The best-rated universities in Australia 2021

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Australian universities rank among the best in the world, reputed as much for the quality of their academic programs and facilities as for their campus culture and social diversity. With 64% of students surveyed by Canstar Blue recognising that their university degree was vital for their future career prospects and 51% remembering university as the best time of their life from a social perspective, it’s clear that university is more than just about education.

From study options and career paths to campus life, student support and where your friends go, there are many things to consider when deciding on which university to choose. That’s why Canstar Blue surveyed more than 1,880 current students and graduates of the past 10 years to find which universities students rate the best in Australia.

There are a lot of university ratings out there, but we wanted to take a different approach by asking students to rate their university on a range of factors that were important to them and to understand how satisfied they were overall with their university experience. In our 2021 student satisfaction review of the 40-plus public and private universities in Australia, we collected enough data from 27 (assessed by domestic students) in eight categories: quality of education received, learning resources, student support available, teaching staff, career opportunities and prospects after graduation, campus amenities, social aspects and overall satisfaction. Please see our methodology here.

So, which are the highest-rated universities in Australia for student satisfaction?

Which Australian universities were included in our 2021 ratings?

Here are the universities in Australia that were included in Canstar Blue’s 2021 student satisfaction survey, listed below in alphabetical order.

University State(s)
Australian Catholic University NSW, VIC, QLD, WA, SA, ACT
Australian National University (ANU) ACT
Charles Sturt University (CSU) NSW, VIC, QLD
Curtin University WA
Deakin University VIC
Edith Cowan University (ECU) WA
Griffith University QLD
La Trobe University VIC
Macquarie University NSW
Monash University VIC
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) QLD
RMIT University VIC
Swinburne University of Technology VIC
University of Adelaide SA
University of Melbourne VIC
University of New England (UNE) NSW
University of Newcastle NSW
University of New South Wales (UNSW) NSW
University of Queensland (UQ) QLD
University of South Australia (UniSA) SA
University of Sydney (USYD) NSW
University of Tasmania (UTAS) TAS
University of Technology Sydney (UTS) NSW
University of Western Australia (UWA) WA
University of Wollongong (UOW) VIC
Victoria University (VU) VIC
Western Sydney University (WSU) NSW

 

Our ratings reveal which Australian universities were rated best (five stars) for overall student satisfaction nationally and by state.

Most Satisfied Students (Australia-wide) − Deakin University

Best universities in Australia

Deakin University in Victoria topped our universities study, with the students and graduates surveyed rating it the best-rated university in Australia in terms of overall student satisfaction. The public university, which has campuses in Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool, plus an online ‘cloud campus’, also received five-star ratings in the rated quality of education, learning resources and teaching staff categories.

Our study also saw Australian National University, a public research university located in Canberra, rated five stars in each of five categories: social aspects, campus amenities, student support, quality of education and career opportunities and prospects after graduation.

What is Deakin University known for?

Deakin University is one of the largest universities in Australia by student population and renowned nationally and internationally for its state-of-the-art research facilities such as the Deakin Engineering Precinct and Deakin Motion Lab. The Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) ranking, which is conducted by the Research Council of Australia based on the national research evaluation framework, ranked 89% of Deakin University’s research as world-class or better.

Deakin University is also recognised as a leading institution in many university rankings and surveys. It’s often placed in the top 1% of universities globally in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). Deakin University was named the top university in Victoria in the 2020 Student Experience Survey (SES) for undergraduate employment outcomes, student experience, student support and teaching quality. The SES is an annual survey conducted by Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) for the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

State University Ratings 2021

Below are the highest-rated universities in each state. Click on the relevant link for your state for more information on state ratings.

Most Satisfied Students (VIC) − Deakin University

Best universities in Victoria

Deakin University not only received the highest rating from students in Australia for overall student satisfaction, but also topped our university review for Victoria, receiving five-star ratings in all survey categories: quality of education, learning resources, student support available, teaching staff, career opportunities and prospects after graduation, campus amenities and social aspects, as well as for overall student satisfaction.

Deakin University offers more than 200 undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in subject areas including business, education and teaching, engineering, humanities, health sciences and more. It also has research centres and industry partnerships in the areas of health, artificial intelligence, education, cyber security and social sciences and more. Deakin University was rated Victoria’s number one public university for educational experience in the 2020 SES.


