Trinity College Dublin's position in an international university rankings table has slipped dramatically by more than 40 places.

The latest Times Higher Education Rankings, published this evening, places TCD at 164th place. Last year, the university was ranked 120th worldwide.

The college has said the "disappointing" decline is relative to other countries' investment in education.

In a statement its Dean of Research, Linda Doyle, said continuing under-investment in university education and research in Ireland was "catching up with us".

The university has called for what it calls a "national strategy for university rankings" to reverse the slide in tables witnessed in many Irish universities over the past decade.

It says the latest decline is part of a pattern that began in the years following the financial crisis, when funding per student was drastically cut.

The university also blames the decline on "the defunding of investigator-led research" to universities. It says this has had an impact on publication output and innovation.

TCD has warned that a similar fall next year would mean that no university in Ireland would be ranked in the top 200 by Times Higher Education.

The Times Higher Education World University rankings are published annually.

They measure and compare the performance of institutions across the globe, taking into account teaching, research, international outlook, citations, and industry income.

While university ranking tables have become hugely influential in driving policy at university and government level, critics say their methodologies are flawed, and that they fail to reflect the true value of many third level institutions or activities.

This is the second time in recent years that TCD has seen its ranking in these tables fall strongly. However, the last slide was later believed to have been caused by a miscalculation.

In 2015, TCD fell from 138th to 160th place. The following year, the university was removed from that year's tables at the last minute when an error in the data it had submitted was discovered.

What was described by the college as "a very simple error" - a misplaced decimal point - led to a much lower ranking for the university in provisional tables that were sent out privately to the universities and the media prior to publication in 2016.

Trinity said at the time that the same error had been made in the previous year, but had gone undetected.

There has been no marked change in the rankings of some of Ireland's other universities and colleges.

UCD is in the 201st to 250th bracket, along with the The Royal College of Surgeons, while UCC is in the 301 to 350 bracket.

NUI Galway has risen this year into the 250-300 bracket. In an illustration of the year-to-year "see-sawing" sometimes depicted in these rankings, last year NUIG was placed in the 300-350 category, while the year before it was ranked 200-250.

Welcoming this year's rise, NUI Galway said it was "as a result of its continued focus on research excellence and impact".

Last September, commenting on that year's fall, the college said rankings were a "fragile measure" and called for increased investment in the sector. 

For the fourth year running, the University of Oxford has been ranked as the top university worldwide, followed by California Institute of Technology and by the University of Cambridge.