Wednesday, April 12, 2006

THES World Rankings - Australian Universities

I've been asked often by readers to give my comments with regards to Australian universities, their standards and qualities. Regular readers will know that I don't have particularly good impression of the Aussie universities today due to the fact that their entry criteria seems to have fallen significantly in their pursuit for income and fees from foreign students. From an anecdotal perspective, I do receive a fair number of applications from graduates of Australian universities that leaves me distinctly unimpressed, particularly with their entry standards.

Hence the "off-the-cuff" replies I tend to give to students seeking to find out more about Australian universities is to stick to the top 3-4 universities like New South Wales, Melbourne and Sydney. These are also the universities which, as far as I'm aware, do not participate significantly in twinning programmes overseas. (Note: There are always exceptions, like I've recently made an offer to a Monash graduate - but as stated, they are exceptions).

Given that the basis of my advice has largely been based on anecdotal evidence, I thought I would want to find some additonal basis to my arguments (whether for or against). Where better to start the analytical process but with the oft-cited Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World Universities Rankings Table. But post isn't about the conclusion to my analysis. That will come a bit later.

This post is on an interesting piece of infomration which I found after toying with the THES data, which cast certain credibility issues on the rankings. Have a look at the summarised table of the 17 listed Australian universities for the 2005 rankings, particularly on the "International Faculty Score".

You would notice that with the exception of Monash and Curtin University, which scored 54, and Australia National University (ANU) which scored 52, all the rest of the 14 universities scored 53. Now, pardon me for being a bit sceptical - unless this is Australia's hidden university employment or recruitment policy, it is extremely unlikely that all Australian universities have equal proportions of local versus foreign academics.

Relative to all the other 200 ranked universities, Australian universities ranked between 25th to 41st in terms of "International Faculty Score".

2005 wasn't an exception as well. I went back to the 2004 data (see below) and found almost the exact same thing for the 15 listed universities. Barring ANU and Curtin, which scored 48 and 50 respectively, all the remainder 13 universities scored 49. Relative to all the other 200 ranked universities, Australian universities ranked between 13th to 24st in terms of "International Faculty Score" for 2004.

Given that the "International Faculty Score" plays a significant 5% role in the rankings table, I would have expected the surveying company to have done a much better job with obtaining the data instead of (in all probabilities) extrapolating the data from 2-3 universities onto all the remaining universities in the country. After all, we have all experienced how the scores for international students and faculty wreaked havoc onto the rankings of our very own Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia.

For reasons which were stated here earlier by Kian Ming (and to be further elaborated some time down the road), I'm not in favour of the "international" factor constituting 10% of the overall scores. Nevertheless, I would really have expected QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the contracted survey company to have done much better.

36 comments:

sigma said...

Yes, indeed, quite suspicious data there.

But from what I've seen in my uni, it does have quite a few international staff, a lot from Canada, oddly enough :) Or maybe that's just for my couse...

Anonymous said...

As an employer, i'd take in any of the Go8 graduates. Whether from UMelb, Monash, or Adelaide, they're all generally good potential employees.

Interesting though, i find those who graduate from top-tier unis in the world very demanding and arogant at times. They flaunt their degrees with full of pride which may not be good for employee morale if they're taken in. I'd rather get a more subtle hardworker who can communicate ideas well, than say an Oxbridge grad who speaks boastfully. Besides, they usually demand outrageous salaries.

Just my 2c

Richard said...

It's not just Australia. The same thing happened with regard to Austria and Denmark in 2004 and Germany in 2004 and 2005.

To be fair to QS, they were probably given an impossible task by THES since there does not seem to be any agreed consensus on what exactly makes faculty "international". But this is further confirmation that internationalisation for its own sake has little to do with improvement in quality.

There's something else that's interesting about the Australian figures. The two slightly different scores are probably data entry errors and this might give us an estimate of the overall number of errors in the rankings.

Tony P said...

Whether we should be fair to QS also depends on who came up with the criteria for evaluation. If QS came up with it, then obviously it's their own undoing.

Anyway, constructing an international table of university rankings will always be controversial as its a lot harder to measure universities cross-borders than within.

It does however, make for interesting conversations and discussions though :)

Tony P

Anonymous said...

Hm..

maybe its because they take into account incidents like Monash Sunway having mostly local faculty ( bolehlanders)... and since its an aussie uni.. they count it as international...

sadlion said...

Mosts Malaysian ignore ANU. In Hong Kong and Singapore ANU graduate is in great demand. The units taught are equivalent to those in US, their syallabus are mostly US orientated and they used the latest software. More than 90% of their lecturer are Phd.

Although their entry is a bit low but they never compromise on quality.