Read more: The best-rated universities in Victoria


Most Satisfied Students (NSW) − University of New England

Best universities in New South Wales

The University of New England (UNE) was rated best for overall student satisfaction in our New South Wales universities review. The public university, which has campuses in Sydney, Armidale and regional study centres, also received five stars in each of the quality of education, learning resources, student support services and teaching staff categories.

UNE provides study programs in dozens of disciplines including data science, law, health sciences and business. Plus, bespoke courses are available for students looking to design courses for specific goals or to adapt to rapidly changing workplaces. In addition, the University of New England is consistently recognised as one of the best universities in Australia for postgraduate student satisfaction, as measured by QILT’s SES.


Read more: The best-rated universities in New South Wales


Most Satisfied Students (QLD) – Queensland University of Technology

The best universities in Queensland

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) topped our Queensland universities review for overall student satisfaction. The public university, which has two campuses in Brisbane, also received five stars for quality of education, learning resources, student support available, teaching staff, career opportunities and prospects after graduation, campus amenities and social aspects.

QUT offers more than 100 courses and undergraduate and postgraduate programs, as well as pathways to bachelor and diploma programs for students who require extra credits and qualifications to enrol at university. It’s also one of Australia’s best destinations for online higher education via Open Universities Australia.


Read more: The best-rated universities in Queensland


Most Satisfied Students (WA) – Curtin University

Best universities in WA

Curtin University, a public research university based in Bentley, Perth, was rated Western Australia’s best university based on overall student satisfaction, and also received a five-star rating for its learning resources. Curtin University is the largest university in Western Australia and is renowned for its extensive research programs, with 95% of its research ranked at world standard or above in the ERA.

Curtin University was previously rated Western Australia’s top public university for graduate employment outcomes in the Graduate Outcomes Survey, and ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide in the ARWU.


Read more: The best-rated universities in Western Australia


Most Satisfied Students (SA) – University of Adelaide

Best universities in South Australia

The University of Adelaide, informally known as Adelaide University, topped our universities review for South Australia, rating best for overall student satisfaction and also receiving five-star ratings for each of the quality of education, learning resources, student support available, teaching staff, career opportunities and prospects after graduation, campus amenities and social aspects categories.

Adelaide University offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in dozens of disciplines, including in agriculture, food and wine. It has ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide in the ARWU and as South Australia’s number one university for graduate employability in the Graduate Employability Rankings 2020.


Read more: The best-rated universities in South Australia


What to consider when choosing a university

Current and past students surveyed by Canstar Blue were asked to name the key reasons for choosing their university. The main factors identified included reputation of university, acceptance of enrolment and physical location.

  • The reputation of university and courses: 47%
  • Application to study was accepted: 47%
  • Location: 43%
  • Facilities (i.e. campus facilities, technology in library, classrooms, etc.): 26%
  • Friends or family went to the same university: 21%
  • Received a scholarship to attend: 12%
  • Extra-curricular activities (i.e. colleges, sporting and social opportunities, clubs, etc.): 10%

We cover some of these factors in more detail below.

University facilities & teaching staff

Our research revealed that more than a third of those surveyed (37%) visited their university campus before attending university. This is a good way to familiarise yourself with your new place of study and to ensure it has all the amenities and facilities you need for a successful university life. Facilities and amenities you might want to consider could include access to public transport, adequate parking, lockers, libraries, cafeterias, Wi-Fi – and a university bar (naturally). A third of respondents to our survey (31%) used the amenities available on campus such as those mentioned above, while 43% said their university provided modern facilities relevant to their study discipline (i.e. science labs, media rooms, computer labs, etc).

Having a good academic and social support system while at university can also make it easier to stay the course and succeed in your studies. Nearly half the students surveyed (46%) said they learned a lot from their tutors at their university, and 33% reported having learned from their peers.

Online learning

The COVID-19 pandemic saw most of the higher education sector transition to online and remote learning to facilitate studying from home and to support students in completing their studies during unprecedented times. Technology has made online learning far more accessible in a rapidly changing world, as well as providing students with greater opportunities to tailor their education to their needs. To this point, a recent Deloitte survey of postgraduate university students found that 77% of respondents who studied at home during the pandemic thought digital learning was equal to or better than face-to-face learning. A university with a good online learning program is therefore something to seriously consider.

