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Top Young Universities in Australia

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It’s fair to say that 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 50 Under 50, Australia is home to more high-ranking young universities than any other country.


Of course, it’s no surprise to learn that 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. And 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.

1. University of Technology, Sydney

University of Technology, Sydney

The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) is ranked 8th in the QS Top 50 Under 50 2016-2017, and gained university status in 1988 (having begun as Sydney Technical College in 1893). Despite its name, UTS actually offers a wide range of courses, 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 2016-2017 edition, it now ranks in the global top 200 at 193rd.

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 improved its rank in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017, climbing to 218th, and is 12th in the QS Top 50 Under 50.

3. 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 252nd in the QS World University Rankings, RMIT University is 16th 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. Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Queensland University of Technology

Just two places behind in the Top 50 Under 50, at 18th, is Queensland University of Technology (QUT), based in Brisbane and specializing in science and engineering-related subjects, as well as offering degrees in business, law and education. Currently ranked 276th in the QS World University Rankings, QUT is one of the youngest universities to feature in the QS Top 50 Under 50; it was established in 1989, from a merger of several existing institutions.

5. University of South Australia

University of South Australia

Ranked 24th 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. Featured at joint 288th 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 more than 32,000 students enrolled, it’s the state’s largest university.

6. Curtin University

Curtin University

The next of these top young universities in Australia, Perth-based Curtin University is 27th 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 306th in the QS World University Rankings.

7. Griffith University

Griffith University

Ranked 34th in the QS Top 50 Under 50 and 336th 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 50,000 students enrolled across a wide range of courses.

8. James Cook University

James Cook University

James Cook University (JCU) is ranked 36th in the QS Top 50 Under 50 and joint 340th in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017. 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 22,159 students.

9. Deakin University

Deakin University

Ranked 39th in the Top 50 Under 50 and 355th in the world in 2016-2017, 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 53,000 students now enrolled at four campuses, plus an online Cloud Campus. 

10. La Trobe University

La Trobe University

The final of these 10 top young universities in Australia is La Trobe University, which features at 48th in the Top 50 Under 50. It also climbed eight places in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017, now ranked joint 386th in the world. Founded in 1967, La Trobe is the oldest university to appear in this list, having opened its doors in 1967 to 552 students. It now has about 36,000 students enrolled, including over 7,000 international students from 110 countries.

More top young universities in Australia

Alongside the Top 50 Under 50, QS also publishes the Next 50 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 updated in September 2016 to incorporate the latest ranking results. 

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Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of, Laura oversees the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edits the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributes to market research reports including How Do Students Use Rankings?

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