Best universities in Australia

Find the best universities in Australia with Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

Best universities in
September 2 2020
The University of Melbourne - the top ranked institution in Australia


If you are looking to study in Australia, you’ll need some information about your university options.

There are 37 top universities in Australia, according to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2021, and six of them feature in the prestigious top 100, meaning there is no shortage of choice.

The best Australian universities are spread across the country, from Perth in the west to Brisbane in the east, Darwin in the north and Hobart in the south.

Top universities worldwide

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The best university in Australia, according to the THE rankings, is the University of Melbourne – the only university in the country to make the top 50 of the overall world ranking (30). It is followed by the University of Sydney (=51), Australian National University (59), University of Queensland (=62) and Monash University (=64).

Australia has the third highest number of international students in the world behind the UK and the US – pretty impressive for a nation of just 24 million people.

Top 5 universities in Australia

1. University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne was founded in 1853, making it the second oldest in the country (keep reading to find out which one is the oldest).

It is home to 47,000 students and 6,500 members of staff, and has 280,000 alumni around the world (some 15 per cent of whom live outside Australia).

More than 12,000 international students are enrolled at the University of Melbourne, and if you do get a place there, you will be joining students from 130 countries.

You will also be rubbing shoulders with some pretty famous scholars. Nobel prizewinner Peter Doherty (physiology and medicine) and fellows of the Royal Society David Solomon and David Boger all teach or research at Melbourne.

2. University of Sydney

Founded in 1851, the University of Sydney is the oldest university in Australia.

Approximately 46,000 students attend the University of Sydney, representing some 134 nations. About 280 overseas exchange programmes are in place with more than 30 countries.

No fewer than five Australian prime ministers attended the university, including Edmund Barton who, in 1901, won Australia’s first ever federal election.

Sydney is also considered one of the best university cities for students. Download your Study Abroad Guide for FREE

3. Australian National University

Established in 1946, the Australian National University (ANU) was originally created as a postgraduate research university by the Parliament of Australia. It is located in Canberra, Australia’s capital city and seat of government. 

It counts six Nobel prizewinners among its faculty and alumni, and is even run by a Nobel laureate. Brian Schmidt, who won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics (with Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess) for providing evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, is the institution’s vice-chancellor.

ANU has many partnerships with international universities, including Yale University, the University of Oxford, ETH Zurich, and the National University of Singapore

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4. University of Queensland

The motto of The University of Queensland (UQ) is Scientia ac Labore, which is Latin for “by means of knowledge and hard work” – so be prepared to do some grafting!

UQ has about 40,000 students enrolled, including 12,000 international students from 141 countries. It also has one of Australia’s largest PhD cohorts with about 13,800 postgraduate students registered.

Famous graduates include a Nobel laureate, two Fortune 500 company CEOs, Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush and poet Bronwyn Lea.  

The university’s main campus is located in the green and leafy inner Brisbane suburb of St Lucia – one of the most affluent areas of the city. 

5. Monash University

Monash University was founded in 1958 and is the largest university in Australia. It was named after the engineer, military leader and public administrator Sir John Monash.

Students can choose from more than 6,000 courses across 10 faculties: art, design and architecture; arts; business and economics; education; engineering; information technology; law; medicine, nursing and health sciences; pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences; and science.

The university has many campuses across Victoria and Australia as well as international campuses in Malaysia, Italy, India and China. It operates several libraries at all its campuses, housing more than 3.2 million items in total.

Famous alumni include musician Nick Cave, Booker-winning novelist Peter Carey, and playwright David Williamson.

Top universities in Australia 2021

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2021 profile

World University rank 2021  Australia Rank 2021 University City State/territory
 31  1 University of Melbourne Melbourne Victoria
 =51  2 University of Sydney Sydney New South Wales
 59  3 Australian National University Canberra Australian Capital Territory
 =62  4 The University of Queensland Brisbane Queensland
 =64  5 Monash University Melbourne Victoria
 67  6 UNSW Sydney Kensington New South Wales
 =118  7 University of Adelaide Adelaide South Australia
 139  8 The University of Western Australia Perth Western Australia
 =160  9 University of Technology Sydney Sydney New South Wales
 =184  10 University of Canberra Canberra Australian Capital Territory
 186  11 Queensland University of Technology Brisbane Queensland
 =195  12 Macquarie University Sydney New South Wales
 201–250  =13 Curtin University Perth Western Australia
 201–250  =13 Griffith University Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan Queensland
 201–250  =13 James Cook University Townsville City Queensland
 201–250  =13 La Trobe University Melbourne Victoria
 201–250  =13 University of Wollongong Wollongong New South Wales
 251–300  =18 Australian Catholic University Sydney New South Wales
 251–300  =18 Deakin University Geelong Victoria
 251–300  =18 Flinders University Adelaide South Australia
 251–300  =18 University of Newcastle Callaghan New South Wales
 251–300  =18 Western Sydney University Sydney New South Wales
 301–350  =23 RMIT University Melbourne Victoria
 301–350  =23 University of South Australia Adelaide South Australia
 351–400  =25 Swinburne University of Technology Hawthorn Victoria
 351–400  =25 University of Tasmania Hobart Tasmania
 351–400  =25 Victoria University Melbourne Victoria
 401–500  28 Edith Cowan University Joondalup Western Australia
 501–600  =29 Bond University Gold Coast Queensland
 501–600  =29 Charles Darwin University Casuarina Northern Territory
 501–600  =29 Murdoch University Murdoch Western Australia
 501–600  =29 University of Southern Queensland Toowoomba Queensland
 601–800  =33 Southern Cross University Lismore New South Wales
 601–800  =33 University of the Sunshine Coast Sunshine Coast Queensland
 801–1000  =35 Central Queensland University Rockhampton Queensland
 801–1000  =35 Charles Sturt University Bathurst New South Wales
 801–1000  =35 Federation University Australia Brisbane Victoria

Read more: Best universities in the world 

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