QS Best Student Cities 2015: Melbourne Vs Sydney | Top Universities

QS Best Student Cities 2015: Melbourne Vs Sydney

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Laura Tucker

Updated Apr 16, 2024



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This article is based on the QS Best Student Cities 2015 results. Click here to view the results of the latest version. 

Of the 33 universities in Australia featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2014/15, 12 are located in either Melbourne or Sydney. This high quota of world-leading universities in Melbourne and Sydney combines with extremely high quality of living, plus large and diverse student communities, to make studying in either city an appealing prospect for many international students.

Last month, both were ranked among the world’s top 10 cities for students in the QS Best Student Cities 2015. So, with this in mind, you’re probably going to need a bit of help to choose between these two closely matched rivals, right?

Here’s where our Melbourne vs Sydney comparison comes in. We’ve provided as much information as we could gather about what it’s like to study in Melbourne or Sydney, including information on differences in lifestyle, costs, culture and community.

For a wider look at all the ranked universities in Australia, see this guide to the top universities in Australia by region 2014/15.



Melbourne and Sydney in the QS Best Student Cities 2015

The latest release of the QS Best Student Cities index proved a few things: one, that the margin between Australia’s two best student cities is still incredibly small, and two, that both cities are continuing to grow their global reputations, as two of the world’s most desirable places to live, and as leading hubs for higher education. Melbourne leapt three places to rank second behind Paris, while Sydney held its own in fourth place for the second year running, behind London.

Sydney gets the higher score in the “desirability” category of the index – beaten only by Toronto in this field – but Melbourne is not far behind, coming fifth out of the 50 cities featured. Meanwhile Melbourne claims the ranking’s highest score for “student mix”, which reflects the size, international diversity and inclusivity of each city’s student community.

Melbourne is also slightly stronger than Sydney in the category assessing university rankings – it has seven internationally ranked universities compared to Sydney’s five, and the University of Melbourne (33rd in the QS World University Rankings) narrowly outranks the University of Sydney (37th).

The two are equally placed in the “employer activity” category, with their institutions sharing equally strong reputations in the global graduate jobs market, and also closely matched in the “affordability” assessment – this time towards the lower end of the index, reflecting the country’s high international fees and relatively high cost of living.

Melbourne Vs Sydney in the QS World University Rankings® 2014/15

Top universities in Melbourne

Top universities in Sydney

University of Melbourne (33rd)

University of Sydney (37=)

Monash University (70th)

University of New South Wales (UNSW, 48th)

RMIT University (304th)

Macquarie University (254=)

Deakin University (360=)

University of Technology, Sydney (264th)

La Trobe University (401-410)

University of Western Sydney (651-700)

Swinburne University of Technology (551-600)


Victoria University (701+)


Universities in Melbourne

Of the seven internationally ranked universities in Melbourne, the University of Melbourne is the leader, at 33rd in the world. It’s a global leader in all faculty areas, performing well in all five fields considered in the QS World University Rankings by Faculty. Among the other six universities in Melbourne, Monash University follows closely behind the University of Melbourne across each faculty area, and overall is placed at 70th in the world.


Universities in Melbourne also include a leading technological university, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), ranked 115th in the world for engineering and technology, and 304th overall.

Universities in Sydney

While there are fewer internationally ranked universities in Sydney than in Melbourne, this harbor-side city nonetheless boasts a strong offering of world-class institutions: two universities in Sydney are within the world’s top 500 and another two within the top 300. The University of Sydney is the highest ranked, at joint 37th in the world, followed by the University of New South Wales at 48th.

In the QS World University Rankings by Faculty, these two top universities in Sydney take turns to lead, with the University of Sydney boasting the highest rank in arts and humanities, life sciences and medicine and natural sciences, while the University of New South Wales takes the title in both engineering and technology and social sciences and management.

Students interested in engineering and technology subjects should also take a look at the University of Technology, Sydney, which is ranked 153rd in the world for engineering and technology, and 264th overall.

Melbourne Vs Sydney in the QS World University Rankings by Faculty 2014/15

Faculty area

Top universities in Melbourne

Top universities in Sydney

Arts & humanities

University of Melbourne (24th in the world); Monash University (43=)

University of Sydney (21= in the world); University of New South Wales, UNSW (51st)

Engineering & technology

University of Melbourne (23rd); Monash University (54=)

UNSW (27=); University of Sydney (44=)

Life sciences & medicine

University of Melbourne (17th); Monash University (45th)

University of Sydney (19th); UNSW (47=)

Natural sciences

University of Melbourne (39th); Monash University (115=)

University of Sydney (47th); UNSW (104th)

Social sciences & management

University of Melbourne (18th); Monash University (40=)

UNSW (20th); The University of Sydney (23rd)

Life in Melbourne

Named number one in the Economist’s Global Liveability Ranking, six places ahead of Sydney, Melbourne now boasts the title of being the most “livable” city on Earth. What lies behind the city’s unbeatable quality of living rating? Well, if you study in Melbourne you’ll experience a truly diverse and multicultural city, which allows for not only an inclusive atmosphere but also an eclectic variety of lifestyles, cuisines and perspectives.


Notably, the city is known as the cultural capital of Australia, thanks to an annual selection of festivals and events including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the jazz festival, the food and wine festival, the writers’ festival, the animation festival, the coffee expo and even Good Beer Week. If you decide to study in Melbourne and you enjoy good art, theatre, comedy and music, you should expect a very full cultural calendar!

Frequent sporting events also help to bring the city’s community together, including the Melbourne Cup and the nation’s favorite, Australian Rules Football. If you’re not one for sports, then Melbourne’s museums and markets are also great ways to while away time, or seek out the city’s famous street art. Just beyond the city you can find beautiful countryside and vineries – as well as an amazing selection of beaches with plenty of choice for surfers, swimmers and sunbathers.

Life in Sydney

Home to some of the most recognizable Australian buildings and panoramas, Sydney is often mistaken as the country’s capital city (which is in fact Canberra). In some ways a microcosm of the nation, Sydney is a great place to be based if you want to get a well-rounded experience of Australian life, from barbecues on the beach to evenings of high culture at the iconic opera house.

The harborside may be the most recognizable part of Sydney, but it is by no means its full extent. There are in actual fact 33 suburbs, and alongside the bustling inner-city neighborhoods and world-renowned arts venues, you can also explore national parks, wild coastal paths, surfer-haven bays, and the nearby UNESCO World Heritage listed Blue Mountains.

If you study in Sydney, you’ll probably spend at least some of your spare time taking advantage of the city’s wide range of student (budget) friendly activities, including a range of museums depicting the area’s captivating history, as well as modern art galleries, theatres and numerous places to enjoy the city’s vibrant nightlife.


Overall, it’s a tough call to make on the battle of Melbourne vs Sydney. In neither are you likely to fall short of ways to explore and enjoy all that Australia has to offer – and that’s a lot. Both cities offer great beaches, eclectic nightlife and more, but those with a specialized field of interest may find one city has the edge. Botany enthusiasts may be won over by Sydney’s famous botanical gardens, while wannabe street artists may feel more a home in Melbourne. Alternatively, it may come down to the university offering the course that best matches your interests, or with a department best placed to support your research.


Either way you go, rest assured that both of Australia’s leading student cities will give you an unforgettable study abroad experience, as well as the opportunity to study at an internationally accredited and respected university. Melbourne vs Sydney: which will you choose?

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