The postgraduate ratings explained

How to use the rankings and ratings

These ratings give an overview only. Make sure you carry out further careful research before choosing a course and campus. The rankings and ratings show that courses and institutions differ in many ways. Only you can decide which differences really matter to you.

  • The ratings that compare employment rates and starting salaries are influenced by many things other than the university attended, including differences between cities and regions in levels of demand for graduates.
  • The information about how graduates rate their courses (see ‘The educational experience ’ ratings) comes from Graduate Careers Australia’s (GCA’s) national Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ). Like most surveys of perceptions, it gives an impression only. There is ongoing debate among academics about the reliability, use and validity of the CEQ. Some institutions argue that because the CEQ has not been designed for the purpose of inter-institutional comparisons, CEQ data does not necessarily provide an accurate comparison of differences in the quality of education or the level of student satisfaction from institution to institution.

Remember that rankings and ratings are indicators only. They help but do not present a full picture. Research your choices carefully!

University ratings

The University ratings section provide a series of star ratings across a range of indicators (student-staff ratios, teaching quality and research grants, for example), where institutions’ results are allocated to bands. Working from the premise that no institution is superb at everything, these rankings provide high-level indicators and should be used to gain comparative insights into the varying strengths and characteristics of each institution. The ratings are grouped together under common themes.

Key ratings

The ‘Non-government earnings’ rating
★★★★★ indicates the revenue generated by the institution from outside normal government earnings is enough to put it in the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. Non-government earnings may come from sources such as private research grants and contracts, donations and bequests, investment activities, continuing education course fees and fees paid by international and full-fee paying domestic students. It is based on 2012 information from the Department of Education, Selected Higher Education Statistics, Finance Collection, published in 2013.

The ‘Research grants’ rating
★★★★★ places the institution among the top 20 per cent of research institutions; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This rating is based on the total value of funding approved for this institution by the Department of Education under the Discovery Projects scheme (2014), the Joint Research Engagement scheme (2014) and by the Australia Research Council under the Linkage Projects scheme (2013).

The ‘Research intensivity’ rating
★★★★★ places the institution in the top 20 per cent of institutions for research concentration; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This rating is based on the total value of funding approved for this institution per capita of full-time research staff by the Department of Education under the Discovery Projects scheme (2014), the Joint Research Engagement scheme (2014) and by the Australian Research Council under the Linkage Projects scheme (2013). The equivalent number of full-time research academic staff referenced in this rating is as published by the Department of Education for 2013.

The ‘Staff qualifications’ rating
★★★★★ means that the proportion of staff at this institution holding a higher degree by research or a higher degree by coursework is sufficient to put the institution in the top 20 per cent of all institutions; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This rating is based on the 2013 full-time equivalent (FTE) of full-time and fractional full-time academic staff published by the Department of Education in 2014.

The ‘Student–staff ratio’ rating
★★★★★ means there are relatively few students per teaching staff member (among the top 20 per cent of universities); ★★★★ puts the university in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This rating is based on data for 2012 full-time equivalent of teaching academic staff (including actual casual staff) and equivalent full-time (onshore) student enrolments in 2012.

Ratings of interest to postgraduate students

The ‘Entry flexibility’ rating
★★★★★ means that the proportion of students admitted to postgraduate courses on a basis other than holding a prior degree is very high, placing the institution among the most flexible 20 per cent of institutions; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This is based on 2011 enrolments, as provided by DIICCSTRE in 2012 and from information provided by individual institutions.

The 'Proportion of research students rating'

'Very high' places the institution among the top 20 per cent of institutions; 'High' places the institution among the second 20 per cent of institutions; and so on. This is based on the proportion of research students undertaking postgraduate study. Enrolment numbers refer to the 2011 student statistical collection as provided by DIICCSTRE in 2012.

The ‘Cultural diversity’ rating
★★★★★ means that the proportion of postgraduate students from a non-English-speaking background is high enough to put this institution in the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This is based on 2011 enrolment figures as provided by DIICCSTRE. It includes only those students who undertake all or part of their study on campus and in Australia.

