What are university rankings?

Student looking at university rankings on a tab.
Student looking at university rankings on a tab.

There’s plenty to consider when deciding which university is best for you. Along with aspects like location, program offering and cost, university rankings are another factor to think about when weighing up your options. As the term suggests, university rankings rank tertiary institutions against a range of metrics to arrive at a total score and subsequent global ranking.

Australian universities are widely regarded to be among the best in the world. Three Australian universities (including UNSW) are rated in the top 20 institutions globally, with a further six ranked in the top 100 in the 2024 QS World University Rankings. These respected rankings compare 1,500 institutions across 104 locations, drawing on analysis of 17.5 million academic papers and the expert opinions of more than 240,000 academics and employers.

The different types of university rankings and why they matter

There are several global university rankings, with the QS World University Rankings considered the most comprehensive. Key aspects to consider when looking at university rankings include:

Overall ranking

Overall university rankings consider a range of metrics including each institution’s academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, and international student ratio, to arrive at a total score and global rank.

Graduate salary

A university’s ranking for graduate salaries is a good indication of the return on investment you might expect from your study. Employers looking to recruit the best graduates seek to hire from universities with solid global reputations and are prepared to pay generous salaries to attract high-calibre students from these institutions.

Graduate employability

A university with a strong graduate employability ranking indicates that the institution has close connections with industry and produces graduates who are well-placed to succeed in the modern workplace.

Rankings by subject

Subject rankings let students assess the leading universities for specific subjects. Whether you’re looking to study accounting or engineering, it makes sense to set your sights on a uni that excels in your chosen subject area.

How does UNSW fare in the world university rankings?

UNSW is ranked in the top 20 universities worldwide (QS World University Rankings, 2024)

UNSW is proud to be recognised as the equal 19th best university overall in the most recent edition of the QS World University Rankings. The QS rankings consider factors including an institution’s research reputation, teaching and learning environment, research impact and internationalisation. In the 2024 rankings, these metrics have been expanded to include sustainability, employment outcomes and the strength of each university’s international research network.

Our impressive ranking reflects UNSW’s consistently strong performance across aspects including graduate employability, graduate salaries and research achievements.

UNSW graduates are amongst the most employable in the world

UNSW is ranked in the top three universities in Australia for graduate employability and 25th in the world in the QS rankings(Graduate Outcome Survey, 2022). Employers recognise our focus on shaping forward-thinking graduates who make a positive impact in the world, with more UNSW students in the top 100 future leaders list than any other Australian university.

The Australian Financial Review named UNSW the most employable university for the fourth consecutive year in 2023, and we lead the Group of Eight (Go8) – eight of Australia’s leading universities – for full-time employment 4-6 months after graduation (Graduate Outcome Survey, 2022). Combined with our impressive global rankings, UNSW’s strong industry ties give our students a foot in the door to some of the best companies worldwide.

UNSW students achieve Australia’s highest graduate salaries

UNSW produces Australia’s highest-earning graduates, with our full-time postgraduates in the top 5 per cent for starting salaries (Graduate Outcome Survey, 2022). Three years after completing their studies, UNSW graduates earn an average of $130,000, compared with a median salary of $105,000 across the Go8.

UNSW has numerous subjects ranked in the global top 50

Four UNSW subject areas are ranked in the top 20 globally, with a further 19 subjects in the top 50(QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023). Our top-performing subjects include:

  • Engineering – Mineral & Mining Engineering – ranked 4th globally
  • Petroleum Engineering – ranked 13th globally
  • Law – ranked 13th globally
  • Engineering – Civil & Structural – ranked 16th globally

The QS World University Rankings by subject also assessed UNSW as Australia’s number one university for the following five subjects:

  • Civil & Structural Engineering
  • Electrical & Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering
  • Accounting & Finance
  • Statistics & Operational Research (equal first)

Study with a world leader – start your journey with UNSW

Attending a high-ranking university like UNSW gives you a globally recognised qualification from one of Australia’s most respected universities. Start your application today or speak with one of our Student Enrolment Advisors about taking the next step in your career at UNSW.