Which Australian universities should international students avoid?

Last month, the QS World University Rankings were released, which revealed that seven Australian universities were ranked in the top 100, specifically:

  • Australian National University (29);
  • Melbourne University (38);
  • Sydney University (42);
  • University of New South Wales (43);
  • Queensland University (47);
  • Monash University (58); and
  • University of Western Australia (86).

As we noted at the time, five of these seven institutions – Queensland University, Monash University, University of Western Australia, Melbourne University and University of New South Wales – experienced a material increase in the ratio of students to academic (teaching) staff since 2009, as shown in the next chart, which other things equal suggests that education quality has badly degraded:

In fact, this same phenomenon has occurred across Australia’s university system, with the student to academic staff ratio increasing from an average of 20.05 to 21.44 between 2009 and 2017:

Earlier this week, the QS Top 50 Under 50 rankings were released, which compares global universities that are less than 50 years old. These ranked 10 Australian institutions in the top 50 globally:

Australia has the most universities in the QS Top 50 Under 50 rankings 2020 but last year’s top performer, the University of Technology Sydney, slipped out of the top 10, now sitting at 11th.

The rankings of universities less than 50 years old, released yesterday, also show the Univer­sity of Wollongong (steady at 16) and Queensland University of Technology (steady at 19) in the top 20.

The others are Curtin University (21), RMIT University (22), Deakin University (29), Univer­sity of South Australia (30), Griffith University (37) and James Cook University (48)…

The universities are evaluated according to research impact, ­capacity to nurture employable graduates, academic reputation, faculty-student ratio, and levels of internationalisation.

However, like their globally ranked older peers listed above, six out of these nine Under 50 universities have also experienced a material rise in their student to academic staff ratios – namely University of Technology Sydney; University of Wollongong; Curtin University; RMIT University; University of South Australia; and Griffith University:

Moreover, all but James Cook University had ratios that were above the national average in 2017.

The general worsening of the student to academic staff ratios is worrying in light of the rapid increase in international student numbers, which have nearly doubled since 2013:

Most of these international students are from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds and generally require more teaching assistance than domestic students. Therefore, the bigger student loads, alongside the higher maintenance of these students, implies a significant erosion in teaching capacity and quality across Australia’s university system.

If a quality educational experience is what students are seeking, they should be sceptical about studying at any of the Under 50 ranked universities other than James Cook University, as well as Queensland University. Each of these universities had student-to-staff ratios above the national average in 2017.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Australian National University and Sydney University have the lowest student-to-staff ratios, and therefore look like safer bets for students seeking quality.

That said, all of the top-100 universities presented above, other than Queensland University, have lower student-to-staff ratios than the national average. This suggests their quality is generally superior to the younger and second tier universities.

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Comments

  1. I’m a PhD student at Monash Uni and I have had an excellent, rigorous learning experience thus far. But I think I got lucky by having quality supervisors

    • I have a family member on staff at Monash.
      The faculty this person works for have been told to increase the ratio of students passing the subjects(science).
      Monash wants to increase its international students by 5-10,000 students per year,every year, for the next five.
      But the university wants a higher pass rate, to help attract them.

      A well connected Beijing friend says Australian universities are already regarded as lower quality than us,uk,Singapore and Beijing.

  2. At least one ranking is based on how many research papers the universities produce – so the Aussie ones gut the teaching division and pour money into the pointless research division to go up in the rankings.

    The ranking should be based on what salaries the graduates get and federal funding should also be tied to what salaries the graduates get – if half of them end up working for $10/hour, federal funding should be halved.

    Some do a degree and end up working as a receptionist. What a waste of 3 years. They would be better off working as a receptionist from the beginning.

    • if the sole purpose of uni is to make high earning people than construction tradie producing TAFE in Sydney should be immediately after Harvard

    • Jacob, you have it exactly right. If someone were to look at the rankings at the level of subject area within a university, and compare it to student-staff ratios also broken down into subject area, they would see a strong negative correlation.

    • DominicMEMBER

      Perhaps the correct measure of a University’s success should be the quality of the jobs the graduates all get afterwards.

      Inconvenient truths? You bet

  3. reusachtigeMEMBER

    They should avoid the University of Western Sydney as it’s in an unachieving region of Sydney that successful people try and avoid. We don’t really want to expose this failed area to the world. The University of NSW is better placed to showcase the best of Sydney.

  4. Hanno Son of Bomilcar

    u melb which is the highest ranked has the worst student outcomes, while csu (one of the lowest ranked) has the best. the reason why is bc the former is full of students who study useless degrees like science, arts and physix/maff while the latter is more proportionately made up of vocational students such as nurses and teachers, majors which still have great outcomes (relatively speaking). its refreshing to know that despite all of its problems australia’s higher education system doesnt confer any advantages to students studying at ‘prestigious’ universities in the labour market – the data shows it pretty consistently.

    • This doesn’t surprise me in the least.
      Uni or Melb also has the “Melbourne Model” which adds an extra year of study to courses.
      Frankly, I would advise students to try Monash or look at a trade.

