Fresh insight into the rise and fall of Australian institutions in 2014 Center for World University Rankings (CWUR)


For a new university ranking on the global scene, the reception for the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) has been muted at best. With a minimal web presence, a short PDF exclaiming their methodology, and little investment in metrics or user mapping facilities, some have criticized the CWUR Rankings as derivative, even pointless. But a closer inspection finds the methodology subtly different in all the right places, and seems to correct the flimsy, easily manipulated metrics of the big four rankings, THE Rankings, ARWU SHJT Rankings, US News, and QS World. The results have been unexpected, and although the industry and scholarly community has not yet acknowledged the importance of the CWUR Rankings, a fresh insight into the rise and fall of Australian institutions can be seen in black and white.

CWUR’s methodology hinges on seven performance indicators that are broadly related to objective indicators of academic reputation, such as faculty and student awards. As no data is collected from universities, the results are relatively untainted by the attempts at data manipulation frequently practiced by global institutions. With the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne just about breaking into the Top 100, and coming 1st and 2nd out of a total of 27 Australian institutions, the national table certainly makes interesting reading. CWUR’s Australian top 10, with global positioning stated in brackets, is:  

1 (95) University of Sydney

2 (97) University of Melbourne

3 (115) University of Queensland

4 (149) University of New South Wales

5 (160) Australian National University

6 (170) Monash University

7 (225) University of Western Australia

8 (340) University of Adelaide

9 (486) Macquarie University

10 (506) University of Wollongong

Its a great surprise for the University of Sydney, who have taken first place in the CWUR Rankings of Australian universities, coming in at 95th place overall. Usually a spot dominated by the University of Melbourne, Sydney has clearly benefits from the CWUR methodology that, while seeing Australian institutions drop overall, has allowed a shift in the traditional national hierarchy. The University of Melbourne, usually placed between 30th and 40th position in the big four rankings, holds a position more closely correlative to the innovative (and also fresh on the scene) Webometrics ranking.

With Sydney and Melbourne the only two institutions in the top 100, it’s essential to look to the top 200 for further insights into Australian university performance. The University of Queensland, ranked 3rd in Australia and 115th overall, holds a similar national position to their rankings in the QS and ARWU SHJT Rankings. Australian National University found their global position fell 64 places from last year’s CWUR Ranking, which, in light of the revised methodology, should be a cause for concern for university governors. One positive product of the CWUR methodology has been the inclusion of institutions rendered invisible by the usual survey-led hierarchization of universities tables. One such success story has been that of Macquarie University which, despite holding 486th place in the world rankings, has recently been awarded a 5 star rating in the QS international rating system, has been ranked in the top 5 Australian universities by global CEOs, and as recently invested vast sums in new facilities and infrastructure. No doubt, Macquarie University is an ambitious institution hot on the heels of the new world order of academic excellence.