Best universities in Sydney

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

September 29 2020


As one of the biggest student cities in Australia, and home to the five largest universities in the world, Sydney is a vibrant, engaging city to study in and enjoy. 

The Australian government ensures that all university courses meet international standards and put them under constant supervision to maintain this, which means Sydney offers a high standard of education.

According to the 2019 Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Sydney was listed among the top most liveable cities in the world. International students can enjoy a high-quality life while studying and working in the city.

Renowned for its laid-back and relaxed culture, Sydney is home to people from a huge range of backgrounds, with its some 35,000 international students hailing from India, China, Thailand, Brazil, Vietnam, Malaysia and many more. 

Friendly and welcoming, Sydneysiders embrace and celebrate their multicultural city, with the calendar year packed with all kinds of cultural and religious festivals. There are activities to match every interest, from the world-renowned museums and galleries, to adrenalin-rich sports such as surfing, climbing and jet-skiing. Bondi Beach is no further than a short bus or subway ride away. 

Compared with other university cities, the costs of studying and living in Sydney are relatively high. However, a student visa enables students to work up to 40 hours every two weeks during the academic year or full-time during the holidays, meaning students can afford to balance their studies, working and enjoying Sydney to the full, if they so choose. 

These are the best universities in Sydney based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021

University of Sydney

Founded in 1850, the University of Sydney is Australia’s oldest university and is one of the world’s leading teaching and research institutions. It was also one of the first universities in the world to accept students based on academic merit and open its admissions to women in the same way as it did to men. 

Spread across the inner-city suburbs of Darlington and Camperdown, USYD is home to some 70,000 students and 8,000 permanent and fixed-term staff. The Camperdown campus was constructed by British-born architect Edmund Blacket, in a neo-Gothic design and has made its name as one of the world’s most beautiful universities.

The university comprises five faculties and three schools, offering a range of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, with arts and social sciences, business, science, engineering and health sciences among the largest schools and facilities, based on student enrolment. 

The main campus is home to a variety of statues, artworks, and monuments, including the Gilgamesh Statue and the Confucius Statue. USYD also has an extensive selection of museums such as the Nicholson Museum of Antiquities (the largest collection of its kind in the country), the Macleay Museum and the Rare Books Library, which has a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas, and a first edition of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton.

The University of Sydney Union is the oldest and largest university union in Australia, and there are more than 200 clubs and societies for students to get involved in. 

USYD’s Latin motto Sidere mens eadem mutato means “The stars change, the mind remains the same”.

Notable alumni include no less than seven Australian prime ministers, two governor generals of Australia, nine state governors and territory administrators and 24 justices of the High Court of Australia. 

A guide for international students choosing a university in Australia
A day in the life of a student in Australia
International perspective: a Zambian student in Australia
The 10 most beautiful universities in Australia
The cost of studying at a university in Australia
9 things every international student should know about Australia
Scholarships for international students in Australia and New Zealand
A guide to student bank accounts in Australia

UNSW Sydney

Established in 1949 with a focus on the scientific, technological and professional disciplines, the University of South Wales has nine faculties through which it offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

More than 50,000 students from at least 128 countries study at UNSW, which makes it one of the most cosmopolitan universities in Australia. The main campus is situated on a 38-hectare site in Kensington, a suburb about 7km from central Sydney. There are several other campuses, with the largest being the Art and Design campus in Paddington and UNSW Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. There are also sub-campuses in the Sydney Central Business District and in the suburbs of Randwick and Coogee, with several research stations throughout the state of New South Wales. 

UNSW prides itself on sustained innovation, focusing on areas critical to the country’s future – from climate change and renewable energies to life-saving medical treatments and breakthrough technologies. In the social sciences, UNSW research informs policy and expert commentary in key issues facing society, ranging from human rights and constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians to public health and ageing.

Partnerships with both local communities and international institutions, such as Princeton, McGill, Duke, Brown and Maastricht universities and Imperial College London, enable UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. 

Notable alumni include Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia; King Tupou VI of Tonga; King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand and the actor Rebel Wilson.

University of Technology Sydney 

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is known for its practice-oriented teaching programmes, focus on high-impact research, and strong, enduring partnerships with industry and the professions.

UTS has its origins in the 1870s, however it was founded in its current form in 1988. It has approximately 46,000 students, including 33,000 undergraduate and 13,000 postgraduate students.  

The UTS city campus is located within Sydney’s growing education, innovation and creative hub at the southern gateway to the Central Business District, which over the past decade has become an interconnected urban environment that supports excellence in teaching and research. This $1 billion-plus investment has delivered iconic new buildings – including the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing Building.  

There’s also the Moore Park precinct, Sydney’s premier sporting hub. This is home to UTS’ sport and exercise programs, as well as sports media classes and the Graduate School of Health’s physiotherapy programme. A stone’s throw from the Sydney Cricket Ground, UTS’ facilities are co-located with Rugby Australia and Australia’s elite national rugby teams. In fact, this arrangement is an Australian first for university programmes embedded within an elite sporting complex. 

UTS has nine faculties: the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; the School of Business; the Faculty of Design; Architecture and Building; the Faculty of Engineering and Information; the Technology Graduate School of Health; the Faculty of Health; the Faculty of Law; the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation.  

Notable alumni include actor Hugh Jackman; Morris Iemma, former Premier of New South Wales; Henry Tsang, former Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney and Pat Cummins, Australian cricketer.

Top universities in Sydney 2021

World University rank 2021  Sydney Rank 2021 University
 =51  1 University of Sydney
 67  2 UNSW Sydney
 =160  3 University of Technology Sydney
 =195  4 Macquarie University
 251–300  =5 Australian Catholic University
 251–300  =5 Western Sydney University

 Read more: Best universities in Australia

Illustration of a book

Register free and enjoy extra benefits