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However Melbourne, which now sits 12 places ahead of the second highest ranked Australian university and is one of five Australian institutions in the top 100, has dropped six places internationally to be ranked 34 in a move that reflects the general movement of Australian universities in the latest rankings.
University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said the move was disappointing, particularly given the University’s research continued to perform strongly as reflected in both the Academic Ranking of World Universities and the QS rankings where Melbourne increased its standing among its international peers.
“While we are delighted that the University’s high caliber research and outstanding curriculum has once again seen it ranked number one in Australia, it is disappointing that Melbourne – and the Australian university sector generally – has dropped in the THE rankings,” he said.
“THE rankings are largely based on peer perceptions of academics from around the world, and it is possible that international peers have marked Australia’s universities down to reflect the reduced Government support for higher education.
“It is not always easy to predict movements in rankings, given the interplay of research, reputation and confidence, but the THES editor has also argued the disappointing outcome for Australia reflects an international view that the quality of Australia’s universities is suffering under reduced Government support.
“The $2.3 billion funding cuts to higher education announced earlier this year will only continue to depress the international standing of Australia’s higher education system.”
Times Higher Education Rankings Editor Phil Baty said the results were particularly concerning as the full effects of the cuts were yet to be felt.
“Australia is in a great position in global higher education, with a hugely successful record in international student recruitment and strong links to Western universities and the rising Asian powers. It would be a terrible blow if short-sightedness as to the huge value of universities in driving the knowledge economy left it unable to build on this strong position,” he said.
Professor Davis said Melbourne was committed to ensuring it remained competitive globally.
“This year we announced Believe; the Campaign for the University of Melbourne, which seeks to raise $500 million by 2017, over $265m of which has already been secured with the support of more than 12,000 alumni, foundations and friends,” he said.
“By increasing our endowment through this campaign we are working to ensure we can continue to produce research that will help us meet the grand challenges affecting our global communities and continue to educate tomorrow’s leaders by providing support to the most capable students from around the world, regardless of their circumstances.
“And of course it will help ensure we are in the best position possible to compete with our international peers, many of whom already have significant endowments built on a long tradition of investment through philanthropy.”