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Australian unis fall in ranking

The Australian    |     6 March 2014                                

The Guardian     |    6 March 2014

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Australia’s leading universities have tumbled in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings.

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THE 2014

The Australian

All Australian universities lost ground in 2014, with Melbourne now the only institution in the top 50 after the Australian National University and Sydney University both tumbled into the 61-70 bracket (from 42 and 49 respectively).

Queensland University is now in the 81-90 bracket, while the University of New South Wales is in the 91-100 grouping.  Monash dropped out of the top 100 altogether.

Still, with five universities in the top 100, Australia is equal fourth with Japan on the country table behind the United States (with a massive 46 ranked institutions), the United Kingdom (10) and Germany (six).

Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis said Australian institutions had been “slipping steadily” since 2012:

This fall reflects both diminished Australian investment in higher education and the steady rise of many institutions from our Asian neighbours and beyond as they benefit from sustained public commitment to new knowledge and great universities.

This is not just about reputation.  Education is the nation’s largest services export.  (As) other industries are closing, Australia needs, more than ever, a vibrant and internationally esteemed higher-education system.

Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said international rankings are “imperfect”.  She said funding cuts of $2.3 billion last year alone made world news, which would have resulted in negative perceptions of the Australian system and institutions and it’s no surprise that Australia’s reputation has taken a hit.

Times Higher Education rankings editor Phil Baty said Australia’s poor performance could be due to the May 2013 budget cuts announced in the middle of the survey period.

Labor’s 2013/14 budget included $2.3bn worth of cuts from universities via an efficiency dividend, converting student scholarships to loans and scrapping discounts for early Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) payments.

Baty thinks the cuts, when implemented, could affect Australian universities’ actual performance, further harming their brand reputation in years to come.

The prestige index is based on an opinion poll of invited senior, published academics from 133 countries.

It looks at reputation only, whereas the Times’s world rankings, released every October, uses 13 objective performance indicators.

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