Anonymous said...

actually, ANU's entry requirements is one of the highest among Australian U's

Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster of this blog as I had in the past signed up for a degree program with CSU only to find that I was levied with fees continously and felt that graduation was a non-entity.

Anonymous said...

What about University of Adelaide? I knew that based on the ranking, not many would prefer to study at Adelaide uni since it is one of the lower-ranked uni among the Group of Eight, and majority of the students will be aiming to go to top-tier unis such as Uni of Melb, Uni of Sydney, UNSW... Besides that, in the recruiter review of THES ranking 05, the uni obtained zero score. In terms of prestige, yes, it is the third oldest university in Australia. But, how true is the quality of this uni?

sigma said...

I'm an Aussie PR, University of Sydney undergrad, and as far as I am aware, the University of Adelaide is a pretty good uni. Solid rep. It did have a THES 05 rank of 80, and 56 in the 04 rankings. But I think that the THES rankings are biased towards favouring Aussie unis for some reason. Although most of them are generally great tertiary institutions, I do not think that even the Go8 unis are 'better' than renowned US unis such as Darmouth College, Georgetown Uni, NYU, etc, that were ranked below them.

For the people who don't know, the Go8, or Group of 8 universities is Australia's version of Ivy League unis. They are the oldest, most prestigious unis, with the highest entry requirements. They are (in the order which I think is roughly how they are perceived in Australia):

1. University of Melbourne
2. University of Sydney
3. UNSW
4. ANU
5. Monash University
6. Queensland University
7. University of Western Australia
8. University of Adelaide

Somebody mentioned that ANU has lower entry requirements compared to the other Go8 unis. He's right. ANU is a unique uni, in that it does not really emphasise on its undergraduate program. For example, a local student would need a UAI of 93.40 in 2006 to get into a B. Commerce (Accounting) degree at my uni, or 95 at UNSW, but one would only need a UAI of 83 to do so at ANU. Instead, it is a research-based uni, specialising on politics, international studies and social sciences, attracting many world-renowned academics to do their research there.

But like what sadlion have said, lower entry requirements doesn't mean that their staff and course contents are of lower quality. They probably aren't. The other reason why ANU's requirements are lower is because its situated in Canberra, which is in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing there except for the Parliament and parks. Extremely boring place, hence most local students try to avoid it and head for city-based unis if they are able to.

Benkaiser said...

haha so im a goner in finding a good job after i grad since im from RMIT.... doomed!

Anonymous said...

Quote: haha so im a goner in finding a good job after i grad since im from RMIT.... doomed!

So what is the title of your degree? (since your profile certainly doesn't have it)

Benkaiser said...

bachelor of business majorin in econs n finance....

final sem

Anonymous said...

low-entry requirement seriously does not mean low quality, in OZ university places(undergrad with the exception of Medicine) are based on supply and demand which means if no one wants to apply for that particular course, the uai could be 45( 65 is the lowest for UNSW no matter how many ppl apply).

chenchow said...

I think what Tony tries to highlight of the International Faculty Score of those universities, is not the high number, but rather, on why most of those Aus universities have about the same percentage of international faculty. It is quite impossible for a number of universities to strike an almost same percentage.

Anonymous said...

The Asian lecturers are for 'enticing' the Asian students :).
they understand our unique 'culture' :)

Anonymous said...

Really, I don't see why everyone ranks Monash as being a university that stands below UNSW / University of Sydney.

Frankly you all need your eyes checked.

The question of foreign academics at Australian institutions cannot be answered by someone pondering about conspiracies in Malaysia. You really have to see it to believe it.

Come here on exchange and you will quickly be surrounded by a great multicultural atmosphere with cafeterias that serve delicacies from all over the world.

I'm sure over half my teachers(varying from professors to lecturers) are foreigners (many from Asian countries). They have come to this peaceful, multicultural land to do what they love to do best.

It truly is a great learning atmosphere.

~Proud Monash University Student (ECSE)

Anonymous said...

How do u compare 3-year bachelor of engineering course in UK n 4-yr engineering course in aus?

Quality Man said...

There are some interesting comments made by Tony P about staffing. If you go to an Australian university, you will be struck by the number of international staff. Australia benchmarks against each other and the US to ensure that they keep up the number of quality international staff they have. The THES numbers sound about right.

What concerns me is the comment about falling entry standards. Where did you pull that from?

Entry standards in Australia are largely determined by competition in domestic placements. Australia's population is ageing. You do not need 99.9uae to handle medicine academically - mostly around 92 will be fine.

The UAE Australian measure is pretty reliable as it is based on a standard deviation against fixed testing arrangements so no matter how hard or easy the testing, you will get the same spread.