A good online learning program also makes university study more accessible for working adults who need to incorporate education into busy lives and for those who require flexibility around course loads and times. Online study options are also worth considering if your state or city doesn’t offer programs in your study field.


Read more: The pros and cons of online learning


Recommendations from friends and family

If you’re unsure of which university to choose, a good first step can be to ask those closest to you who attended university for their feedback on these institutions and use that as a starting point for your independent research. Nearly half the students we surveyed (49%) would recommend their university to friends and family. University experience is based on a lot of factors, including your field of study, campus culture, amenities, teaching staff – and people will place different degrees of importance on those, so be sure to focus on what you value and want out of your study experience rather than on what someone else has to say.

University experience and campus culture

Going to university can be as much about networking, making industry connections and new friends and enjoying a new way of life as it is about receiving a high-quality education. A third of students we surveyed (32%) generally looked back at their time at university fondly, and 45% said their university had a welcoming and supportive culture. The majority of respondents also said that university was the best time of their lives from a social perspective. Considering that most degrees last a few years, you’ll likely want to make sure your institution has a positive and welcoming environment and a social environment that suits you.


Read more: The benefits of studying in Australia


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Frequently Asked Questions

Undergraduate degrees that typically take three to four years can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $100,000 in total for Australian citizens studying in a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP), where the government pays part of your fees. This includes some universities, Technical and Further Education (TAFE), and other higher education providers. Tuition fees for international undergraduate students are more expensive and vary between $15,000 and $40,000 per year. International students pay more in tuition fees because most aren’t eligible for government subsidies like HECS-HELP. We’ve got an article that explains the cost of university in Australia further if you’re considering formal study.

There are scholarships, grants and bursaries available to domestic and international students across both the higher education and vocational sectors. Some common scholarship programs include the Australia Awards Scholarships and the International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (IPRS). Most universities also have their own scholarship programs. Scholarships are awarded based on merit and applicants typically have to demonstrate their suitability for the scholarship. There are no qualifying exams for scholarships in Australia. Here’s more information on getting a scholarship in Australia if you’d like to explore your eligibility.

You can generally switch university degrees if you decide that what you’re studying isn’t right for you or for other professional or personal reasons, although this may not apply to scholarship students. It may be advisable to check out switching options when comparing universities before you decide on a particular institution. And if you’re already enrolled in a course program and wish to switch, you may need to talk to your department office or course tutor about possible credit point transfers. Keep in mind that you’ll need to satisfy your preferred degree’s entry requirements before you can apply.

Our research revealed that a tenth of students surveyed (12%) switched their university degree, and when asked about the reasons for the change, they said:

  • I realised I wanted to do something different: 47%
  • I wasn’t confident in finding a stable job in the industry after graduating: 16%
  • I wasn’t interested in the degree: 15%
  • I found it difficult to learn the subject matter: 14%

There are many benefits to studying in Australia. As home to some of the world’s top universities as ranked in the QS World University Rankings and other world rankings, Australia is the third most popular destination for international students in the English-speaking world, behind only the US and the UK, according to Study Australia.

Some of the main benefits of studying in Australia include:

  • Global academic recognition: Australian degrees and qualifications are recognised all over the world.
  • World-class education & facilities: Australia has a wide network of leading education providers, including 43 universities nationwide. All universities must be accredited by regulators to ensure they deliver the highest standard of teaching and learning, including by providing premium facilities and student support services.
  • Cultural diversity: With a third of the country’s population born overseas and Australia being a popular destination for international students, university populations are made up of people from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities and religions.
  • Lifestyle: Australia is world-renowned for its warm weather, beaches, outback, urban treasures and diverse wildlife.

The QS World University Rankings rate the world’s top universities and feature more than 1,300 higher education institutions from around the world. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Oxford, Stanford University, the University of Cambridge and Harvard University are typically ranked high on this list. If you’re looking for top-ranked universities in your state or city, you can filter the QS World University Rankings by location and region. Other university rankings worth checking out include the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and The Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE). Here’s more of what we found when looking at the most prestigious universities in the world.