Sydney institutions climb the ladder of the Times Higher Education rankings

“At the top of the table, Melbourne will have bragging rights: it now has Australia’s number one and number two universities,” he said.

Monash was among the biggest improvers nationally, rising from 57th to 44th place, overtaking the University of Queensland, University of Sydney and Australian National University from last year’s rankings.

The rankings are important for universities in their quest to attract international students, a $37 billion industry for Australia before the pandemic hit and a key source of revenue for higher education institutions.

But the rankings are also controversial, with some experts saying they place too much emphasis on universities’ research output, at the expense of teaching.

Sixty percent of the ranking points that universities accumulate are based on research and citations, compared to 30% for teaching.

This month, the Productivity Commission warned that rankings were hurting universities’ incentives to invest in quality education.

“International rankings, which have a strong focus on research results, play an important role in attracting students, especially international students. This means that university incentives are misaligned with delivering quality education,” the commission said in its progress report on the australian education system.

For the seventh consecutive year, the University of Oxford took first place, followed by Harvard Cambridge, Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Higher education expert Professor Andrew Norton, from the ANU Center for Social Research and Methods, said a significant change in a university’s ranking could have financial repercussions as international students follow them, in particularly in China.

But he said they had negligible influence in the domestic market, where the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Ranking) determines student choice.

“The problem with this ranking is that it has a lot of elements and it includes subjective elements, like a reputation survey,” Norton said.

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