Compare that to the A-levels that have dropped substantially (a recent UK study found that people who received perfect A's in 2004 could only achieve one A in the 1972 A-levels). It is sort of like comparing MARA college marks with the STPM.

As for the Go8, I find comments about it being the Ivy League amusing. Yes, I went to a Go8 university (ANU), but the Go8 is not an independently grouped set of top unis, it is a political grouping to get more research funding out the Australian Government. Check the top 100 by faculty in the THES and you will find an aweful lot of non-Go8 universities there.

Ranking within the Go8 is also flawed as above bloggers are comparing a ranking based on research only (let's face it, THES is really heavily weighted in favour of research) rather than undergraduate study.

Monash at undergraduate level focusses on devloping the individual as much as developing the academic. My alma mater, brilliant research uni .... not at the same standard with teaching. Because Canberra is so boring, most students do well as there are few distractions and the quality of the academic process is heavily enforced - including self sufficiency and self guided research.

This comes back to the point about entry standards for undergraduate study. It is easy to make a great student a great graduate, but it takes a truly great university to turn a good student into a great graduate. The teaching skill assessment ranks was totally different to the research assessments done in the THES and the SJ Ranking.

Australian graduates have world leading employment rates in Australia and internationally. This is forced by the way funding is provided to them and the tax system for companies in Aus.

So, for a person who is heavily involved in uni quality and works with institutions from around the world, it is no surprise to see many Aus institutions making a strong appearance on the various international rankings.

I think that the article is based on anecdote (remember that you only recall anecdotes that you want to hear) and a strong bias to the UK. Although I am happy to say that the THES is heavily flawed, at least it is researched and assessed on a common basis.

Brian said...

Coming from a PhD candidate at uni of melbourne, and US grad. The international reseach staffs here are of top class if not world class, especially in bio science/medicine/ bio mechanical.....

They are here on merits, and nothing to do with asian culture. Lecturership are awarded to candidates with research fellow/post doc experience, so almost 100% academic staff (lecturer or above) are PhD holder, of course there are tutors without PhD.

The proportion of international students is staggering though.

Anonymous said...

THES ranking does not take into account the intense and riveting contests that we had to face in NSW to get into the best courses we wanted. UAI of 97.8 was required to secure entry into Sydney Uni's software Engineering degree in year 2001 but its probably down to 90 now and local perception of a volatile IT industry should take some portion of the blame. In year 2000 though the cut off was 98.1 and for 2 to 3 years it was the highest cut off required to get into an IT/Engineering course anywhere in Australia. UNSW required UAI of 97 and Melbourne Uni came close as well. For almost any course not just an engineering course Sydney Uni is the toughest uni to get into if UAI cutoff for local students is any indication to by.

Having studied at Sydney Uni i have no hesitation to see why we cant beat MIT in a programming contest or at least equal their ranking. I topped the ACM Programming contest site for Asia Pacific region but failed to get 2 of our students to spend some weeks to compete with UNSW so evnthough we hosted the ACM regionals we didnt have a team representing Sydney Uni. UNSW's best team was ranked 11th in the world for 3 years in a row and probably due to lack of interest in the years that followed ... UNSW failed to qualify and Adelaide Uni out of nowhere represented Australia and as we know they couldnt replicate the success UNSW team was able to demonstrate

Anonymous said...

THES ranking does not take into account the intense and riveting contests that we had to face in NSW to get into the best courses we wanted. UAI of 97.8 was required to secure entry into Sydney Uni's Software Engineering degree in year 2001 but its probably down to 90 now and local perception of a volatile IT industry should take some portion of the blame. In year 2000 though the cut off was 98.1 and for 2 to 3 years it was the highest cut off required to get into an IT/Engineering course anywhere in Australia. UNSW required UAI of 97 and Melbourne Uni came close as well. For almost any course not just an engineering course Sydney Uni is the toughest uni to get into if UAI cutoff for local students is any indication to go by.

Having studied at Sydney Uni i have no hesitation to see why we cant beat MIT in a programming contest or at least equal their ranking. I topped the ACM Programming contest site for Asia Pacific region but failed to get 2 of our students to spend some weeks to compete with UNSW so evnthough we hosted the ACM regionals we didnt have a team representing Sydney Uni. UNSW's best team was ranked 11th in the world for 3 years in a row and probably due to lack of interest in the years that followed ... UNSW failed to qualify and Adelaide Uni out of nowhere represented Australia and as we know they couldnt replicate the success UNSW team was able to demonstrate and in our only appearence when i was in first year, Sydney Uni was ranked 14th in the world.

Anonymous said...

