A new higher education ranking placed five Australian institutions in the top 50, comprising almost 10% of the top 50 universities.
The Aggregate Ranking of Top Universities (ARTU) ranked the University of Melbourne as the 28th best university in the world, followed by the University of Queensland and Australian National University 42nd and 44th respectively.
The report also placed the University of Sydney and the University of NSW in the top 50.
In its third year, ARTU combines the three major global university rankings to form a single index, examining 10 years of data.
Nicholas Fisk, Ranking Creator and Assistant Vice Chancellor (Research) at the University of NSW, Recount Australian Financial Review, the project provides a comprehensive picture of the state of the university sector.
“This mitigates the volatility and variance of the three major ranking systems,” Fisk said.
The rankings show that Australia has catapulted into global position over the past 10 years, closely followed by its Asia-Pacific neighbor, China.
“Over the past decade, Australia has gone from five universities in the top 200 to 13, China has gone from five to 10,” Fisk said.
“Australia and China have really been the engines and the shakers.”
With 13 universities in the top 200, Australia is only behind the United States with 54 and Great Britain with 27.
Fisk said that given the country’s population, its growth as a higher education superpower is impressive.
“10% of the top 50 universities in the world are in Australia,” Fisk said.
“It’s really remarkable for a country with 0.3% of the population and 1.7% of the GDP.”
Optimism for post-pandemic universities
UNSW Vice-Chancellor Ian Jacobs said the internally developed index came together when the institution began working on a 10-year strategic plan to understand how it is performing against the best in the world. .
In 2015, UNSW set a goal of being among the top 50 universities in the world by 2025, a target that was achieved four years earlier.
“We wanted to be hard on ourselves and objectively measure what we had been doing,” Jacobs said.
“Rankings are one way of looking at our performance against other universities in the world,” he said, adding, “We are not suggesting that rankings are perfect, but they are the best proxy measure of which we dispose. “
Fisk said each of the top rankings had quirks, adding to the arguments in its aggregate index.
The Academic Ranking of World Universities attributes 33% of its score to Nobel and Fields medalists over the past century, while the Times Higher Education places great importance on reputation by asking academics which universities they think are the best, and QS judge the quality of teaching by looking at staff-student ratios.
Jacobs said the success of Australian universities was “not something that happens overnight” and suggested it has a solid foundation, including sound public investment over the past three decades.
Universities are Australia’s third-largest export industry, contributing a record $ 22.4 billion to the Australian economy in 2017. However, the shockwaves of the pandemic have hit the industry hard, exposing the uneven nature of public funding and its internal business models.
Over the past two years, the international student enrollments plummeted in the face of border closures, resulting in a 4.9% drop in operating revenue from 2019 to 2020, and projected losses of $ 2 billion by the end of 2021.
The figures from Universities Australia also cast doubt on the health of the sector.
They show that while total public funding for the sector has increased by nearly 60% since 2009, driven by a substantial increase in enrollments, in real terms, funding per university place has increased by less than 1% each year. .
His research shows that the proportion of funding per place that universities spend on teaching increased from 94% to 85% over the same period.
Likewise, Australian government funding for teaching and research infrastructure between 2009-10 and 2016-17 fell from nearly $ 1,400 million to just under $ 200 million.
Jacobs acknowledged that coalition government policies neglected the sector – he missed a 2021 budget funding increase – but said he was optimistic the risks exposed over the past two years would trigger further investment in the sector. ‘space.
“We have gone through a difficult time with the government. Some would say it is a fairly hostile environment to work in. But I don’t think it will continue because it’s not in Australia’s best interest, ”Jacobs said.
The top five universities in the world are: Harvard, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford and Cambridge. The rankings that feed the ARTU are the Academic Rankings of World Universities in China, Times Higher Education and QS.