The undergraduate ratings explained

How to use the 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 (such as student–staff ratios, teaching quality and research grants), with institutions’ results 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 that the revenue generated outside normal government grants by the institution — from sources such as private research grants and contracts, donations and bequests, investment activities and fees paid by international and domestic students — is enough to put it in the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on. It is based on 2012 information from the Department of Education, Selected Higher Education Statistics, Finance Collection, published in 2013.

The ‘Student demand’ rating
★★★★★ means that the number of commencing bachelor degree students with high entrance scores as a proportion of all commencing undergraduates is comparatively high enough to place it in the top 20 per cent of universities enrolling students with high entrance scores; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on.This rating is based on the mean decile score ATAR of commencing student at each university in 2012. The rating is indicative of school leavers enrolled on the basis of an entrance score only. The rating does not reflect demand from other types of commencing students, such as those from TAFE.

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 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 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 ‘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.

The ‘Staff qualifications’ rating
★★★★★ means that the proportion of staff at this institution holding a masters by research or doctorate by research is sufficient to put it 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 retention' rating
★★★★★ means that the institution's retention of domestic students through to a second year of study, when compared to the national average for students in comparable fields of study with comparable ATAR scores, is high enough to put it in the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the top 40 per cent; and so on. This rating is derived from an enrolment data set supplied by the Department of Education. This dataset indicates the total number of domestic students admitted to universities on the basis of secondary school education in 2011 who were still enrolled at the same institution in 2012.

Ratings of interest to undergraduate students

These ratings focus upon the different types of entry to institutions, the gender balance and the access and participation of certain equity groups.

The ‘How tough to get in’ rating
Calculations of 'toughness' are based on the average 2014 cut-off for non-combined courses offered at each campus by an institution. The exceptions to this are the fields of architecture and law, where the vast majority of courses are combined courses. Cut-off scores are published are as published by the tertiary admissions centres in January 2014 in each state and territory.

Remember that many institutions offer more than one course in a field of study at the same campus, and the entry score can vary for each course. Remember too that cut-off scores for one year do not guarantee entry in a future year because scores are subject to demand for available places. Visit the Course search to find out what the cut-off score was for a particular course at an institution.

Very tough: an ATAR above 86.95 (OP 7 and below)
Tough: 78.00 to 86.95 (OP 8 to 10)
Average: 70.05 to 77.5 (OP 11 to 13)
Easy: 65.00 to 70.00 (OP 14 to 15)
Very easy: below 65 (OP 16 and above)
Source: Tertiary Institutions Service Centre, Western Australia

‘The educational experience’ and ‘Graduate outcomes’ ratings

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

‘The educational experience’:

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

‘Graduate outcomes’:

  • ‘Graduate starting salary’
  • ‘Getting a full-time job’

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 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.

The educational experience

The ‘Teaching quality’ rating
★★★★★ means graduates rated the teaching quality of their courses higher than graduates in similar fields from 80 per cent of other institutions; ★★★★ means they rated their courses higher than graduates from 60 per cent of other institutions; and so on.

This rating is based on the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) survey of all 2011 and 2012 graduates conducted by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA). Users should note that institutions are rated on results from either the 2011 or 2012 cohort (or both), subject to the availability of this data. Institutions assessed against results derived from one cohort only are identified with a *. Institutions with data unavailable for both cohorts have been excluded from this rating.

The ‘Generic skills’ rating
★★★★★ means graduates rated the generic skills they acquired in their courses higher than graduates in similar fields from 80 per cent of other institutions; ★★★★ means they rated their courses higher than graduates from 60 per cent of other institutions; and so on.

This rating is based on the CEQ survey of all 2010 and 2011 graduates conducted by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA). Users should note that institutions are rated on results from either the 2011 or 2012 cohort (or both), subject to the availability of this data. Institutions assessed against results derived from one cohort only are identified with a *. Institutions with data unavailable for both cohorts have been excluded from this rating.

The ‘Overall satisfaction’ rating
★★★★★ means graduates rated their courses (or overall satisfaction) higher than graduates in similar fields from 80 per cent of other institutions; ★★★★ means they rated their courses higher than graduates from 60 per cent of other institutions; and so on.

This rating is based on the CEQ survey of all 2011 and 2012 graduates conducted by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA). Users should note that institutions are rated on results from either the 2011 or 2012 cohort (or both), subject to the availability of this data. Institutions assessed against results derived from one cohort only are identified with a *. Institutions with data unavailable for both cohorts have been excluded from this rating.

Graduate outcomes

The ‘Getting a full-time job’ rating
★★★★★ means the proportion of jobseeking graduates who were successful in securing full-time employment 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 new domestic graduates aged under 25 and in their first full-time job are high enough to put this 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 student mix

The ‘Socioeconomic equity’ rating
★★★★★ means that the proportion of commencing domestic students from each of the six target groups is high enough to put this institution in the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the top 40 per cent; and so on.

The numbers referenced in this rating are sourced from the Department of Education and refer to the 2012 enrolment year. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are defined by the Department of Education's 'Low SES (CD) Measure (d)' category. This category refers to a combination of factors that determine a student's social equity background, such as their home address and parents' occupations.

The student body

These ratings indicate the composition of the student body according to various criteria. All information is sourced from Department of Education and from individual institutions.

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 of toughness of entry, the average cost of non-combined degree courses, the composition of the student body and outcomes (for example, the mean salaries for domestic graduates under 25 years of age in first-time employment) and the work sectors in which graduates are working.

Data for the entry toughness is derived from the tertiary admissions centres in each state; fee information relates to 2014 fees and comes from the institutions; 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.