Go8 – Show Me The Money
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Go8 – Show Me The Money

The Group of Eight

The Group of Eight (Go8) refers to the alliance of the so-called top universities in Australia. The ‘sandstone’ institutions such as the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney, the Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the University of Western Australia, the University of Adelaide, Monash University and UNSW Sydney. The Go8 is a company that was incorporated in 1999. Its Directorate is based in Canberra with Ms Vicki Thomson as its Chief Executive and Brian Schmidt as its chair. It is

focussed on, and is a leader in, influencing the development and delivery of long-term sustainable national higher education and research policy, and in developing elite international alliances and research partnerships.

The Go8 highlights its significant contribution to the Australian economy. It argues that for every $1 of Go8 research income, it delivers almost $10 in benefits to the wider community, and directly supports more than 50,000 jobs. In particular, the Go8 international student market contributes $17.98 billion each year to the Australian economy, supporting some 73,030 jobs throughout the Australian economy. About the Go8

Research v Teaching

All this success is of course good and should be acknowledged, however, it should also be acknowledged that these institutions are subsidised by the taxpayer and have a responsibility to the wider community. Part of that responsibility is to provide Australian students with equitable access to higher learning. This is both individual rights and a social issue, where individuals have an equal opportunity to an education for which they are suited and the Universities train the best minds in society to benefit its members. The Go8 will argue that the emphasis they place on research does that, however, it seems logical to assume that there cannot be good researchers who have not been the beneficiaries of good teaching.

A summary of the Quality of Experience, an overall measure of how students feel about higher education, indicates that the Go8 is performing below the national average.

Quality of Entire Experience 2022 %
National Average 72.20
Monash University 70.00
University of Melbourne 67.00
ANU 67.40
University of Adelaide 64.00
Bond 79.50
Avondale 77.00

View the full survey results (2022 Student Experience Survey)

This is borne out in a report on the survey results by the Financial Review which notes that

four of Australia’s biggest and best-respected institutions – Sydney, University of NSW, Melbourne and Monash – were among the bottom six, … . Data is collected from domestic and international students across 141 higher education providers, including 42 universities.
Hare, 2023

Good teaching does not seem to be high on the Go8’s agenda and neither is the student experience.


A reason why the Go8 seem to place less emphasis on the student experience can be seen in the pathways students have into higher education. The Go8 accept students with the local certificate that produces an ATAR score, a national score used across Australia. They also accept the International Baccalaureate, which is the more challenging pathway, and the British A Levels. A Levels, administered by Cambridge and Pearson Edexcel in the UK, enjoy wide popularity amongst international providers across the Middle East, Asia and South East Asia. In China and India, two of the largest markets for the internal delivery of international certificates, A Levels eclipses all its rivals.

Equity – or Lack Thereof

It perhaps comes as no surprise that in chasing this large market, the Go8 facilitate entry to their high fee-paying courses. Below is a summary showing the average grade differential required between an ATAR and A Levels for entry to a selection of courses at selected Go8 Universities. So, an international student can get into Monash University, for example, with an average of 18 marks less than a domestic student with an ATAR. In addition, an ATAR requires a Year 12 completed English subject and 3 other Year 12 subjects whereas with A Levels, a Year 11 English is sufficient and 3 Year 12 A Levels. These are average scores and there is a variation that in some cases reaches a 20-mark differential.

University Average grade differential
University of Melbourne Entry (with ATAR/A Level) differential 16
Monash University Entry (with ATAR/A Level) differential 18
University of Queensland Entry (with ATAR/A Level) differential 17
University of Sydney Entry (with ATAR/A Level) differential 8

The corporate Go8 clearly favours high-income international students and discriminates against domestic students. Their lack of interest is also reflected in their poorer performance in SES data.


Associate Professor Tom O’Connor Associate Professor Tom O’Connor is an Associate Program Director (Postgraduate); Manager of Special Projects within the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor; and a Fellow of the Centre for Scholarship and Research - at GCA.