‘The educational experience’ and ‘Graduate outcomes’ ratings

The Good Universities Guide provides the only independent five-star performance ratings of Australian postgraduate courses and their providers. These ratings compare graduates’ educational experiences while at university and their outcomes shortly after university according to six key factors:

‘The educational experience’:

  • ‘Teaching quality’
  • ‘Generic skills’
  • ‘Overall satisfaction’

‘Graduate outcomes’:

  • ‘Graduate starting salary’
  • ‘Getting a job’
  • ‘Positive graduate outcomes’

Data referred to in these comparisons is compiled from an average of the results derived from the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Australian Graduate Survey (AGS). The AGS, administered by Graduate Careers Australia, is a national census of newly qualified higher education graduates and their outcomes. Since 1972, the AGS has surveyed new graduates from all Australian universities and a number of other higher education providers. In total, 134,388 graduates responded to the 2012 edition of the AGS.

Field-by-field comparison

The website carefully arranges the AGS data by field of study (see the ‘Field of study ratings’), which allows readers to view each institution’s results according to the field in which they wish to study. The star ratings published on the website are the result of a field-by-field comparison of each institution’s results against the corresponding national average for the same field of study. Strong results in the following ratings typically indicate that, on the whole, graduates from a given institution report results comparable to or better than the average national results for like graduates from like fields of study.

‘Graduate outcomes’

The ‘Getting a job’ rating
★★★★★ means the proportion of jobseeking graduates of coursework programs who were successful in securing full-time employment or getting part-time employment (for those who did not want full-time work) within four months of graduation is high enough to put this institution among the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This rating is based on the Graduate Destinations Survey of 2011 and 2012 graduates conducted by GCA in 2012 and 2013.

The ‘Graduate starting salary’ rating
★★★★★ means the average starting salaries for domestic coursework graduates are high enough to put this campus or institution in the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This rating is based on the Graduate Destinations Survey of 2011 and 2012 graduates conducted by GCA.

The ‘Positive graduate outcomes’ rating
★★★★★ means the proportion of graduates of coursework programs getting a full-time job, getting a part-time job (for those who did not want full-time employment) or enrolling in further study is high enough to put this institution in the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. This is based on the GDS of 2010 and 2011 graduates conducted by GCA in 2011 and 2012.

Who's there

The 'Overall size' rating

This rating indicates each institution's overall size. All information is sourced from the Department of Education with respect to the 2012 enrolment year.

Very big: more than 40,000 students
Big: more than 30,000 students
Average: more than 20,000 students
Small: more than 10,000 students
Very small: less than 10,000 students

The 'Number of postgraduates' rating

This rating indicates each institution's number of postgraduate students. All information is sourced from the Department of Education and from individual institutions with respect to the 2012 enrolment year.

Very big: more than 11,168 students are postgraduates
Big: between 8400 and 11,168 students are postgraduates
Average: between 6353 and 8339 students are postgraduates
Small: between 4554 and 6352 students are postgraduates
Very small: less than 4554 students are postgraduates

The 'Number from abroad' rating

This rating indicates each institution's number of students from abroad. All information is sourced from the Department of Education with respect to the 2012 enrolment year.

Very big: more than 4344 students are from abroad
Big: between 3004 and 4344 students are from abroad
Average: between 2244 and 3003 students are from abroad
Small: between 1235 and 2243 students are from abroad
Very small: less than 1235 students are from abroad

The 'Proportion external students' rating

This rating indicates each institution's proportion of students studying externally. All information is sourced from the Department of Education with respect to the 2012 enrolment year.

All: 100 per cent are external students
High: between 75 and 100 per cent are external students
Average: between 25 and 75 per cent are external students
Few: less than 25 per cent are external students
None: 0 per cent are external students

The 'Proportion part-time students' rating

This rating indicates each institution's proportion of part-time students. All information is sourced from the Department of Education and from individual institutions with respect to the 2012 enrolment year.

All: 100 per cent are part-time students
High: between 80 and 99 per cent are part-time students
Average: between 60 and 79 per cent are part-time students
Low: between 40 and 59 per cent are part-time students
Very low: less than 40 per cent are part-time students

Field of study ratings

Throughout the website, all majors (or specialisations) that can be undertaken within a course or program (the latter term is more often used when talking about postgraduate study) are classified as belonging to one of 30 fields of study. The ‘Field of study ratings’ are designed to allow high-level comparison of each of the fields of study employed within the website. Comparisons can be made in terms the composition of the student body and outcomes (for example, the mean salaries for domestic graduates), and the work sectors in which graduates are working. enrolment information is obtained in relation to 2013 enrolments from the Department of Education and individual institutions; and the outcomes data is derived from surveys conducted by GCA in 2013 with respect to 2012 graduates.