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 ‘Research grants’ rating

★★★★★ places the institution among the top 20 per cent of research institutions; ★★★★ places 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 and Training under the Discovery Projects scheme (2015) and Joint Research Engagement scheme (2015), and by the Australian Research Council under the Linkage Projects scheme (2014).

The ‘Research intensity’ rating
★★★★★ places the institution among the top 20 per cent of research institutions; ★★★★ places 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 equivalent full-time research staff by the Department of Education and Training under the Discovery Projects scheme (2015) and Joint Research Engagement scheme (2015), and by the Australian Research Council under the Linkage Projects scheme (2014). The equivalent number of full-time research academic staff referenced in this rating is as published by the Department of Education and Training for 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.

It is based on data for 2013 full-time equivalent of teaching academic staff (including actual casual staff) and equivalent full-time onshore student enrolments for 2013.

The ‘Staff qualifications’ rating
★★★★★ means the proportion of staff at this institution holding a masters or doctoral degree 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.

It is based on the 2013 full-time equivalent (FTE) of full-time and fractional full-time academic staff, as published by the Department of Education and Training in 2015.

Ratings of interest to postgraduate students

‘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 five key factors:

‘The educational experience’:

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

‘Graduate outcomes’:

  • ‘Graduate starting salary’
  • ‘Getting a job’

Data referred to in these comparisons is compiled from an average of the results derived from the 2013 and 2014 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.

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.

It is based on the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) component of the Australian Graduate Survey (AGS) of all 2012 and 2013 graduates conducted by Graduate Careers Australia (GCA). Readers should note that institutions are rated on results from either the 2012 or 2013 cohort (or both), subject to availability of this data.

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.

It is based on the CEQ component of the AGS of all 2012 and 2013 graduates conducted by GCA. Readers should note that institutions are rated on results from either the 2012 or 2013 cohort (or both), subject to the availability of this data.

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.

It is based on the CEQ component of the AGS of all 2012 and 2013 graduates conducted by GCA. Readers should note that institutions are rated on results from either the 2012 or 2013 cohort (or both), subject to the availability of this data.

Graduate outcomes

The ‘Getting a full-time job’ rating
★★★★★ means the proportion of jobseeking graduates aged under 25 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.

It is based on the GDS component of the AGS of 2012 and 2013 graduates conducted by GCA in 2013 and 2014.

The ‘Graduate starting salary’ rating
★★★★★ means that the average starting salaries for new domestic graduates aged under 25 and in their first full-time job are high enough to put the institution in the top 20 per cent; ★★★★ puts it in the second 20 per cent; and so on.

It is based on the Graduate Destination Survey (GDS) component of the AGS of 2012 and 2013 graduates conducted by GCA.

The ‘Social equity’ rating
★★★★★ means that this institution’s proportion of commencing domestic students from a low socioeconomic background is high enough to put it 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 Training and refer to the 2013 enrolment year. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are defined by the Department of Education and Training’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’ occupation.

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.