Australian Architecture Students Rate their Schools: Part 1
The Good Oil
Do you want to study architecture in Australia? Which are the top architecture schools in Australia? For
those of you who are thinking of studying architecture in Australia, we have a few tips. For those of you
thinking of doing research in architecture, check out our acclaimed research
rating of the Aussie schools.
Cut to the chase: Go here to Part 2 of this article
for our summary charts on the best and worst Australian architecture schools, as rated by their own
Basic structure of education
Until the early 2000s, the Australian architecture schools followed the United Kingdom model of a double
bachelors, or bachelors and diploma. In the first decade of the 21st century the Australian schools decided to
ape their American cousins in a sad example of architectural credential
inflation and provide a degree structure consisting of a bachelors degree, variously called, followed by a
masters in architecture. Only now do we have enough masters students graduating to provide opinions about their
education. You can read more on our page about working as an architect in
Measuring student satisfaction
So where should you study? Depends who you ask.
Ask the students. They want a satisfying, challenging, useful and equitable learning
experience. We discuss how happy Aussie architecture students are compared to their compatriots in other
- Ask their future employers, the architecture firms. They want solid, skilled and cheap
- Ask the architecture teachers. They want tenure, bright students and time to work on
Ask the universities that house the schools. They want academic papers and books, and a
flood of research money from the government. We provide a separate ranking table about this here.
On this page we provide the latest data on what the students think of their education. You have a
problem with our methodology, do your own research.
Our Data: The CEQ study
We used for our data the annual Australian Course Experience
Questionnaire (CEQ)1. The survey uses several different scales to
measure how satisfied graduates are with their courses. We used the Overall Satisfaction Index (OSI)
from this survey to make our analyses. We converted the raw numbers into simple ranks for each year.
The key point is that this methodology measures what students think of their recent education. Not
employers, not parents, not people who graduated thirty years ago. Let us emphasize that:
- The survey says nothing about a school's research performance or community service. But then, if you
are a student looking for a school, you don't care much about those, anyway.
- This is what students think: whether their perceptions are valid, and what employers think, are
- Graduates' ratings can be very volatile: one year's grads may give a much worse or better rating
than just the next year's crop.
- The survey polls the prior year's graduates. They are really assessing their experience of several
years. There is therefore an inherent time-lag in the data: a lot of grudge factor, and many memories of happy
times. A melange.
Student satisfaction ratings
We have the CEQ studies from 1994 to the most recent available. Here is our interpretation of the results from
our summary charts.
- University of Adelaide. Up and down. Never a great performer. Had a brief peak in 2002,
but on the nose since then. Location: Small, perfectly formed capital of a small state.
University of Canberra. Consistently ranked a bottom-feeder by its own graduates. This
school lives in some sort of Twilight Zone: after four years of searching, we finally discovered
who worked there just in time for our 2009 research rankings sweep. It is
easier to discover what's happening in North Korea that at this place. If anyone can show us a good
reason to study architecture at this university, we'd like to hear about it. Location: The
city of Canberra is a vast park with some buildings in it. If you like bushwalking, but a nightlife that
even nuns find boring, this is your town.
- Curtin University of Technology. Varies from strong to middling, which is no bad thing.
Put Curtin on your list of possibles if you want a solid education without the intellectual foo-fa.
Location: The city of Perth is a mining boom town: think Las Vegas with iron ore.
Deakin University. Consistently ranked very well by students. Not exactly a great
intellectual leader, as shown in our research rankings, but does that
matter? Location: Regional centre, only an hour or so away from somewhere interesting.
University of Melbourne. A lot of smart people there in the best university in country (ANU's silly pretensions not withstanding), but on a downward
spiral since 2004. Location: Cosmopolitan.
University of New South Wales (UNSW). A very large school traditionally regarded as a
perfectly competent sausage-machine. You want a job, you go to UNSW. Student ratings plummeted in 1999, and
have slowly clawed their way upwards since. There may be happier places to attend, like Dotheboys Hall. Location: Cosmopolitan.
- University of Newcastle. During the 1980s and 1990s its mentoring program was acclaimed.
Students have trashed it since its peak in 2001. A weird statistical spike in 2008 does not give us any
confidence. What went so wrong? We don't know. Location: Regional centre, only an hour or so away
from somewhere cosmopolitan.
- University of Queensland. A steady performer. Put this one on your list.
Location: Brisbane is a big country town that you can traverse in a few minutes.
- Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Very erratic, and definitely on the nose. You
can do better. Location: See above, University of Queensland.
- RMIT University. Every so often shows signs of genius, only to sink back to the middle of
the pack. Location: Cosmopolitan.
- University of South Australia. We hold our tongue2.
University of Sydney. We discuss our experiences at our old alma mater here. Erratic and slightly daft. Location: Cosmopolitan.
- University of Tasmania. Had an excellent reputation from 1985–1995 as a nurturing
and creative environment: you could have been in the sixties. Volatile since then. Location:
Launceston is a small town, in a very cool climate. If you decide to go internet dating, make your criteria
very, very broad.
University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Perfectly average. We have much more information
here. Location: Cosmopolitan.
University of Western Australia. Too little information to make an assessment. Some years
ago they converted their bachelors into a degree previously unknown to humanity. This simple boondoggle
rendered them impervious to comparison in the CEQ statistics, since no other school had such a
qualification. With the late-2000s Australian transition to a
Masters as professional qualification, they can once again be subject to scrutiny. Plenty of other
places to choose from is our advice. Location: See Curtin, above.
- Monash University. Debuts in the master's rating with an impressive rating, but
perversely incommunicative. Any university that positively refuses to tell you if it is properly accredited
should be avoided, if not actively prosecuted under the law.