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What are the Top 10 Universities in Sydney for 2019?

Thinking of studying in Sydney? As it turns out, so are a lot of people! Ranking as the world’s fifth most liveable city for 2018 according to The Economist, Australia’s largest city is also its most popular with international students, who come for its summer sun, beautiful beaches, laid-back lifestyle and buzzing city hub.

But it’s not just the stellar quality of life that puts Sydney on the student map. Five Sydney universities have been listed in this year’s QS World University Rankings, and there are a number of excellent private institutions and colleges to choose from depending on your area of study.

So where are the top study destinations in Sydney, and what makes them special?


59,000 students

Ranking at 3rd in Australia and 42nd in the world according to QS, USYD is perhaps Sydney’s highest reputed university and certainly its most beautiful. Founded in 1850 as Australia’s first university, its campus stretches across the central suburbs of Darlington and Camperdown and includes its famous sandstone Quadrangle and Great Tower buildings and vast grassy lawns. On sun-filled Spring days, don’t be surprised to find this picturesque campus setting the scene for weddings and tourist photographs!

USYD offers the broadest range of academic programs in Australia, with over 400 subjects to choose from. It ranks first nationally for medicine, anatomy, veterinary sciences, English language and literature, physiology and architecture, and is rated best in the world for sports-related subjects. USYD’s Business School MBA program has also been ranked top in Australia by the Australian Financial Review. So no matter what your study niche, chances are the University of Sydney has got it covered.

Whether your jam is talking philosophy over a beer after class or dressing up in Medieval gear and re-enacting historical battles of yore, there’s something for everyone and a little bit more. Campus life is vibrant at USYD with over 200 clubs and societies and an eclectic mix of international students ranging from 134 countries. The USYD’s Manning bar regularly pulls some major musical names, so it is worth following them on Facebook and keeping up with what’s on their schedule.

Only a short bus or train ride away from the buzzing suburb of Newtown (cheap eats!) or the CBD, it’s incredibly easy to access by public transport.

Seven Australian prime ministers studied at the university, including Edmund Barton who won the first federal election in 1901, and USYD is associated with five Nobel Prize laureates.

Faculties & schools:

Admission criteria for international students at The University of Sydney.


52,000 students

UNSW is rated second in Australia and 45th in the world by QS. It was established in 1949 with a primary focus on technology and sciences when the post-war government realised the importance of having high-quality tech professionals and engineers. It is Australia’s most all-round research-intensive university, offering a multitude of subjects across eight faculties and a research community of over 7,000. UNSW also receives among the highest amounts of Australian Research Council funding to support their research efforts

The main campus is located in Kensington about 7km from the CBD (and under 3km to Coogee Beach if you’re wanting a cheeky swim in between classes!). Its creative arts faculty, UNSW Art & Design, is in the trendy suburb of Paddington, and there are a number of additional research stations and facilities located around the greater Sydney area.

UNSW has partnerships for exchange and research with over 200 universities throughout the world, and its student body is made up of 137 countries, making it incredibly multicultural. The university almost feels like a mini city, with its own gym, swimming pool, squash courts, music venues, theatres, supermarket, post office and food outlets.

Faculties & schools:

Admission criteria for international students at The University of New South Wales (UNSW).


44,000 students

UTS is a public research university located in the inner-city suburb of UItimo, close to the heart of the CBD. It was established in 1988 and is recognised as Australia’s leading young university (under 50yrs old) and one of its top universities of technology, ranking 160th in the world by QS.

The newly renovated campus stretches across several city blocks, with the main UTS Tower only a 5-min walk from Central station. For students who are looking for some social time between study periods, it has a vibrant café scene and two licensed bars – ‘The Loft’ and the ‘The Underground’ – so you can literally have post-class beers on campus. Excellent. There are also more than 100 clubs and societies to choose from to get involved with the community and the university manages two child care centres.

UTS courses and world leading research centres are known for their hands-on approach and accredited by a large number of industry professional associations. The university ranked in the top 50 in the QS World University Rankings in law, art and design, nursing and sports-related subjects.

If international exchange is something you’re interested in, UTS has over 240 partner universities across the world to choose from so you’re not short on study options!