As a proud Economics grad from ANU, I'm of course very bias with ANU. Yes, it's a deadhole in Canberra but if you've never stayed there before, don't say that's it's boring. Because I don't think it is.

Low entry? Yes. It's hard for international students to get into the uni. Which uni in Aust has a higher entry requirement for Law degree than a Medicine degree? Tell me, because I lived in the deadhole for several years, I need to get the info out from you :)

Yes, ANU is more of a research uni than an undergraduate program focused university. And yes, it does get a lot of fundings from the govt, ranging from political parties and international bodies.

UAI is only meant for local students. Can't actually compare it to what it's used to measure international students entries. Ratings change all the time with different variables and it all depends on what you put more weight on.

Am I demanding or snobbish because I graduated from the best Economics program in Aust uni? Snobbish, no but demanding, perhaps yes. We were not spoon fed and we demand equality from employers for treating us equally. Because we may be more outspoken the others, we appear comparatively demanding, and costly (if you get want I mean :D) So, am I flaunting my degree? Like hell, no. Ok, maybe to those that are arrogant against me. :)

And yea, someone annoymous said right about this. Someone who has never experienced the Aust education should never said anything that 'I think' or "It should actually be.." Data may be wrong but our experiences (though biased) have never gone out of the course.

Vincent said...

I'm a student who is going to study in one of the Australia Universities. My major course will possibly be the Bachelor of Commerce or the Bachelor of law. I am wondering whether it is smooth for a overseas student to find a Part-time job relating to the course in Australia?

Anonymous said...

One Aussie uni just wanted my money and took me for a ride. Constantly asking for money if I wanted to continue. Eventually I just gave up when I discovered that it was just a scam.

Anonymous said...

How the entry points is calculated?

Anonymous said...

Australian universities are not as good as those in North America, they tend to take international students because of the fees that they pay. Unlike top US schools who still expect quality students, Australian schools lower their standards.
I also think outside of Sydney and Melbourne, non-white students will experience racial discrimination. I spent a year in Queensland and compared to Sydney and Melbourne, Australians don't seem too friendly if you are not white. Even Americans of non white origin will be treated badly.

Anonymous said...

Now, pardon me for being a bit sceptical - unless this is Australia's hidden university employment or recruitment policy, it is extremely unlikely that all Australian universities have equal proportions of local versus foreign academics.

Most of the university in australia have policies that require a fair proportion of staffs, gender wise and locality wise in employment. Thus, it's always better to investigate before making such sceptism. Check their hr page and their policies

Anonymous said...

I'm quite concerned about your comment about racism in Queensland. I think Queensland is a particularly bad place for racism (the home of that stupid bitch Pauline Hanson), because historically the students are from farming communities where attitudes are a little backward. In bigger cosmopolitan cities like Sydney, Melbourne (and even smaller ones like Adelaide) racism is no more a problem than anywhere else in the world.

Anonymous said...

i am a current monash student. apart from what the ''creator'' of this article has to say sitting in his living room / surfing the net for ''information''/ publishing comments heard by other like minded people in parties ,
he really should take some more trips to aus and take time to interact with students still pursuing their degree and he will find the difference between students from Monash and students from other universities like rmit etc and is gonna see that monash has an edge over other unis in all areas and levels of study .
till then whoever loves fiction, please read the article on this site. great bedtime reading.

mai said...

Im going to Macquarie in July 2008 and I'd be grateful if any of you can leave comments on this uni!

vishak said...

hi

I have currently applied for research based engineering and electrical engineering courses in uni of Melbourne, UNSW and uni of Sydney. I need some info on which is the best uni for a uni course such as electrical engineering?
I would also like to know the job opportunities of a engineering degree.

I also want to know the average living cost per year in Sydney and Melbourne..

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I was just graduated from The University of Adelaide for my Bachelor of Commerce degree. The Uni is of a very good quality and the assessment is quite tough. However, i believe what is more important to develop the "best" and excellent attitude when you leave your university regardless of the uni that you came from. People will look at you first before they ask where you study in your undergraduates year. So, be confident!

Anonymous said...

hi...i'll be going to UNSW in Feb 2009...although i know it is considered amongst 1 of d best universities of Australia still i'll b highly obliged if u can leave some comments regarding this particular university...

TheMessenger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

Thank you for justifying for ANU students anonymous! As a proud grad from ANU, I too have to defend my uni.

The entry ranking doesn't tell the whole story. In ANU, we have a serious scaling system so only the best out of the best will score HD or D. While my friend in Uni of Melb (whose results are not as good as mine in college) can easily get H1/HD in their uni for their course.

And yes for those who have never experience the life in Australia should never comment about universities in Aus. Sorry if I offended anyone! =p