The EU is to develop a new mechanism for ranking universities worldwide.

The new system, which is called U-Multirank, will publish its first comparative tables next year.

Announcing the new system in Dublin today Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said he did not think existing ranking tables captured all the qualities of a university.

He said the EU was trying to develop a system that would tell a fuller picture.

U-Multirank aims to compare individual university departments with their equivalents globally.

It will measure a variety of factors, including research, excellence in teaching and learning, and internationalisation.

Initially this new ranking system will focus on a limited number of departments in around 500 universities.

However it hopes to expand in subsequent years.