Best universities in Australia 2020

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

September 16 2019
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 35 top universities in Australia, according to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2020, 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.


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The best university in Australia, according to the THE rankings, is the University of Melbourne – one of two universities in the country to make the top 50 of the overall world ranking (=32). It is followed by the Australian National University (50), University of Sydney (60), University of Queensland (66) and UNSW Sydney (71).

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 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 different 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. 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.

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

3. University of Sydney

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

Currently, 45,000 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. 


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4. University of Queensland

The motto of the University of Queensland (UQ) motto 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 39,000 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. UNSW Sydney

UNSW Sydney was established in 1949. 

There are more than 52,000 students at the university, including 13,000 international students from 130 countries.

The university has more than 200 agreements with universities in 39 countries to facilitate student exchanges and research projects. 

The university recently launched the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre, which aims to support students to design and experiment with business ideas. The team then helps students turn their ideas into reality through partnerships with commercial companies.  


Top universities in Australia 2020 

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2020 profile

Australia Rank 2020 World University Rank 2020  University City State/Territory
1  =32  University of Melbourne Melbourne Victoria
2  50  Australian National University Canberra Australian Capital Territory
3  60  University of Sydney Sydney New South Wales
4  66  University of Queensland Brisbane Queensland
5  71  UNSW Sydney Kensington New South Wales
6  =75  Monash University Melbourne Victoria
7  =120  University of Adelaide Adelaide South Australia
8  =131  University of Western Australia Perth Western Australia
9  =179  Queensland University of Technology Brisbane Queensland
10  193  University of Canberra Canberra Australian Capital Territory
11  =194  University of Technology Sydney Sydney New South Wales
=12  201–250  Griffith University Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan Queensland
=12  201–250  James Cook University Townsville City Queensland
=12  201–250  Macquarie University Sydney New South Wales
=12  201–250  University of Wollongong Wollongong New South Wales
=16  251–300  Curtin University Perth Western Australia
=16  251–300  Flinders University Adelaide South Australia
=16  251–300  La Trobe University Melbourne Victoria
=16  251–300  University of South Australia Adelaide South Australia
=16  251–300  Western Sydney University Sydney New South Wales
=21  301–350  Deakin University Geelong Victoria
=21  301–350  University of Newcastle Callaghan New South Wales
=21  301–350  University of Tasmania Hobart Tasmania
=21  301–350  Victoria University Melbourne Victoria
=25  351–400  Australian Catholic University Sydney New South Wales
=25  351–400  RMIT University Melbourne Victoria
=25  351–400  Swinburne University of Technology Hawthorn Victoria
=28  401–500  Bond University Gold Coast Queensland
=28  401–500  Edith Cowan University Joondalup Western Australia
=28  401–500  Murdoch University Murdoch Western Australia
=28  501–600  Charles Darwin University Casuarina Northern Territory
=32  601–800  Central Queensland University Rockhampton Queensland
=32  601–800  Southern Cross University Lismore New South Wales
=32  601–800  University of Southern Queensland Toowoomba Queensland
=32  601–800  University of the Sunshine Coast Sunshine Coast Queensland

Read more: Best universities in the world 

Reader's comments (1)

There are some additional universities below these rankings - this may confuse some readers. Australian Catholic University, University of the Sunshine Coast, Bond University, Charles Sturt University, Federation University, Victoria University, University of New England.

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