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Australia's Strengths in Earth and Environmental Sciences

Australia's Strengths in Earth and Environmental Sciences main image

Experts from Australia’s highest ranked university discuss the country’s strengths in earth and environmental sciences, and share advice for new students.

In many ways, Australia is a world leader on earth and environmental issues. It was in Sydney that the first ever Earth Hour was held, in 2007, and the country also plays a strong role in other global environmental events, such as the annual World Environment Day.

This general trend is also reflected in Australia’s universities, which have a strong presence in the most recent QS rankings for both earth sciences and environmental science.

Australia’s highest ranking institution in both subjects is Australian National University (ANU), which is also the country’s highest ranked university overall – ranked 26th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2011/12.

In the 2012 ranking for earth sciences, ANU has climbed from ninth to joint eighth. This makes it the only university from outside the US and UK in the earth sciences top ten.

Similarly, in environmental sciences, ANU climbs one place, from tenth to ninth. In this case there is a little more regional diversity; ANU sits between Switzerland’s ETH Zurich and Canada’s University of Toronto.

Other Australian universities with strengths in earth and environmental sciences include the University of Queensland, University of Melbourne, University of Sydney and Macquarie University.

In total, Australia has 12 universities in the global top 200 for earth sciences, and 13 for environmental sciences.

Choosing an environmental or earth sciences degree

While the subject rankings are a good starting point, there is of course more to choosing a degree course than just picking a selection of the highest ranked universities.

Dr Joerg Hermann, a research fellow at ANU’s Research School of Earth Sciences, advises prospective students to check out the structure of the degree, the range of topics available to study, and how much practical work is included in the course.

Professor Stephen Dovers, director of ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society, echoes these points, urging students to make sure they choose a course that matches their own interests.

He adds that a degree of flexibility is an advantage, as this allows for the fact that students’ interests will evolve as they study.

Other factors to consider include: the size of classes, amount of contact time, quantity and quality of field trips, and the university’s research activity – especially if the institution has a policy of incorporating new findings into teaching straight away.

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Written by QS Staff Writer

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