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Top Young Universities in Australia

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated April 23, 2019 Updated April 23, 2019

Universities in Australia dominate the QS Top 50 Under 50 – a ranking of the world’s top universities under 50 years old, based on the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings®. With 10 entries in the Top 50 Under 50, and seven more in the Next 100 Under 50, Australia is home to more high-ranking young universities than any other country.

Of course, it’s no surprise to learn Australian universities rank well internationally. Australia is one of the most established presences in the global higher education sector, and the likes of Australian National University, the University of Melbourne and University of Sydney are all familiar names at the top of the global rankings tables.

While several of the top universities in Australia date back to the 19th century (the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne were both founded in the early 1850s), the country’s higher education system is (in global terms at least) relatively youthful.

Here’s a closer look at the top young universities in Australia in order of how they rank this year, and the strengths that have enabled them to climb the global rankings so quickly.

10. Swinburne University of Technology

Swinburne University of Technology

Ranked 45th in the Top 50 Under 50 this year, and joint 387th in the QS World University Rankings® 2019 (up from 421-430 last year), Swinburne University of Technology has its origins in the Eastern Suburbs Technical College, which was established in 1908 by engineer, politician and philanthropist George Swinburne. The modern university gained university status in 1992 and now has three campuses in Melbourne, as well as a satellite campus in Sarawak, Malaysia.

9. James Cook University

James Cook University

James Cook University (JCU) features at 43rd in the QS Top 50 Under 50 and joint 369th in the QS World University Rankings this year. It became an independent university in 1970, having evolved as a branch of the University of Queensland.

JCU’s main campuses are in the Queensland cities of Cairns and Townsville, and it also has a number of branch campuses, including an international branch in Singapore, with a total of 21,927 students.

8. Griffith University

Griffith University

Ranked 35th in the QS Top 50 Under 50 and joint 329th in the overall world university rankings, Griffith University was established in 1971 in the Nathan suburb of Brisbane. The university emerged out of a project that initially planned to extend the facilities of the University of Queensland. Today, it has expanded into a large public research university spread across five campuses on the east coast, with around 46,500 students enrolled across a wide range of courses.

7. Deakin University

Deakin University

Ranked 31st in the Top 50 Under 50 and 309th in the world in 2019, Deakin University was founded in 1974 as the first university to be established in regional Victoria. Named after the second Australian prime minister, Alfred Deakin, it’s one of the fastest-growing research universities in Australia, with around 54,300 students now enrolled at four campuses, plus an online Cloud Campus. 

6. University of South Australia

University of South Australia

Ranked 25th in the Top 50 Under 50 this year, the University of South Australia was created in 1991 from a merger of the South Australian Institute of Technology and the Colleges of Advanced Education. Up 15 places to rank joint 264th in the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings, the university is mainly based in Adelaide, with several additional campuses around the state of South Australia. With around 37,000 students enrolled, it’s the state’s largest university.

5. RMIT University

RMIT University

Next is RMIT University, short for the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, which retains a specialized focus on technology, science and engineering subjects – as well as offering a college of business and a college of design. Placed joint 250th in the QS World University Rankings, RMIT University is 21st in the Top 50 Under 50. While it has links back to various institutions which began much earlier, RMIT has existed in its current form as a public university only since 1992.

4. Curtin University

Curtin University

The next of these top young universities in Australia, Perth-based Curtin University is 20th in the Top 50 Under 50 and was established in 1986 (again from an earlier institute). Like UTS, Curtin University is another example of a university which began with a technology focus – its full legal name is still Curtin University of Technology – but has expanded to offer courses across a broad range of subjects. It currently ranks at joint 250th in the QS World University Rankings, having continually improved its position in recent years.

3. Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Just one place behind in the Top 50 Under 50, at 19th, is the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Based in Brisbane and specializing in science and engineering-related subjects, QUT also offers degrees in business, law and education. Currently ranked joint 244th in the QS World University Rankings, QUT was established in 1989, from a merger of several existing institutions.

2. University of Wollongong

University of Wollongong

Based in Wollongong, a coastal city to the south of Sydney, the University of Wollongong was established as an independent university in 1975 (formed from an earlier division of the New South Wales University of Technology). It now has its own international branch campus, the University of Wollongong in Dubai, as well as a business school in Sydney. The University of Wollongong is ranked joint 218th in the QS World University Rankings 2019, up 14 places this year, and 16th in the QS Top 50 Under 50.

1. University of Technology, Sydney

University of Technology, Sydney

And finally, the number one in our ranking of the top young universities in Australia continues to be the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), ranked 10th in the QS Top 50 Under 50 2019. UTS gained university status in 1988 (having begun as Sydney Technical College in 1893). Despite its name, UTS actually offers a wide range of courses in addition to technology-related degrees, and its largest department is its business school. UTS has been consistently improving its position in the overall QS World University Rankings in recent years – in the 2019 edition, it climbed 16 places to rank joint 160th.

More top young universities in Australia

Alongside the Top 50 Under 50, QS also publishes the Next 100 Under 50 – highlighting even more of the world’s leading young universities. Seven more universities in Australia appear in this list:

This article was originally published in February 2014. It was last updated in June 2018 to incorporate the latest ranking results. 

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This article was originally published in June 2018 . It was last updated in April 2019

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Written by

The former editor of, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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