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5 top universities to aim for after high school

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Australia has some of the best universities in the world, but how do you know which ones to choose? Read on to find out.

There are some great universities available to students across the country, but deciding which ones are the best comes down to a few things. University rankings established by the likes of Times Higher Education (THE) assess universities based on several criteria, making them one of the best ways to measure their performance.

  • Teaching. How well do they deliver information to students in a clear and cohesive manner? This is assessed not only on quantifiable outcomes like number of degrees awarded per year, but student surveys and assessments that provide insight into the campus experience.
  • Research. How many academic papers do they produce per year? This indicates how many tangible contributions professors are making to their respective fields.
  • Influence. How widely utilised is the research produced? Is it academically useful?
  • Industry usage. Is research produced being applied to industry out in the world? Is it professionally useful?
  • Outlook. Do they care about fostering a global community and a multicultural perspective?

It might look like only one of these things should matter (teaching) if you’re just looking for a degree out of high school, but there’s a lot to be said for a university’s research. If you have professors who are positively shaping their field in addition to being good teachers, you stand to learn all the more from them. If you’re at a university that’s accepting of different cultures and backgrounds, you can rest assured that they’re doing good by the international community.

Bear in mind that when using university rankings, remember that they change year to year. If a university is 20 places above another, that doesn’t necessarily make them far better. Their scores could be very similar, even swapping positions the following year. Therefore, make sure to take them with a grain of salt.

With that said, where do Australia’s universities stack up on the world stage based on the criteria used in THE world rankings? Here are the top five.

5. Monash University

Currently ranked at 80th in the world, Victoria’s Monash University boasts Australia’s largest student body at over 78,000.

The university takes its name from the illustrious Sir John Monash (1865 - 1931), who believed that educating one person was a benefit to the entire community. He not only fought in the first world war and became a distinguished general, but had a bachelor degree, master degree and four doctorates; two in laws, one in civil law and one in engineering.

The university prides itself on its culture, adopting the motto “I am still learning” to signify passion for lifelong education. It now offers exceptional law and engineering programs, echoing the passions of the man bearing its name. It has multiple campuses, with a law faculty right in the midst of Melbourne’s courts. Its parkville campus features new laboratory equipment and $50 million worth of redevelopment.

4. University of Queensland

Ranked at 65th, the University of Queensland is a world-leading research institution. The Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) has honoured several of their teachers, making it a great choice for new students as well as career academics.

Professor Joanne Wright, deputy vice chancellor of the OLT, recognised that “foremost among UQ’s core strategic goals is for employers worldwide to recognise UQ graduates as recognised as ‘must-have’ employees.” To deliver on this goal, the university has entered into a joint venture with Harvard University and MIT called edX to provide online courses and learning materials. This makes them an inclusive, sound choice for prospective students.

Its 52,000 students have access to career services like the employability centre, which provides advice on student associations, internships and networking opportunities to increase the employment prospects of new students.

3. University of Sydney

The University of Sydney is ranked at 61st on the world stage and has been around for over 160 years, making it one of the country’s oldest institutions. It has a strong culture of diversity and well-being, promoting and developing clean energy solutions that are sustainable.

They have a wide array of courses across disciplines with something for everyone. From the arts and social sciences to medicine, engineering, law and business, the University of Sydney’s expansive infrastructure hosts it all.

Through the use of a five-year plan, they hope to continue growing their excellence in research and teaching by constantly questioning and redeveloping their curriculums. This is how they keep such a wide expanse of courses up-to-date and will continue doing so into the future. “Our vision is unashamedly aspirational,” said vice chancellor and principal Michael Spence, “aiming to position the University of Sydney as the best institution in Australia.”

2. Australian National University

The prestigious ANU is ranked at 48th in the world, situated in the heart of Canberra. Although THE don’t rank them at 1st in Australia, QS university rankings do for good reason.

  • 16 of their subjects are ranked in the top 25 worldwide
  • THE ranks them as the most employable graduates in Australia
  • More staff and alumni counted among Nobel Laureates than any other university in the country
  • Six of their professors were awarded the title of “Distinguished Educator” in 2017 alone

The university hosts roughly 25,000 students, with 5,000 of those living on campus. It has professors with a wealth of private sector experience in industries like consulting, finance, policy, education, law, engineering and more.

No matter the discipline, ANU has world class facilities and teaching capabilities to accommodate for it.

1. University of Melbourne

Ranked at 32nd in the world and 1st in Australia by THE rankings, the University of Melbourne plays host to top tier research and study opportunities. This 165 year old institution has six different interdisciplinary research institutes, each designed for a variety of different issues such as:

  • Disabilities and quality of life for the disabled
  • Efficient and sustainable energy solutions
  • The inner-workings of societies and interpersonal interactions
  • Neuroscience
  • Social equity
  • Sustainable living

This naturally feeds into its high standard of teaching, which spans across all disciplines. They offer an uncommon level of customisation, providing specialised degrees across traditional fields. For example, instead of just business administration, students can specifically focus on contract management or public leadership while also having access to standard business administration options. This makes them a very competitive choice for high school students looking for a top qualification.