To see the latest version of this article based on the QS World University Rankings 2014/15, click here.
If you’re looking at study options in the Land Down Under, you may have noticed that there are 31 top universities in Australia to choose from in the QS World University Rankings® 2013/2014. The majority can be found in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - Australia’s first, second and third largest cities by population respectively. But the country’s top ranking university, Australian National University (ANU), is found in the capital and eighth largest city: Canberra.
The distribution of the 31 top universities in Australia basically corresponds to the population of each area. So New South Wales, the country’s most populated state (7,381 million), has the highest number of world-class institutions (eight), followed by Victoria (population: 5,713 million) with seven, and Queensland (4,638.1 million) with six.
Another discernible pattern can be seen in the top eight universities in Australia as ranked by QS: they all happen to be members of the Group of Eight (Go8), a coalition of research-intensive, leading Australian universities that aims to enhance the performance of its member universities on a national and international level.
Here’s a quick overview of the top universities in Australia by state and territory, based on the QS World University Rankings® 2013/14.
Top universities in New South Wales
The eastern state of New South Wales is the most heavily industrialized in Australia, the most populous and the fifth largest in terms of area. There are eight top universities in New South Wales, including institutions in and around the cities of Wollongong, Newcastle and Armidale.
However, the lion’s share of top universities in New South Wales is, unsurprisingly, found in the state capital, Sydney. This famous harbor city holds just over 20% of the population of Australia (21,507,717 million), with a truly international mix of inhabitants. It’s well known for its beaches (especially Bondi), its bridge (Sydney Harbor), iconic skyline (Sydney Opera House), and of course, its universities – two of which are members of the Go8: University of Sydney and University of New South Wales.
The top universities in New South Wales are:
- University of Sydney (ranked 38 in the world; 3rd in Australia)
- University of New South Wales (ranked 52 in world; 5th in Australia)
- Macquarie University (ranked 263 in the world; 9th in Australia)
- University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) (ranked 272 in the world; 10th in Australia)
- University of Wollongong (ranked 276= in the world; 11th in Australia)
- University of Newcastle (ranked 298 in the world; 15th in Australia)
- University of Western Sydney (ranked 651-700 in the world; 28th in Australia)
- University of New England (ranked 701+ in the world; 29th in Australia)
Top universities in Victoria
Victoria is Australia’s smallest mainland state, and also happens to be roughly the size of the UK, which is a useful frame of reference for determining how vast the country is overall.
More than 70% of the 5,713 million Victorians live in Melbourne, the state capital. Arguably the country’s sporting capital, Melbourne has several major sporting and entertainment venues, and it hosts the Australian Open and the Grand Prix, among others.
It is also known for its restaurants (foodie paradise), its geological phenomena (you can view the Twelve Apostles from the Great Ocean Road, which starts 50 miles from Melbourne), and its research universities, with another two Go8 members (University of Melbourne and Monash University). The only one of the top universities in Victoria which is not in Melbourne is Deakin University, in Geelong.
The top universities in Victoria are:
- University of Melbourne (ranked 31 in the world; 2nd in Australia).
- Monash University (ranked 69= in the world; 6th in Australia)
- RMIT University (ranked 291= in the world; 14th in Australia)
- Deakin University (ranked 380= in the world; 19th in Australia)
- La Trobe University (ranked 390= in the world; 20th in Australia)
- Swinburne University of Technology (ranked 481-490; 25th in Australia)
- Victoria University (ranked 701+ in the world; 31st in Australia)
Top universities in Queensland
Queensland, in the north east, is the second largest state in Australia and third largest by population. More than half of its 4,638.1 million inhabitants live outside the capital (Brisbane) – a striking contrast to New South Wales and Victoria which are highly urbanized states.
Known as the Sunshine State, Queensland receives an average of between eight and nine hours of sunshine a day, and is also a popular destination for those who want to explore the Great Barrier Reef off the coast in the Coral Sea.
