University rankings are clearly an important factor for international students and an essential element in the marketing mix of universities around the world. 

After seven years of reviewing the international tuition fees for all Australian universities, we have identified an insightful relationship between international rankings of Australian universities and the average international tuition fee for various programs.

 The Relationship between Rankings and Fees

 

The relationship is strong and remained solid in 2021. 

Using the QS and Times World University and Subject Rankings 2021 and 2021 annual international tuition fees from all Australian universities, we have analysed and plotted the relationship between international ranking and international tuition fees.

For the last three years we have been analysing the relationships between the QS rankings and international student fees however, this year we also used the Times Rankings to analyse the relationship to see if the results are similar between the two ranking systems.

Overall, the analysis reveals a clear relationship between a higher place in the QS and Times World University Rankings and a higher average tuition fees for international students. This relationship between rankings and fees may not be a surprise but it is surprising how strong the correlation is.

Our analysis highlights that there is a clear inverse correlation between fees and rankings. Basically, the higher the overall ranking a university has, the higher the annual undergraduate average international tuition fee. 

 This relationship is clearly affecting the way universities are developing their pricing strategies and adjusting their marketing and recruitment strategies.

 

Chart 1 illustrates this relationship by presenting the overall QS ranking of each Australian university and their average annual international tuition fee for undergraduate and postgraduate programs in 2021.

 

Chart 1.

Comparison of QS World University Rankings and average annual international tuition fee for undergraduate and postgraduate programs (2021)

 Source: Huckel, D., Ramirez, K. (2021). Comparative Analysis of International Tuition Fees in Australia, 2021. Sydney, Australia: Studymove.

 

Chart 2 illustrates this relationship by presenting the overall Times ranking of each Australian university and their average annual international tuition fee for undergraduate and postgraduate programs in 2021.

 

Chart 2.

Comparison of Times World University Rankings and average annual international tuition fee for undergraduate and postgraduate programs (2021)

 Source: Huckel, D., Ramirez, K. (2021). Comparative Analysis of International Tuition Fees in Australia, 2021. Sydney, Australia: Studymove.

 

 

To measure how strong the relationship is between these two variables, we took a step further and calculated the correlation coefficient.  The correlation coefficient (a value between -1 and +1) reveals how strongly two variables are related to each other.

 

When the correlation coefficient is close to 1, it means that the relationship between the two variables is really strong. The analysis shows that the correlation has been strong since 2016 and remains robust in 2021 for the QS rankings for which we have been collecting historical data (Chart 3).

 

Chart 3.

Historical correlation between QS World University Rankings and average annual international tuition fee for undergraduate and postgraduate programs (2021)

 

Our analysis highlights that there has been a clear inverse correlation between fees and rankings for undergraduate and postgraduate programs over the last five years for the QS Rankings. Basically, the higher the overall ranking a university has, the higher the annual undergraduate average international tuition fee.

 

 


The relationship also exists at the subject level

Exploring this topic further to gain a better understanding, in our 2021 report, we have included an extended analysis by subject areas.

 

Looking at QS World University Rankings by Subject and specific annual international fees for 17 subject areas, the analysis shows that in the majority of these subjects, the strong correlation between variables is evident (Table 1).

 

Table 1.

Correlation between subject rankings and average fees in Australia - QS Rankings (2021)

DISCIPLINE AREACORRELATION UG PROGRAMSCORRELATION PG PROGRAMS
Disciplines with very strong correlation
BIOLOGICAL SCIENCE -0.8559-0.7564
ENGINEERING (ELECTRICAL & ELECTRONIC)-0.8446-0.8375
ACCOUNTING & FINANCE-0.8233-0.7565
COMPUTER SCIENCE & INFORMATION SYSTEMS-0.8192-0.7180
Disciplines with strong correlation
ECONOMICS-0.7755-0.6916
ENGINEERING (MECHANICAL, AERONAUTICAL & MANUFACTURING)-0.7670-0.7657
BUSINESS & MANAGEMENT-0.7230-0.6274
COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA STUDIES-0.7078-0.5574
PSYCHOLOGY *-0.7027-0.5233
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES *-0.6916-0.5801
LAW-0.6577-0.6966
LINGUISTICS-0.6191-0.5862
ENGINEERING (CIVIL & STRUCTURAL) -0.6137-0.6264
Disciplines with moderate correlation
PHARMACY -0.5880-0.6969
ARCHITECTURE / BUILT ENVIRONMENT-0.5313-0.4243
EDUCATION-0.5207-0.4228
NURSING *-0.4939-0.1787

   * Only for undergraduate programs

 

The Times World University Rankings by Subject and specific annual international fees for 9 subject areas analysis also shows that in the majority of these subjects, the strong correlation between variables is evident (Table 2).

 

Table 2.

Correlation between subject rankings and average fees in Australia - Times Higher Education Rankings (2021)

DISCIPLINE AREACORRELATION UG PROGRAMSCORRELATION PG PROGRAMS
Disciplines with very strong correlation
COMPUTER SCIENCE-0.7206-0.7347
LIFE SCIENCES-0.7076-0.6615
Disciplines with strong correlation
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS-0.6770-0.6519
ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY-0.6761-0.6692
ARTS AND HUMANITY-0.6577-0.6420
PHYSICAL SCIENCES-0.6358-0.6352
PSYCHOLOGY-0.6236-0.5353
EDUCATION-0.6188-0.5608
Disciplines with moderate correlation
LAW-0.4164-0.5719

 


However, there are some exceptions!

Fee setting decisions are complex and complicated however, this analysis provides a very interesting view of where universities sit on the scale considering both rankings and annual international tuition fees. However, we know that there are other elements such as location, graduate outcomes and the student experience, for example, which could also increase the value of the overall study experience at a university.

So, this general trend may not apply to all universities but it’s clear that this element greatly influences the fee setting approach at Australian universities.

 

 


 

Our 2021 Analysis is now available for purchase. 

The 2021 analysis is available and will provide your institution with valuable insights to assist and support your planning for 2021 and beyond. This report provides a unique and interesting report for all university staff responsible for setting tuition fees.

 

Contact us to find out how affordable our reports are. We can also send them to you within two business days!

Don’t waste time collating and analysing the data yourself, we have done all the hard work for you!

For more information, please contact Keri Ramirez, Managing Director of Studymove at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

  

 

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