The University of Canberra has made a big jump up the ranking of the world's best universities, according to research published today.
The Australian National University remains higher in the prestigious annual league table but the city's newbie is catching up.
The Times Higher Education Supplement compared 1300 universities from 92 countries. A university with a good score attracts better academics and students.
The performance indicators included the quality of teaching, the amount and quality of research, measured by how often it was cited by other academics, and how much money a university gets from industry as a measure of the practical relevance of its work.
The University of Canberra is ranked as the 193rd in the world, up by more than 50 places.
The ANU is 50th in this year's global ranking, down a place on last year. It is in second place among Australian universities. Top ranked is the University of Melbourne.
Globally, 14 of the top 20 universities are American, four are British and the other two are Canadian and Swiss.
The best university for the fourth year in a row is ranked as Oxford.
University of Canberra vice-chancellor Deep Saini said UC's improvement was partly because it had been very active in seeking talent from all over the world. It's run what he called a "Talent Acquisition Campaign", identifying academics who "buy into the University of Canberra's value proposition".
"When we see someone with that spark, we go after them," he told The Canberra Times.
At the same time as the university has been vigorously seeking talent, some on the staff accused it last year of a "burn and churn" attitude where young academics were offered limited contracts with no long term security.
Staff who spoke to The Canberra Times said that they felt pressured to pump out research to survive, working long nights and weekends while balancing a heavy burden of teaching.
Professor Saini didn't comment on that but said the claims came in the middle of a pay dispute.
He thinks the strength of the university is that it focuses on research with a practical application.
He contrasted the UC approach with that of the ANU which was, he felt, more theoretical. He said that his institution did do theoretical work "but connected to practical outcomes".
The education it provided was often tied to a profession. The aim was to make students "job-ready, life-ready",as the UC promo material puts it. There was an emphasis on students spending some of their education in workplaces.
Professor Saini said that there was room for both approaches and the two leading Canberra universities often collaborated.
"We are more practical", he said, contrasting UC with the ANU which was "more traditional".
He rejected the idea that university education was primarily about broadening minds. He felt that it certainly was about that but with the wider purpose of helping society.