Faculties & schools:

Admission criteria for international students at the University of Technology Sydney.


40,000 students

250th in the QS world rankings, Macquarie University was founded in 1964 in the suburb of Macquarie Park. It was the third university to be established in Sydney’s metropolitan area and located just 15km from the CBD.

Macquarie spans 126 hectares filled with lush green spaces and bushland, an observatory, the largest sculpture park in the southern hemisphere, museums, a sports and aquatic centre, seven hectares of football, cricket and tennis fields, art galleries, and the Macquarie University Research Park. The campus is so big it has it’s own postcode and train station. Fingers crossed you don’t have to get from one end to the other in a hurry!

The Macquarie University Library is the largest academic library in Northern Sydney and the most high-tech university library in Australia, holding over 1.8 million items and 80% of its physical items within an Automated Storage and Retrieval System. It also owns and runs Macquarie University Hospital, the first and only private not-for-profit teaching hospital on an Australian uni campus. This means medical students can literally do their prac work on campus!

The campus has over 300 global companies either on campus or in the surrounding high-tech precinct, which gives its students crucial industry connections and hands-on learning experiences and future job opportunities.

Faculties & schools:

Admission criteria for international students at Macquarie University.


41,000 students

Founded in 1989, Western Sydney University is spread out across six campuses, eleven research centres and one precinct throughout Sydney’s Greater Western region. It has one of Australia’s most comprehensive range of courses and has come in at #498 in the QS rankings.

Each of its campuses are divided according to rough areas of specialisation, so depending on what you’re interested in studying you might find yourself at either:
Bankstown offers courses in psychology, arts, sociology, education and linguistics.
Blacktown primarily offers business courses.
Campbeltown specialises in health, sciences, medicine, law, nursing and business and hosts a number of research centres.
Parramatta includes business, science and law among others.
Penrith covers music, computing, engineering, design and humanities subjects.

Have a bit of a green thumb, or just love animals? The Hawkesbury/Richmond campus is a bit different and sits on a 1,300 hectare site in the Hawkesbury Valley. Facilities include farms, equine facilities, research labs, residential halls and a social space with cafeterias called Stable Square. This is where Western Sydney University students study forensic science, environmental health & science, horticulture and agriculture.

Western Sydney University also hosts a number of popular radio stations from its studios and over 150 student clubs & societies.

Faculties & schools:

Admission criteria for international students at Western Sydney University.


11,000 students across all campuses

Not making the QS rankings this year but definitely worth a mention, Notre Dame is a private Catholic university with campuses both in Western Australia and in Sydney. Founded in 1989, the Sydney component of Notre Dame, UNDS, consists of two city campuses and several medical clinics. Although they embrace the Catholic tradition, students of all faiths (and none) are welcomed, as is open debate and discussion.

The Broadway campus of UNDS is located in the suburb of Chippendale, only a short walk from Central Station and 10 minutes from the colourful and vibrant centres of Glebe, Newtown and the city. The campus has lush courtyards and heritage buildings, and there are cinemas, botanical gardens, museums, countless retail outlets, food courts, restaurants and live music venues all within walking distance.

The Darlinghurst site is situated only meters away from St Vincent’s Hospital and is home to the nursing and medicine students. This gives UNDS students access to hands-on experience and awesome facilities, including simulated consultation suites.

As part of their studies, all undergraduate students must take the Core Curriculum units of study in philosophy, ethics and theology. Notre Dame also have a maximum 10% international student ratio, which allows for a full immersion in Australian culture if you are looking to complete your studies abroad with UNDS.

Faculties & schools:

Admission criteria for international students at the University of Notre Dame.


390 students

If you’re interested in studying film, television or radio, AFTRS is the place for you. Established in 1973, this broadcast and screen school is the only one in the world that offers all specialisations under the same roof. Students can undertake either a Bachelor of Arts and Screens: Production or a wide variety of postgraduate courses, industry certificates and short courses.

The campus is located in the Entertainment Quarter (EQ) in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs with easy access to public transport. The EQ is filled with cinemas and food outlets, with the vast Centennial Parklands right next door and Bondi Beach just 2km away.

