Australia’s top architecture schools, according to the QS World University Rankings for 2017

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The Design Modelling and Fabrication Lab in the University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning

The Design Modelling and Fabrication Lab in the University of Sydney’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning Image: Courtesy University of Sydney

The University of Sydney has retained its lead over other Australian architecture schools in the Architecture and Built Environment category of the QS World University Rankings for 2017. The university increased its rank from 17 in 2016 to 15 this year, a position it now shares with Hong Kong Polytechnic University. 

Other highly ranked schools dropped slightly from their 2016 positions. The University of Melbourne moved down from 18 to 19, occupying the spot held by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) last year. UNSW fell to 22.

Other Australian universities listed in the top 50 worldwide for architecture and the built environment were RMIT University (28), the University of Newcastle (45) and the University of Queensland (49).

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was ranked first in the world for architecture for the third year in a row. University College London (UCL), Delft University of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, and ETH Zurich rounded out the top five.

A university’s ranking is determined by a number of factors, including the school’s academic and employer reputation, which are both assessed through an international survey, the number of citations per research paper, and their H-index, which is based on the institution’s most cited papers and the number of citations that the institution receives in other publications in a given subject.

Ranking bodies like QS have been criticised in the past, both for the methodology behind the rankings and the close attention paid to them by prospective students and the universities themselves. ArchitectureAU’s most read story for 2015 was a report on that year’s QS rankings by subject, which ranked a number of Australian architecture schools higher than their Ivy League counterparts in the US. 

In 2015, Sandra Kaji-O’Grady, Professor and Head of School at the University of Queensland’s School of Architecture, said in an essay for ArchitectureAU: “For the architecture subject area, the opinion of polled academics accounts for 70% of the score. Opinion polls are, by definition, subjective, and the fact that the QS index relies on reputational indicators to this degree has led to considerable scepticism and accounts for its wild variability over the years.” Specifically, “[t]he QS survey asks academics to list up to 10 domestic and 30 international institutions they consider excellent for research for five faculty areas they are familiar with. It is most unlikely that any individual has a thorough and up-to-date understanding of the inner workings, recent achievements and current curriculum of up to 200 programs.”

Outside of rankings by subject, QS ranks universities generally. The Australian National University is the highest-ranked in Australia, at 22. The University of Melbourne (42), the University of Sydney (46), and the University of New South Wales (49) are the only other Australian universities to currently rank in the top 50 for 2017.

The QS World Rankings for the top 25 universities for architecture and the built environment in 2017 are:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – United States

2. University College London (UCL) – United Kingdom

3. Delft University of Technology – Netherlands

4. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) – United States

5. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) – Switzerland

6. Manchester School of Architecture – United Kingdom

7. Harvard University – United States

8. University of Cambridge – United Kingdom

9. National University of Singapore – Singapore

10. The University of Hong Kong – Hong Kong

11. Tsinghua University – China

12. Columbia University – United States

13. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – United States

14. Polytechnic University of Milan (Politecnico di Milano) – Italy

15= Hong Kong Polytechnic University – Hong Kong

15= The University of Sydney – Australia

17. The University of Tokyo – Japan

18. Georgia Institute of Technology – United States

19. The University of Melbourne – Australia

20. Tongji University – China

21. Cornell University – United States

22. The University of New South Wales (UNSW) – Australia

23= KTH Royal Institute of Technology ­­– Sweden

23= Stanford University – United States

25. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)) – Switzerland


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