You're in your final year of high school and have decided to pursue a career in engineering, the sciences, economics, education or business management — or any other career that requires you to have a bachelor degree or similar. Or perhaps you are interested in pursuing a passion for a particular subject and the idea of delving deep through university studies appeals to you.

Either way — well done. Further study is a big commitment to make after years of mandatory study but absolutely worth it in the long run.

The next decision that needs to be made pertains to the university you choose to apply for and then the degree. Or, is it the other way around? Decide on the degree and then find the university?

It really depends on your career goals and other factors that you need to consider, such as location, accommodation and associated costs.

You may also have your heart set on trying for one of the top-ranked universities, particularly if you feel that this will help your career chances or simply because your chosen university also happens to have the best degrees in your field.

In Australia, the system of school rankings is not as prevalent as it can be in the US or UK, however, schools and universities are still ranked, usually by external bodies such as the QS World University Rankings, which is the most popular international ranking system.

How exactly does the ranking system work, though? What is it that gives certain universities the title of 'best universities in Australia', and why are particular degrees labelled the 'best degrees'? We'll take a look at some of the factors that go into these rankings, then go on a bit of a tour through the 2021 top ten Australian universities according to QS World University Rankings.

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How are the Best Degrees and Best Universities Determined?

Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) is a UK company that specialises in higher education analysis, among other things. QS is considered to be the best in the world when it comes to providing international higher education insights and is the most popular site in the world for students to obtain data comparing international universities across a range of categories.

What factors are considered by QS in determining the best universities?

QS investigates a number of areas related to university study and provides rankings each year according to these, including:

  • rankings by subject
  • employability ranking
  • best student cities
  • top 50 under 50 (compares universities less than 50 years old)
  • system strength rankings (university performance as a whole).

The QS subject rankings can assist you if you're looking for the best degree in your chosen field. These are determined through research citations and major international surveys of employers and academics.

Where is the University of Adelaide?
Established in 1874, the University of Adelaide is the third oldest university in Australia | Source: Pixabay - 12019

Other ranking systems will also take the above factors into consideration and may look at student results over time and their rate of graduate employment.

What did the QS World University Rankings determine were the best universities in Australia in 2021?

These rankings were based on academic performance, employer reputation and research impact among other areas. Thirty-six universities in Australia were listed with most performing better than they did the previous year.

Let's take a look at the top ten from Australia.

#10 University of Wollongong

Founded in 1975, the University of Wollongong is very much a community-focused university with many of its courses aligned with community partnership programs. It gained its place in the world rankings owing to its research output (75th amongst international institutions) and is the university to attend if you have a special interest in the economics of society, or environmental, social or health issues.

The uni boasts four faculties across nine campuses — Social Sciences and Arts, Business and Law, Engineering and Information Sciences, Science and Health — and offers a wide range of degree and subject choices. You'll find the University of Wollongong approximately an hour's drive south of Sydney, on the Australian east coast.

#9 University of Technology Sydney

Rising seven places in the world rankings and only established 34 years ago, the University of Technology Sydney is one of the youngest top universities in Australia. It has a strong focus on international students (ranking 78th in the world in this category) as well as research and employer relations.

If you are interested in information management courses, engineering, computer sciences or legal studies, the University of Technology Sydney would be well worth a look.

#8 University of Adelaide

Ranked at position 106 overall, this Adelaide tertiary institution excels when it comes to the international student indicator. Ranked 44th globally, over a third of the students at the Uni of Adelaide are international students. Adelaide Uni has a well-established reputation for academic excellence and progressive thinking among all Australian tertiary institutions.

Academic staff who are international leaders in their field are attracted to the uni, along with the best students who want to have an impact on the economics, health and quality of life of all Australian citizens. Graduates from the University of Adelaide are well-equipped with the skills to make a difference in their chosen careers.

#7 University of Western Australia

Although it fell five places in 2021, this Western Australian uni still outscores all Australian universities regarding the percentage of international faculty members and the number of research citations per academic staff member. Located on the banks of the Swan River in Perth (capital city of Western Australia), this uni's innovative degree structure allows students the flexibility to design their courses to meet their needs and boost their education skills and employability.

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#6 Monash University

Based mainly in Melbourne, Monash University also has five other campus locations throughout Victoria and two international locations, in Malaysia and South Africa. Monash Uni is ranked in the world's top 50 when it comes to academic reputation and obtained a perfect score on the international student indicator.

The largest university in Australia, Monash Uni also boasts the largest range of degrees.

#5 University of Queensland

Graduates from this Queensland uni include two Nobel laureates, actor Geoffrey Rush and many Australian leaders in government, law, economics and science. Health researchers from the Uni of Queensland have also gained attention in recent years, most notably for their health research into the cervical cancer vaccine.

You'll be in good hands at the University of Queensland with its education and teaching reputation netting more education awards than any other Australian university.

Where is the University of Sydney?
The University of Sydney was Australia's first university, founded in 1850 | Source: Pixabay - vincent1024

#4 University of New South Wales

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) placed in the top 50 of all indicators except the faculty student ratio indicator in 2021. With many global industry connections, graduates from UNSW are ready for successful international careers and jobs that make a difference in the world.

Students have a wide range of choices for both bachelor and postgraduate degrees, including engineering, computer science, business, science and health.

#3 University of Melbourne

The highest-ranked Australian university for academic and employer reputation, this Melbourne uni also ranked highly on the international student indicator with 42% of its student population coming from the overseas market.

The city of Melbourne offers students a great location, winning the world's most livable city no less than seven times, ensuring Melbourne Uni provides students with more than the perfect place to learn and study. Degrees are modelled on those from top overseas institutions and students are able to spend their first year exploring subject options before choosing their major courses of study.

#2 University of Sydney

The Uni of Sydney offers the broadest range of disciplines and subject options of all Australian tertiary institutions and is ranked first in Australia for its employability of graduates. The focus is on teaching the way students learn, meaning students develop the skills they need, not only for their education but for life.

Choose from a range of Australia's best degrees, including education and social work, engineering and computer science, medicine and health, business and all sciences.

#1 Australian National University

Where is the Australian National University?
Ranking in the top 50 worldwide for academic reputation and international student indicators, the Australian National University is again at the top of the 'best universities in Australia' list | Source: Pixabay - hazmanaziz

Located in the Australian Capital Territory, the Australian National University was founded in 1946 in the post-war effort to realise Australia's global potential. The Australian National University's mission is to provide research and education in subject areas vital for Australia's future.

The degree options at the Australian National University include: humanities and social sciences, business and management, engineering and technology, health and medicine, natural sciences and the arts.

Other Considerations

Now that you've had a look at the best universities in Australia, we hope you have a better idea about what you need to think about when choosing your tertiary pathway.

If you're still undecided, you may wish to first browse our other articles to give you guidance about the best degree to choose as well as the pros and cons of university study before making that crucial decision.

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.