Australian universities have performed well in the latest Times Higher Education world rankings but experts say planned reform could weaken depth.
The reputation of Australian universities is on the rise but planned deregulation of fees could threaten the depth of the nation’s education system.
Australia increased its representation in the 2014-15 Times Higher Education World University rankings released on Wednesday, with most of the nation’s top institutions improving their standings on last year.
Melbourne University is still leading the local pack, climbing one spot from 2013-14 to be 33rd while Adelaide University is a new entrant to the top 200 at 164th.
Of Australia’s eight universities in the top 200, only fourth-ranked Queensland University lost ground in the latest standings.
Times Higher Education World University Rankings editor Phil Baty said the improvement, and the fact another 12 Australian universities were ranked in the 200-400 bracket, provided evidence of a world class university system.
“It’s a really impressive performance,” Baty told AAP.
“I think the great thing for Australia is they’ve got great strength in depth.
“It’s not just the eight in the top 200 but below the 200 there’s a really healthy group of really interesting universities.”
While Australia’s overall improvement was only slight, Baty said it could reflect the fact universities were making significant contributions in research, leading the world in international student recruitment and becoming more aware and strategic about global brand awareness.
However, he said the government’s plans to deregulate tuition fees from 2016 could reshape the landscape in the coming years.
“The big question is whether this admirable strength-in-depth can be maintained,” Baty said.
“The reforms may help a small Australian elite protect or even improve their global standing, but what about the rest? It may mean the second-tier institutions are weakened.
“There is a lot at stake over the next few years.”
The Australian National University remains the nation’s second ranked Australian institution (up three spots to 45th overall) followed by Sydney University, which climbed eight spots to be 60th.
California Institute of Technology held on to the world’s top ranking for the fourth straight year ahead of Harvard University, with the US filling seven of the top 10 spots.
The UK holds the other three, led by third-placed Oxford.
Leading Asian institutions continue to rise with 24 universities in the top 200, an increase of 20 on last year.
The annual rankings index uses 13 objective performance indicators, including industry income, teaching, research influence and international outlook.
RANKING OF AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITIES IN 2014-15
Last year’s ranking in parenthesis
University of Melbourne 33 (34)
Australian National University 45 (48)
University of Sydney 60 (72)
University of Queensland Australia 65 (63)
Monash University 83 (91)
University of New South Wales 109 (114)
University of Western Australia 157 (168)
University of Adelaide 164 (201-225)
California Institute of Technology (US) 1 (1)
Harvard University (US) 2 (2)
University of Oxford (UK) 3 (2)
Stanford University (US) 4 (4)
University of Cambridge (UK) 5 (7)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) 6 (5)
Princeton University (US) 7 (6)
University of California, Berkeley 8 (8)
Imperial College London (UK) 9 (10)
Yale University (US) 9 (11)
Source: Times Higher Education
Full results at www.thewur.com