for a research-led institution committed to excellence, innovation, and sustainability. These rankings are not just numbers or symbols of prestige, they offer some reflection on a university’s global standing and its impact on society.

These rankings also serve as catalysts for attracting talent, fostering research collaborations with in other academic institutions, industry and government, as well as the third sector driving positive change.


We are all too aware that sustainable development and the principles of sustainability must be central to everything we do.

Through concrete actions we have improved our global placings in the sustainability and impact rankings in what has become an increasingly more competitive sphere.

Our researchers are focused on sustainable solutions and impact, and while there is significant work being carried out across our faculties, I will mention just a small number of projects.

An innovative new research project examining how e-bikes can change transport behaviours to improve health and protect the environment is underway. Participants in this research study are loaned an e-bike for 4-12 weeks while their use of different transport modes is measured.

An energy research project, led by University of Limerick researchers, is offering the opportunity for people in Limerick to install free smart sensors to monitor and reduce building energy use. The initiative will test new ways to make buildings smart-ready so they can better respond to the needs of occupants, cost less to run, and be ready to interact with a future decarbonised energy grid.

UL is leading out on pan-European research which will use a systems approach to identify the barriers to mobilising mainstream finance to protect and restore biodiversity. It will create a unifying framework and technology that creates improved conditions for nature-positive investments and will develop new tools and knowledge to help redirect financial resources from destructive economic activity (such as the continued use of fossil fuels) towards nature-positive investment.

Further afield, a University of Limerick team has received significant funding to work with farmers in Uganda to design climate change solutions and collectively envision alternate and sustainable futures for Ugandan agriculture and its food security.

A Community for All

UL welcomes everyone.

We have a proud history and commitment of being a welcoming, open and inclusive community, living and working on one of the best campuses in the world (Source: iBarometer Student Survey, 2021).

Throughout 2023, several initiatives have been undertaken to ensure UL is the place to be either for study or work or carrying out research.

University of Limerick became the first institution in Ireland to receive a prestigious Athena Swan Silver Award, recognised as a leader in embedding gender equality.

The university has also signed a Healthy Campus charter with the Higher Education Authority, which acknowledges the significant commitment, achievements and future plans that UL has to embed health and wellbeing within the curriculum for students, in the work environment for staff and as a guiding principle for the operation of the campus.

UL was the first Irish third level institution to establish a Doctoral College, which will support and develop the structures that enable postgraduate/ PhD researchers to pursue original research and provide the opportunities for them to develop their skills as well as supporting their supervisors.

The establishment of the Doctoral College is part of UL’s research strategy ‘Wisdom for Action’, which is to build a vibrant community where research excellence is valued, supported and central to all facets of the university.

Turning 50

University of Limerick celebrated its 50th birthday with a series of UL@50 events throughout 2023.

Reflecting – Connecting – Transforming’ was the theme of the year-long celebrations and commemorations that allowed UL to take stock, embrace our history and plan for the future.

UL has grown enormously since the first cohort of 114 pioneering students took a chance on a new and very different third-level institution in 1972. The university now has more than 18,500 students registered for courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level.

Click to find out more about UL@50.

Looking Ahead

2023 saw the appointment of new directors for two UL-hosted Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres in Software (Lero) and Pharmaceuticals (SSPC).

The Research Centres are national centres of excellence making important scientific advances, enhancing enterprise and industry, training students with critical, in-demand skills, supporting regional development, and enhancing Ireland’s international reputation.

The higher education sector is constantly evolving, landscapes are changing with differing challenges along the way.

UL is focused on adapting and anticipating for the future. We are taking a holistic approach to how we can perform better in a changing world, and how we can impact and shape that world.

As we head into the next 50 years of UL’s life, we are committed to being innovative, ensuring our research, our students and our staff are helping in their own way to mitigate climate change, improve the planetary health, foster ways of living within our resources and promote shared prosperity and a just society.

Guided by our new Governing Authority, chaired by Professor Brigid Laffan, and alumna of UL, we are developing a new future-looking and ambitious strategic plan for the university to advance the knowledge society and impact on the communities we serve in the .

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and peaceful and vibrant New Year.

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