If you want to study close to this world-famous natural wonder, it is worth noting that the highly ranked James Cook University is in the city of Townsville, next to the central section of the reef. Further to the south east is the Gold Coast – a hugely popular tourist destination with a spectacular coastline and abundance of theme parks, and home to the prestigious Bond University.
The other three top universities in Queensland are all in Brisbane, which is inland, but has a manmade beach in the city center. It is the only city in Queensland with a Go8 member: the University of Queensland.
The top universities in Queensland are:
- University of Queensland (ranked 43 in the world; 4th in Australia)
- Queensland University of Technology (QUT) (ranked 279= in the world; 12th in Australia)
- Griffith University (ranked 341= in the world; 16th in Australia)
- James Cook University (JCU) (ranked 351 in the world; 18th in Australia)
- Bond University (ranked 421-430; 22nd in Australia)
- University of Southern Queensland (ranked 701+ in the world; 30th in Australia)
Top universities in Western Australia
Western Australia is the largest Australian state by area, occupying about a third of the country, and the fifth largest in terms of population (2,497.5 million). The majority of Western Australia is outback territory, ideal for four-wheel-drive adventures.
To the north is the sparsely populated area known as The Kimberley, which is not without its charm, including a 13 mile stretch of soft white sand and clear turquoise water known as Cable Beach. To the south is the Golden Outback, so called because of the settlements built by gold rush pioneers.
But the majority of the state’s population lives in the capital Perth, known as the City of Light. Perth provides a perfect balance of bustling entertainment, if that’s what you want, or a more laidback beach lifestyle. It also offers a choice of three world-class universities, including the state’s top performing institution, the University of Western Australia, a Go8 member.
The top universities in Western Australia are:
- University of Western Australia (ranked 84 in the world; 7th in Australia)
- Curtin University (ranked 284= in the world; 13th in Australia)
- Murdoch University (ranked 551-600 in the world; 26th in Australia)
Top universities in South Australia
South Australia is the fourth largest state by size and fifth by population (1,667.5 million). It is the driest state in the world’s driest continent, so go ahead and make outdoor plans without worrying about the prospect of rain!
Known mainly for its excellent wine, South Australia also has plenty of contrasting scenery to explore, such as the Flinders Ranges and the South Australian Outback, or the many wetlands and peninsulas. The capital, Adelaide, is known as the arts capital of Australia, and is home to a multitude of festivals and galleries, plus a lively music scene. It is also the only city in South Australia with universities in the QS World University Rankings, including the University of Adelaide, a Go8 member.
The top universities in South Australia are:
- University of Adelaide (ranked 104= in the world; 8th in Australia)
- University of South Australia (UNISA) (ranked 341= in the world; 17th in Australia)
- Flinders University (ranked 431-440 in the world; 23rd in Australia)
Top universities in Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
The Australian Capital Territory is actually located within New South Wales, but is (almost) a separate state, as it is the capital territory of the Commonwealth of Australia, subject to legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament. ACT is the smallest region of Australia, but also has the largest inland city: its capital, Canberra. Out of all the top universities in Australia, Canberra hosts the highest ranking: Australian National University, which is also a Go8 member.
The top universities in ACT are:
- Australian National University (ranked 27 in the world; 1st in Australia).
- University of Canberra (ranked 601-650 in the world; 27th in Australia)
Other top universities in Australia
The remaining two regions of Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, have one world-class university each. Tasmania is an island off the south east corner of the mainland, known for its abundance of national parks and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, with its rare plants and animals. The Northern Territory is the third largest region of Australia but has the least amount of people (237.8 million). It is mostly tropical, and the capital Darwin, maintains an almost constantly high temperature throughout the year.
Here are the best of the rest:
- University of Tasmania (ranked 401-410 in the world; 21st in Australia) - Tasmania
- Charles Darwin University (ranked 471-480 in the world; 24th in Australia) – Northern Territory
Image credits: Nick D (main image, Australian National University)