Structural fallout after COVID-19, subdued investment, and overseas competition are likely behind universities’ mixed performance in a recent world ranking.
THE Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024 edition has placed just one local institution – the University of Western Australia – in the top 200 globally.
UWA was ranked equal 143rd, down from equal 131st in the 2023 edition.
While Curtin University did not make it into the top 200, it maintained its 2023 position in the 201-250 band.
The rankings does not assign specific ranks to universities that sit outside the top 200, instead allocating them to bands or clusters based on their performance against criteria.
Based on the worldwide rankings, the 2024 university rankings also produced a list of the top 10 universities in Australia.
The University of Melbourne, along with five other Australian institutions, was in the top 100 worldwide and therefore dominated the list of the top universities in Australia.
The University of Melbourne claimed 37th position globally and was followed by Monash University, which ranked 54th in the world.
The University of Sydney (60), Australian National University (67), the University of Queensland (70) and the University of New South Wales (84) all made the global top 100.
The authors of The Times Higher Education World University Rankings used the global data to produce the domestic standings of Australia’s 37 universities.
The six Australian universities included in the rankings of the top 100 worldwide occupied the first places on the list of this country’s top 10. They are joined by the University of Adelaide in seventh position, UWA (eight), the University of Technology Sydney (nine) and Macquarie University (10).
However, the Australian top 10 list masks the challenges faced by those universities on the global stage.
Those Australian institutions all lost ground from 2023, likely because of structural fallout following COVID-19, the impact of subdued investment in the education sector, and increasing competition from overseas.
Based on the Times rankings, sitting just outside the Australian top 10 were Curtin and Swinburne University of Technology, which ranked equal 12th best in the country.
Murdoch and Edith Cowan shared 24th position alongside the University of Canberra and the University of Southern Queensland.
The five universities that placed at the bottom of the global ranking of Australia’s universities were regionally based.
Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, NSW, fell into the 801-1,000 worldwide band to occupy bottom rank on the Australian league ladder.
Outside of Australia, the biggest winners in the global rankings were universities from the UK and the US.
Three universities from the UK and seven from the US made up the 2024 global rankings top 10.
The University of Oxford was ranked the world’s top university, marking its eighth straight year in the premier position.
Oxford was followed by Stanford University (US), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) and Harvard University (US), while the University of Cambridge (UK) took up its position as the fifth top tertiary education institution in the world.
Other UK and US universities making up the top 10 were Princeton University (six), California Institute of Technology (seven), Imperial College London (eight), University of California Berkeley (nine) and Yale University (10).
The Times annual rankings use 18 different measures, arranged into five broad areas, to determine the standing of about 2,000 universities worldwide: teaching and learning; research environment; research quality; international outlook; and industry connections.
It is one of around 20 different ranking systems used worldwide and part of a trio of global league tables held in particularly high regard in academic communities, alongside the QS World University Rankings and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.
These three most prestigious ranking systems are frequently consulted by students, parents, educators, researchers, policy makers and university leaders, even though many stakeholders fail to understand how published tables are arrived at.
Ranking systems are not perfect, however, and cannot tell a university’s full story.
For businesses turning to global league tables as part of their due diligence of a university they want to engage with, it is important to understand exactly what criteria have been put under the rankings microscope.
• Professor Gary Martin is chief executive officer of the Australian Institute of Management WA