Australian National University or University of Melbourne?

Australian National University or University of Melbourne?

If you’re planning to study in Australia, you may well have your sights set on one of the country’s two highest ranking institutions: Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Melbourne.

Placed at 24th and 36th in the 2012 QS World University Rankings, both are clearly among the world’s very best universities, making this a pretty tough decision.

TopUniversities.com explores some of the factors you could consider, with a quick overview followed by some more in-depth comparison - and some useful insights from current international students.

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ANU

Melbourne

World rankings

  • 24th worldwide in 2012
  • Stronger scores for faculty-student ratio, and international diversity of staff and students
  • 36th worldwide in 2012
  • Stronger scores for employer reputation, research citations and (very slightly) academic reputation

Academic reputation*

  • Slightly better known for arts and humanities, natural sciences and social sciences
  • Stronger reputation for life sciences and engineering and technology subjects

Location

  • Canberra, Australia’s governmental capital
  • Smaller and generally considered calmer
  • Inland, surrounded by mountains, hills and bush
  • Melbourne, Australia’s ‘cultural capital’
  • Larger and generally considered to have a lot more going on
  • On the south coast

Student community

  • Around 16,700 students, of which about 10,000 are undergraduates
  • Around a quarter of students come from outside Australia
  • Around 36,850 students of which just under 24,000 are undergraduates
  • Almost 28% of students are international

What the students say...

  • Muhammad Taufiq bin Suraidi, president of the International Students Department: “The university provides the impression from the outset that it will help students see beyond their discipline, providing opportunities to put our studies in perspective... No doubt the nightlife and entertainment in Melbourne will be better, but Canberra is a peaceful city to study.”
  • Rachel Quek, president of the Overseas Students Service: “Melbourne is an exciting city with amazing food and cafes, great nightlife and beautiful parks. The university has a vibrant campus life, with endless opportunities to make friends and broaden your knowledge... Canberra is smaller, which means fewer things to do, but also fewer distractions!”

*Based on QS’s annual global academic reputation survey, which in 2012/13 drew on responses from more than 48,000 academics.

Rankings

Ranking well within the top 50 of the QS World University Rankings, both ANU and Melbourne are established members of the world’s higher education elite. They both score extremely well on QS’s global academic reputation survey - and indeed on all the indicators used in compiling the rankings.

ANU has a higher score for faculty-student ratio (meaning fewer students per staff member), and for the international diversity of its students and staff. But Melbourne leads when it comes to citations per faculty member (a measure of research penetration) and employer reputation – in fact, it’s among the world’s top ten in this measure.

Reputation

Both are within the world’s top 25 in terms of academic reputation, according to the results of QS’s huge global survey of academics.

Overall, the survey indicates that ANU is slightly better known for arts and humanities, natural sciences and social sciences, while Melbourne has a stronger reputation for life sciences and engineering and technology subjects.

Location

While there may be little difference between the two universities in terms of the high quality of education they provide, there is a lot to distinguish them when it comes to location.

Melbourne came in at fourth in the 2012 QS Best Student Cities, due to its large and diverse student community, excellent quality of living and high concentration of world-class universities (as well as the University of Melbourne, the city is home to five more universities which feature in the QS World University Rankings).

More about Melbourne > 

Canberra, where ANU is based, is Australia’s capital city, but is far smaller than Melbourne, both overall and in terms of its student population, and is generally considered to be much calmer. This could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective and personal preferences!

However, as the nation’s political hub, Canberra couldn’t exactly be described as sleepy. And while it may be one of the country’s few major settlements further than stone’s throw from a beach, it does boast a different kind of natural attraction.

Canberra is surrounded by mountains, hills and bush-land, and half of its territory is protected as natural parks and reserves – so if you’re used to living in the countryside, this is probably one city where you’d still feel at home.

Student community

ANU reports a total of around 16,700 students, of which about 10,000 are undergraduates and the rest on graduate courses. Around a quarter of students come from outside Australia.

The University of Melbourne has a much larger student body, with a total of around 36,850 students in 2011, of which just under 24,000 were undergraduates. It also boasts an even higher percentage of international students – almost 28%.

What the students say

Muhammad Taufiq bin Suraidi, from Singapore, chose ANU – where he is now in the third year of a bachelor’s degree in law and economics, and president of the university’s International Students Department.

For Muhammad, the choice largely came down to his desired study program – Melbourne does not offer an undergraduate-level degree in law, while ANU does.

As a legal student, Muhammad is also enjoying the opportunity of observing sessions at the High Court of Australia, and attenting parliamentary question times and lecture series.

In addition, he says he was attracted by ANU’s “strong focus on interdisciplinary studies” – which meant he would be able to study law and economics side by side, gaining “comprehensive exposure to the two separate disciplines”.

Rachel Quek, an international student from Malaysia, says she chose the University of Melbourne partly based on the advice of her mother, who had studied there herself.

Now in the third year of her Bachelor of Commerce, and president of the university’s Overseas Student Service, she has no regrets about following in her mother’s footsteps.

“Melbourne is an exciting city with amazing food and cafes, a great nightlife and beautiful parks,” she says. “The university campus is beautiful, the staff are very supportive, and there’s always plenty to do. Each experience will be unique, but there are endless opportunities to pursue what you truly love in Melbourne.”

Muhammad admits that Canberra can’t really compete when it comes to nightlife and entertainment – but, he says, it’s “a peaceful place to study”. Rachel agrees, saying if she was at ANU, “I might spend more time focusing on my studies and have a generally quieter lifestyle.”

Choosing from a distance

For those unable to visit Australia before applying, Muhammad and Rachel both recommend starting out with some online research, including the university websites, international agencies and student forums.

Muhammad also recommends attending an international university fair in your home country, where you can meet representatives from different Australian universities face to face.

Meanwhile Rachel advocates seeking advice from family and friends, and contacting universities directly for more information. As well as researching which universities are best for your subject, she emphasizes the importance of thinking about what’s most important to you, whether it’s university reputation, local culture, or something else.

Wise words indeed – follow this advice and, as the Aussies might say, “No worries!”

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