Students have spoken: these are Australia’s top five higher education institutions


The Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching Higher Education Student Experience Survey results are in and the results are surprising. In a dramatic turn, the top five spots for overall student experience were taken out by non-university higher education institutions and not universities.

The Student Experience Survey (SES) is conducted in August and September each year to collect data on the Australian higher education experience for undergrad and postgrad coursework students. The focus areas are five measurable aspects of the student experience: skills development, learner engagement, teaching quality, student support, and learning resources.

All 42 Australian universities participated in the 2022 survey, as well as 99 non-university higher education institutions (NUHEIs) covering more than 175,000 undergraduate students and 65,000 postgraduate coursework students.

The data highlights interesting trends in the student experience, like the intrinsic link between teacher quality and student experience, and the consistently higher satisfaction ratings from female and older students.

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Most surprising though, is the fact that the top five spots for overall student experience were taken out by NUHEIs, and not universities.

Bar Graph containing top 15 university and non-university institutions in order of student satisfaction

In first place: Leaders Institute

Leaders Institute has campuses in Brisbane and Sydney and offers eight diploma, bachelor, graduate and masters courses. It’s more widely renowned for its agribusiness courses, which turn out savvy future leaders and business owners for Australia’s significant agriculture industry.

A quick sweep of Leaders Institute reviews reveals praise for the director, lecturers, support and study environment. The student experience survey spotlights perfect scores for skills development, student support, and teacher quality.

In second place: Jazz Music Institute

Jazz Music Institute (JMI) is a Brisbane-based private higher education provider, and Australia’s self-proclaimed “centre of jazz education.” It offers bachelor and diploma qualifications in jazz performance – an evolution from its humble beginnings as a specialist jazz CD store.

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When co-founder Greg Quigley spotted a gap in the market for jazz education he decided to fill it, and what started as a method book and accompanying CD has now become the only private higher education provider in the country delivering a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance.

“What sets us apart from other institutions is that we create a lot of the industry itself; we book a lot of jazz gigs throughout Brisbane that creates work opportunities for so many people, so there are immediate work and career opportunities available,” says current owner Nick Quigley, who now runs JMI with his siblings.

Reviews rave about the social scene, summer school, workshops, and students’ joy at being immersed in a subject and community they’re passionate about.

“We like to focus on providing students with a high quality program that’s focused on performance and structured in a way that helps them build the skills they need to become successful musicians. We do this in a relaxed environment where we treat students like they’re part of a big family. We focus on being attentive to each student’s individual needs so that they can have the best experience possible.”

Standout survey scores for student support, skills development, and teacher quality respectively landed them this number two spot on the QILT survey. 

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When asked what he thinks the survey results say about NUHEIs holding their own against universities, Mr Quigley says: “I think it shows that people should consider them as they can provide a much more personal study experience compared to big universities. Especially in specialised fields like music, the more attention you can get from your lecturers, the less you feel like just another number, and the more meaningful the study experience becomes.”

In third place: Sheridan College Inc.

Sheridan College Inc. is a division of Australian Baptist Education Inc., the educational arm of the Baptist ministry. It’s also one of four religious institutions in the survey’s overall top 10.

The college is Perth-based and now ranks number one for overall student experience in Western Australia. Courses offered include linguistics, business, and arts, with students praising the infrastructure and nurturing study environment.

2022 QILT survey results identify Sheridan’s strengths as teaching quality, as well as student support, which received a perfect score for the second year in a row.

In fourth place: Australian College of Theology

The Australian College of Theology (ACT) is a partnership between the Anglican Church of Australia and affiliated bible and theological colleges across Australia and New Zealand.

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Courses offered include all levels of specialist qualifications in ministry, theology, and Christian studies, from undergrad to doctorate, delivered through ACT’s network.

Teaching quality, learning resources and student support appear to have earned them this spot in the top five on the QILT survey, with particularly exceptional results for their provision of resources.

In fifth place: Campion College Australia

Campion College Australia is a self-described micro-community focused on “learning, leadership, initiative, community building, and creative expression” behind the classroom setting.

The college’s learning framework is built on the belief that skills acquired during a student’s time there should serve them in life as much as at work. And the shifting employment landscape is acknowledged in their recognition of the next generation’s probable need to work longer, and adapt to more career changes throughout their lifetime.

In the QILT survey results this translates as excellent and even scores for learning resources, student support, and skills development – and a perfect score for teaching quality.

It’s worth noting that the effects of COVID-19 and the following years have fundamentally impacted QILT survey findings since 2020. A large part of this year’s data is registering which institutions have regained their pre-COVID composure, and once again the NUHEIs have performed better.

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Whichever way you chop this data up, perhaps the most useful information to take from it is what student’s prioritise in terms of ranking their overall experiences, which is so clearly articulated here.

It may be a 2020 hangover but student support cannot be underestimated. For the students of 2022, excellence in teaching quality far outshines the impact of resources or facilities when their overall student experience is more closely analysed.

After all, in the words of eternal student Albert Einstein, “the only source of knowledge is experience”.

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By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.