Six Aussie universities in top 100, but rise of China a threat

Six Australian universities have been listed among the top 100 institutions in the world, amid warnings that they could soon be overtaken by Chinese universities that are quickly rising in the global rankings.

The University of Melbourne is the top-ranked Australian university with an overall rank of 32, followed by the Australian National University at 48 in the latest Times Higher Education world university rankings, which were released on Tuesday.

Another four Australian universities are ranked in the top 100, including the University of Sydney at 61, the University of Queensland at 65, Monash University at 80 and the University of NSW at 85.

Each of the top Australian universities fell between one and seven places from last year's rankings with the exception of the University of Melbourne, which gained one place.

Among NSW universities, Sydney University, UNSW, the University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University, the University of Newcastle, the University of Wollongong, Charles Darwin University, Western Sydney University and Australian Catholic University were all ranked in the top 500.

The annual rankings look at the top 1000 universities across 77 countries, measuring their performance in teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income.

The University of Oxford has once again been named as the top institution in the world and US universities continue to dominate the list, but editor of the rankings Phil Baty said that "the big story this year is the continued rise of China with two institutions in the top 30 for the first time".

Although the number of international students at Australian universities grew by 15 per cent in the past year, Mr Baty said this growth could be affected by the rise of Asian universities.

About 30 per cent of Australia's international student cohort is currently from China, followed by about 11 per cent from India.

"As China's higher education system improves there is a possibility that many Chinese students will choose to remain in the country for their university education, rather than travel to an institution abroad," Mr Baty said.

The rise of Asian universities is also impacting a number of other English-speaking countries, including the US and UK.

"Australia is not the only nation that is being overtaken by Asia in the rankings," Mr Baty said.

"Several universities in the US, UK and Europe have also been outranked by Asian institutions in this year's table. In many cases this is due to a boost in Asian universities' reputation for teaching and research.

"Language is likely to be one of the main barriers preventing international students studying in many of the Asian countries. But overseas student numbers in Asia may increase as several of its leading universities join the global elite."

The spokesman said that "Australia's leading universities are well-established" and the three highest-ranked institutions "are strong performers across all five pillars", especially international outlook and citations.

However, the Times Higher Education analysis notes that the performance of Australian universities might suffer in the future if the federal government's planned funding cuts go ahead.

"Australia must ensure that it continues to invest in its universities and remains a welcoming place for international students and staff if it wants to remain a key global player in higher education," Mr Baty said.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said Australian universities are punching "above their weight on the international stage".

"In a competitive world Australia and our universities cannot rest on their laurels," Mr Birmingham said.

"We need to adapt and respond to student needs and ensure our universities are set up for the future."

This story Six Aussie universities in top 100, but rise of China a threat first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.