In the most significant rankings gain since the launch of its ambitious 2025 Strategy, UNSW Sydney has leapfrogged 31 spots to 102nd among global universities in ShanghaiRanking's latest Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

UNSW’s march from 133 to 102 is the largest gain among Group of Eight (Go8) universities for 2018. It is also the highest position UNSW has held since the ARWU rankings were first published in 2003.

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said the higher ranking is a combination of outstanding work by UNSW academics, the impact of 2025 Strategy initiatives such as the Strategic Hires and Retention Pathways (SHARP) recruitment effort and the University’s strong partnerships with medical research institutes such as the George Institute for Global Health.

“This big rise in the ARWU ranking is reassuring evidence of the impact of our strategy. It reflects the commitment of the UNSW community to ensure that we are positioned among the world’s top universities,” said Professor Jacobs.


"We are just beginning to see the benefits of the energy, expertise and investment in the 2025 Strategy": UNSW Sydney President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs.

“Progress in research-based university rankings such as ARWU is just one of our strategic objectives – alongside outstanding teaching and learning, equity, diversity and inclusion, thought leadership, knowledge transfer and global impact – but it is important for UNSW. I applaud those whose hard work and dedication have helped to achieve this progress in such a short period of time. I anticipate further steady rises over the next seven years so that we achieve our objective of an average top 50 place in the QS, THE and ARWU rankings during 2025.”

The 2025 Strategy is a 10-year plan that sets the priorities and themes guiding UNSW as it aims to position itself among the world’s top 50 universities. Major initiatives include: 

  • the recruitment of world-class researchers and PhD scholars
  • proposals for new education-focused career pathways for academics
  • an innovative new academic calendar
  • sector-leading educational innovation and the digitisation of 600 courses
  • a new approach to delivering services across the University
  • ambitious equity, diversity and inclusion targets
  • a dramatic increase in business-university partnerships
  • global impact through international education and development.

“We are just beginning to see the benefits of the energy, expertise and investment in the 2025 Strategy,” Professor Jacobs said. “I am grateful for the effort and skills of our professional and academic staff in delivering this progress through a period of complex and challenging change.” 

The ARWU uses six objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers selected by Clarivate Analytics, number of articles published in the journals Nature and Science, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance with respect to the size of an institution.

Australia now has 23 universities listed among the top 500 universities. Among Go8 universities, ANU moved up 28 places from 97 to 69, and the University of Sydney moved from 83 to 68. American universities continue to dominate the league table with Harvard University topping the list for the 16th year.

UNSW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Nicholas Fisk noted that the ARWU is heavily weighted to Nobel Prize and Fields Medal recipients. The Alternative Ranking, without the 30% score for awards, is a much better indicator of current performance and positions UNSW at 67th globally.

Professor Fisk said: “Our ranking surge follows on from the University’s strong performance in ARWU’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2018 released in July, where UNSW had nine subjects ranked first in Australia.”