How ANU’s Falling Rankings Impact Its Appeal to International Students
By Eduardo Caceres-Sandoval
In recent years, prospective ANU students were frequently exposed to the marketing phrase “Study at Australia’s #1 University*”.
Once adorning the email signatures of ANU staff, this statistic is based on the Good Universities Guide 2021, the 2022 QS Rankings and the Excellence in Research for Australia report of 2018. However, the most recent 2023 results have contradicted this, with ANU now being ranked 4th (34th globally) by QS and 4th (67th globally) by Times Higher Education with the University of Melbourne, Sydney and UNSW all ranking ahead of ANU.
One student shared with the Observer what the international student perspective is regarding rankings. “For us Asian students, we do look at the rankings a lot.” This sentiment was echoed by an international student representative, who said that “Many of the international students are right here because of that [QS] ranking. Which I am no exception to…”.
As for why the rankings have fallen, ANU’s financial deficit of $162.4million back in 2021 as a result of COVID-19 has had consequential effects, with over 500 courses having been disestablished across ANU since 2020. Significant research funding shortfalls have also occurred, with the physics department having been downsized by 25% in 2022. Likewise, changes in the ranking criteria to account for climate action and less emphasis on student to teacher ratios have also played a role in ANU’s ranking decline. One student shared with the Observer that “such a loss in ranking could lead to a potential hit on student amounts.”
While international students frequently identify rankings as a top consideration when deciding where to study, the 2021 Indian Student Mobility Report found that “student networks” and “employment prospects” were equally as important to students when making the decision to enrol.
Speaking to SBS last week, the reports author Dr Andrew Deuchar told SBS that “Rankings are one of the metrics that prospective international students consider when deciding where to study, but once they commence their degree a shift in rankings is probably not that significant,” he said.
When asked how ANU intends to prevent its declining rankings from deterring international students from applying, an ANU Spokesperson described the relationship between ANU and its international students to be a “transformational – not a transactional – experience”. Additionally, an ANU Spokesperson would mention ANU’s recent achievement of being ranked No. 1 in the QILT Student Experience Survey, which notably wasn’t included as part of the justification for their marketing as “Australia’s #1 University” to international students in prior versions of the website.
*Names have been changed to maintain individuals’ anonymity.
Observer will continue to cover this series, led by reporter Eduardo Caceres-Sandoval who is leading the analysis of the experience, degree and opinions of international students at ANU.
Graphics by Will Novak
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