The universities that are the hardest to get into may not be delivering the best experience or employment outcomes for their students, new research shows.
Students at the University of NSW, Sydney University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia have some of the highest entrance scores in Australia, according to this year's Good Universities Guide.
However, none of these universities are in the guide's top 10 for staff qualifications or overall experience, which measures engagement, resources, skills development, support and teaching quality.
All four scored below the national average for overall experience and nationally, UNSW, Sydney and UWA ranked among the bottom seven in this category.
The guide, which is compiled annually, ranked Bond University at number one for overall experience, followed by Notre Dame and Edith Cowan University.
Among NSW universities, the University of New England was ranked at number seven, followed by the University of Wollongong, Australian Catholic University and the University of Newcastle.
Only UNSW was ranked in the top 10 for full-time employment outcomes with 76.4 per cent of its students finding jobs within four months of graduating.
Some 70.4 per cent of Sydney graduates find full-time employment within four months. This falls to about 65 per cent at UWA and 63.6 per cent at Melbourne University.
In comparison, about 84 per cent of students at the best university for employment outcomes, Charles Sturt University, find full-time work within four months of leaving. About 55 per cent of students at Flinders University, ranked lowest in this area, find full-time jobs within four months.
The four universities are also falling behind in students' starting salaries, with only UWA ranked in the top 10 for median graduate incomes. Its graduates earn about $60,900 after leaving university, while UNSW graduates earn $60,000, Sydney University graduates earn $56,000 and University of Melbourne students earn about $53,500.
Chris Lester, chief executive of the Good Universities Group, which compiles the guide, said the most in-demand universities are lagging in these areas partly because of the high proportion of their students who are school leavers, rather than mature-age students.
"Now, people [coming to university] straight out of school are finding it difficult to get a job," Mr Lester said.
He said starting salaries are also linked to the proportion of mature-age students as well as "the mix of courses that universities are offering and the mix of students they have".
However, Mr Lester said that a number of the universities delivering the best graduate outcomes also offer specific programs and internships "that are definitely helping students get jobs when they finish".
"The University of Wollongong is one of the big standouts in the way they've moved, and some of the things they say they're doing is trying to make sure that someone's not just a number, and having differentiated programs for different students," Mr Lester said.
Mr Lester said that universities' high entry scores and high demand are at least partially linked to reputation rather than quality.
"Parents have a big part to play in relation to where students go and when they came out of university 20 or 30 years ago, [things] were very different," Mr Lester said.
"Parents need to be very mindful of the changing landscape. Younger universities are trying different things now."
The University of Sydney and UNSW were contacted for comment.