AFTRS facilities include two professional film and television studios, four music composition suites, a full size theatre, sound recording studios, ten editing suites, the Jersy Toeplitz Library, prop and costume stores, computer labs and grip trucks, amongst other services. In other words, they’re very well equipped.

AFTRS film students have collectively won 5000+ awards at prestigious world festivals, including Berlin, Cannes and Sundance. Both students and staff have won an array of AACTA, BAFTA, Emmy, Golden Globe, Academy and Commercial Radio Awards. The school hosts annual film premieres, screenings, symposiums, panels and student-run gatherings, so you’ll always have your finger on the film pulse.


International students at AFTRS are currently only invited for the Master of Arts Screen course.


220 students

NIDA is the top institute in Australia for both training and education in the performing arts. It was founded in 1958 and is located 10 minutes from the CBD in Kensington, opposite the University of New South Wales. The Hollywood Reporter ranked NIDA the 10th best drama school in the world in 2018.

The institute offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degrees to its students, as well as short courses, corporate training and holiday programs, which are all open to the public. There are five theatres on campus, the largest of which – the Parade Theatre – can seat up to 707 people in its horseshoe-shaped auditorium. The other theatres are called the Space, the Playhouse, the Atrium and the Studio Theatre. These are open to the public and constantly showcasing productions and events, so you’re never short on things to go and see!

The NIDA campus also houses a lighting studio, multimedia and computer-aided design (CAD) studios, rehearsal rooms, a sound stage, production workshops and the Red Grundy Studio television and film production facility.

NIDA alumni have been recognised both nationally and internationally as making significant contributions to their respective industries. Amongst the most well known of these are Mel Gibson, Cate Blanchett, Baz Luhrmann, Hugo Weaving and Sam Worthington.


Bachelor of Fine Arts in:

Masters of Fine Arts in:

Information for international students at NIDA.


NAS is an art school specialised in both traditional and contemporary studio practice that has been running since 1922 in the vibrant eastern Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst. Located on a historic and beautiful sandstone Gaol site, the campus is filled with artist studios, galleries, private workspaces, digital labs and workshops. Darlinghurst is a well-known cultural hub of Sydney, and the campus is only a short walk from some incredible theatres, museums, cinemas and live music venues.

Students at NAS can complete either a Bachelor or Masters of Fine Arts, choosing their preferred studio specialisation and working on independent projects. There are studio spaces specifically dedicated to drawing, ceramics, photomedia, painting, sculpture and printmaking, as well as central workshops that cater to both metal and timber works. Basically, you’re pretty sorted no matter what your medium.

There are over 80 leading artists and art historians at NAS who lecture and teach, giving precise and tailored tuition in their various disciplines. The focus placed upon independent practice and studio skills gives NAS students an edge when it comes to both specialist and generalist careers in visual arts.

Studio Specialisations:

Information for international students at NAS.


Rated the top private fashion educator in Australia by Business of Fashion, Whitehouse is a specialist institute with campuses in both Melbourne and Sydney. The six-storey Sydney campus is right in the heart of Surry Hills, a vibrant and trendy hub for boutiques, cafes and galleries close to the CBD.

Whitehouse’s Bachelor of Design is completed within two years. This fast-tracks students into the industry a whole year earlier than most other university graduates. Whitehouse also offers a further Master of Design and various workshops, diplomas and certificates.

The institute is known for its prominent industry connections and perspective, with teachers bringing experience from working with companies such as ELLE UK, Givenchy, Burberry and Louis Vuitton. Prominent guest lecturers are also regularly invited to share their insights with students, such as Head of Accessory at Marc Jacobs and Head of Shoe Design at Calvin Klein.

Whitehouse alumni are so far the only Australian design institute graduates to showcase at Haute Couture Fashion Week, Paris. Whitehouse also offers numerous exchange programs in leading design schools in Paris, London and Japan.

Bachelor of Design Specialisations:

Information for international students at Whitehouse.

With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to start when searching for the best university in Sydney. Whether you’re leaning towards a large multi-dimensional campus with a buzzing student life or towards specialised institutions with targeted learning, there is something for everyone here. There are a ton of things to take into account, but the only thing that matters is finding a place that suits your individual study-style.

Wondering what some of the other cities have to offer? Don’t miss our definitive list of the top universities in Melbourne and the top universities in Perth!