An Australian survey, the first of its kind, has ranked the country's universities in terms of their international standing.
The "group of eight" oldest and most research-intensive institutions top the 39 listed. The Australian National University and the University of Melbourne are in joint first place, followed by Sydney, Queensland, New South Wales, Monash, Western Australia and Adelaide universities.
The rankings, drawn up by two researchers at Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, used six criteria: the international standing of staff (40 per cent weighting); quality of graduate programmes (16 per cent); academic standard of new undergraduates (11 per cent); quality of undergraduate programmes (14 per cent); university resource levels (11 per cent); and a survey of Australian deans and overseas university executives (8 per cent).
The survey drew responses from 40 institutions worldwide and from 80 Australian deans. They were asked to rate each Australian university in comparison with foreign universities and then to rank the six categories.
All respondents rated quality of staff as most important.
About half the foreign university presidents placed the ANU and Melbourne among the world's top 80 universities. Most put Sydney, Queensland and UNSW in the top 200 and about half put Monash in this category.
One interesting finding was how closely the Australian rankings mirrored last month's World University Rankings in The Times Higher and Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, published in August. Both placed 14 Australian universities in the top 200.
Ross Williams, chief author of the study, said that local students were unlikely to use the rankings, but high-achieving foreign scholars would find the list invaluable when deciding where to apply.
The rankings will be updated each year, with the survey conducted at three-year intervals. It might be extended to include New Zealand and Asian universities.