  5. What I want to know is the professional outcomes for those who study with the professsor demography and the propertology professor…

  6. they should avoid those that require some work from students because it would be hard to do 40h per week in 7/11 and do all of those things

    fortunately there are very few unis left that require much work from students

  7. Most of these international students are from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds and generally require more teaching assistance than domestic students. Therefore, the bigger student loads, alongside the higher maintenance of these students, implies a significant erosion in teaching capacity and quality across Australia’s university system.
    Circular argue much?
    There are many ways to address the language and cultural aspects of attending university in Australia, one of the obvious ways is to employ more Chinese speaking Tutors , Lecturers and create some full Professor positions for qualified Chinese Academics in Australia….it’s not that hard to do IF living costs in Australia remain reasonable. Some universities have tried going down this track but discovered that Australian Academic salaries are insufficient to pay the mortgage on Australian houses, so the academics require the universities to purchase suitable housing for them and include this in the package.
    hmm once again it’s all about housing…this insanity has to end
    Who exactly is it that is suppose to be able to buy (afford) housing if fully tenured professors of Engineering can’t possibly purchase houses that are somewhat local to their place of employment?
    This insanity has to end.

    • “There are many ways to address the language and cultural aspects of attending university in Australia, one of the obvious ways is to employ more Chinese speaking Tutors , Lecturers and create some full Professor positions for qualified Chinese Academics in Australia”

      I hope you’re being sarcastic here.

      • No not at all.
        There is demand for a product (education) and we have the structure (our universities) to service this demand.
        What’s missing are the staff and additional buildings / housing / site prep etc.
        All of these are tractable / fixable problems which are much easier ti address than is lack of demand.
        Most global manufacturing operates in an oversupplied market place so management has no ability to price for scarcity, By comparison our Education sector operates in an environment of excess demand . It is infinitely easier to grow a business when there are clear Supply deficits, for your product, than it is to grow when there are demand deficits.
        So we need to leverage this excess demand, this creates ancillary problems, infrastructure loading, housing, space, roads etc etc BUT all of these problems can be solved.
        Every Manufacturer that ever tried to grow their production facilities understands the conundrum of excess demand (potential growth) that can’t be addressed with existing production facilities. Every one of these manufactures at some point asks themselves if they can somehow double or triple or even quadruple their capacity. They know how to make a given product (profitably) meaning that net profit is only limited by scale. But at what cost can this additional capacity be created?
        In Australia we seem to think of this as somehow being “money for nothing and our chicks for free” so we fail completely to address very obvious demand signalling and than wonder why the expansion suffers from quality and execution problems.
        All solvable, and trust me I’d much rather solve the problems of excess demand than ever try to address demand deficits. ask any Holden worker what it’s like to work for a company with clear demand problems.

      • what exactly is the point of having Chinese overseas students arriving here so as their courses can be delivered to them in Chinese, unless it was for nefarious purposes such as creating a parallel society with the aim of demographically replacing the European population…….if they want their courses delivered in Chinese they can stay in China, otherwise we’re an English speaking country last time I checked.

      • Demand is demand is demand, when demand dramatically exceeds supply you can profit handsomely by addressing this supply deficit.
        Sometimes that means you need to modify your product to supply exactly what the customer needs.
        About half the worlds refrigerators are made by a Chinese company, yet they’re not all made the same way or using the same materials because different markets demand different Product “features”. With this in mind, why shouldn’t an Australian Tertiary education university modify their “product” to best address the requirements of their customers?
        Why would a lecture delivered by a Chinese speaking academic (who might be from Singapore, or Taiwan or Malaysia) necessarily be inferior to the same lecture delivered in English? Surely the same basic instructional material can be used as in content identical but with the lecture language modified to suit the audience.
        I see no problem at all with this approach. the exams can even have the same content
        demand is demand is demand! As a producer you either find a way to service it OR a competitor eats your lunch.

      • “Why would a lecture delivered by a Chinese speaking academic (who might be from Singapore, or Taiwan or Malaysia) necessarily be inferior to the same lecture delivered in English? Surely the same basic instructional material can be used as in content identical but with the lecture language modified to suit the audience”.

        What efficacy is there in Chinese students arriving here to simply study in a course delivered in Chinese?? They can receive the same education in China without having to pay the fees, unless as I stated earlier they’re arriving here to simply create a parallel society and in relation to demand…the only demand is for permanent residency which is what our Higher Education System is being gamed for.

      • DominicMEMBER

        “what exactly is the point of having Chinese overseas students arriving here so as their courses can be delivered to them in Chinese …”
        Agreed. Just open a Uni branch in Beijing. Oh wait … the Commonwealth wouldn’t get the visa application fees and the benefits of ‘consumption’ in this country.

        Bring them in and top up the coffers! Economic policy at its most sophisticated .. phuck we’re good.

  8. Which Australian universities should international students avoid?
    Which Australian universities should domestic students avoid?
    Which international universities should I send my domestic children to?

  9. As some of the students arrive at brothels first, Id love to see what package PR deals are available with which universities.

  10. Tom ConleyMEMBER

    I can remember when at Adelaide uni we moved from 10 to 12 students in tutorials and there was outrage (partly because it mean lecturers could no longer have tutes in their offices.

    These days ‘workshops’ have 30 students. Luckily for the ones that attend, most weeks there are fewer than 20 in the class. (despite there being a mark for participation).