ACU tops university lists

A message from Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Wayne McKenna:

Eight years ago, at the initiative of Professor Greg Craven, and with his strong support, ACU embarked on a research intensification strategy with a particular focus on those fields of research identified in the university’s strategic plan as areas of priority aligned with our mission as a Catholic university. The establishment of research institutes and centres in education, health, theology and philosophy and other liberal arts sought to improve our performance in the ERA assessments and in world university rankings.

As I prepare to take my accumulated leave and then retire, I should like to express my deepest appreciation of and thanks for the extraordinary support provided by so many people at ACU who have made possible our emergence as a major institution and one of the world’s leading Catholic universities.

In this year’s Shanghai global subject rankings, ACU reached the world top 50 in education for the first time with a ranking of 46th to become the world’s highest-ranked Catholic university for research in this subject, maintained our position of 18th for nursing, and moved up into top 150 for psychology and the top 200 for law. While sport science is not included every year for these subject rankings, ACU was placed 22nd in the world in 2020. My warmest congratulations to everyone who has made this possible

ACU has also performed strongly in the 2021 CWTS Leiden Ranking, released in June. Like the Shanghai Rankings, the Leiden Rankings are based on research data. Appearing in two broad fields – biomedical and health sciences, and social sciences and humanities – ACU has outperformed every other Australian university and most Catholic universities by proportion of research outputs (journal publications) in the top percentile of the field, an exceptional result in our second year in the Leiden Ranking.

While ACU’s profile means we can never match bigger universities in volume of output, our research strength can be gauged by the proportion of our journal publications that attract high citation rates. In biomedical and health sciences, for example, we are the highest ranked Australian university and in the top 50 worldwide by proportion of papers cited among the top 5 per cent and 10 per cent in the field. We are also the highest-ranked Catholic university and the only one in the top 50 worldwide by proportion of papers in the 5 per cent most cited papers for this field.

In social sciences and humanities, ACU rose almost 100 places in the Leiden Rankings by proportion of publications in the top 1 per cent in the field. Ranked 8th in Australia and just inside the top 200 in 2020, ACU in 2021 became the highest-ranked Australian university and the only one in the global top 100 for this research indicator. Ranked 3rd behind Boston College and Georgetown for the top 1 per cent outputs, ACU is the only top 50 Catholic university by proportion of 5 per cent most cited publications, ahead of both Boston College and Georgetown. This is a significant achievement and indication of our strength in an area of specialisation fundamental to our identity as a Catholic institution.

ACU has had a similar trajectory in the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) ranking, achieving the top score of 5 – well above world standard – across every field of health research in which we were assessed in the most recent ERA in 2018. ACU also achieved a top score of 5 in specialist studies in education – only four Australian universities scored a 5 in any of the four-digit education fields of research in 2018 – and was the highest-ranked Australian university for religion and religious studies in 2018. Overall, using the government’s old excellence index as a measure, ACU’s ERA performance has risen from 35th-ranked university in Australia in 2012, to 21st in 2015, to 10th in 2018. Based on this growth and our continued rise in recent research rankings, we anticipate further success in the upcoming ERA 2023 round. I wish you all well in the next phase of the university’s research development.

In the broader assessment of performance conducted by the Times Higher Education rankings, which are not confined to an assessment of research, the university has also performed extremely well. For each of the past five years, our overall ranking has improved such that we stand now in the 251-300 band. This is another remarkable achievement to which everyone at ACU has contributed and of which we should all be proud.

Thank you again and every best wish for the future.


The following slideshow controls change the content above and below. Information is displayed below the controls while video content plays above the video controls.

Service Central

Visit Service Central to access Corporate Services.

Other service contacts

Learning and Teaching
Request Something

Make a request for services provided by Corporate Services.

Request something
Knowledge base

Find answers to frequently asked questions 24/7.

See Knowledge Base