Overseas university spotlight: Macquarie University (Australia)
With 300 acres of lush parklands on a campus just outside Australia's largest city, Sydney, Macquarie University offers the perfect mix of big city life and tranquil surroundings.
Named after the fifth governor of New South Wales, Macquarie was founded in 1964.
Its aim: to be much more than a traditional university, through proactive collaboration with business, industry and society more widely.
Today, that approach has borne fruit, with leading companies basing their headquarters on and around Macquarie's main campus.
And the university takes practical experience seriously, with all of its degree programs co-designed with industry.
Macquarie even has its own hospital on site to ensure its students can meet requirements for practical clinical training.
I was very fortunate to participate in Macquarie's VIP Campus Showcase last month, and here are some of the highlights from that trip!
Regularly crowned winner of the "Most Instagramable City in the World," Sydney is one of the world's most attractive places for international students.
And it's not hard to see why!
I studied a Master of Education in Sydney years ago, and my experience of the city was overwhelmingly positive; I adored the laid back Australian lifestyle and particularly Sydney's famous coffee/brekkie culture.
The city's food and music scenes are diverse and accessible, and its people are welcoming and friendly.
With warm weather, stunning coastlines and a diverse natural environment, the Sydney area is also a dream for the outdoor adventurist.
And it's not just surfing and swimming; the city offers so many opportunities to 'get out there' and soak up its beauty.
Some of those ways include climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge itself!
Despite the height, it wasn't really that scary!
But as great as it is to visit the splendid centre of Sydney, it's also important to remember that it's a city of neighborhoods; locals don't tend to hang out in the downtown central business district (where the Opera House is located) outside of work hours.
The city's suburbs are vibrant and thriving community hubs.
And about 20 minutes by car or 45 minutes by train north of the city is where you'll find Macquarie University.
This means students can have all the benefits of exploring Sydney's neighborhoods and big city life on the weekend while also enjoying a true campus 'bubble' experience during the week.
If you're arriving by public transport, the first thing you'll notice is that the university has its own train station stop within a few minutes' walk of campus.
The Macquarie campus is modern and roomy with a relaxed feel and plenty of green space.
It even has its own lake!
It's not all lakes and rolling hills though; the campus is also located right next to a large mall, which is well used by students.
The library is relatively new (built 10 years ago) and was the first in Australia to use the Automatic Retrieval Collection system - a temperature-controlled environment that houses the entire collection and where books are retrieved within 30 minutes by a digitally operated crane (no need to wait for days for a book to arrive!).
There's plenty more to experience in the library, too--for example, the temperature-controlled shades, which allow students to study comfortably when outdoor temperatures start to rise (note: it can get quite humid in Sydney!).
The campus also boasts brand new on-campus accommodation, located very conveniently right next to the university's bar and carry-out food options.
And this very well may be the best view I've ever seen from a university bar!
With common rooms, game rooms and study spaces, it's perhaps no surprise that the new accommodation is hugely popular, so Macquarie recommends applying early!
The Macquarie campus also offers is also an impressive range of food options (and, crucially for me, places to grab a caffeine fix!).
And for students who wish to bring their own food, microwaves are provided here.
Once your lunch has settled--and if you want to stay fit--Macquarie also provides a great range of sporting facilities.
In particular, it's worth checking out Macquarie's gym and pools, which are offered at a very competitive monthly rate.
Macquarie also encourages students to get involved and stay connected; there are clubs for everyone, such as the Macappellas, the university's award-winning mixed-voice a capella ensemble.
I got to experience their very cool singing ability and tunes (Katy Perry in the mix), which really made me wish I could sing!
And there's a cool campus shop to buy swag for back home, of course!
A couple things stand out about the way Macquarie is set up.
Firstly, all of the university's courses were co-designed with industry, and most include some practical component.
This is one of the many reasons it was ranked first in Sydney this year for graduate employability (against some pretty stiff competition and universities that have been around for decades!).
The university itself also doesn’t have a lot of layers and structures, which allows its administrative centers to respond quickly (i.e. within three days, not three months) and other areas to focus on providing the best support for students.
This is not always the case for highly ranked research universities, so it's a real selling point!
For example, a team of student ambassadors are on hand to call and give advice to newly admitted students, including international.
'Connection' is a thread running through all of Macquarie's activities, and the university offers a Global Leadership Program, open to all students, providing 100 workshops a semester on trending topics like artificial intelligence, feminism and international issues, with the goal of keeping students connected.
Applications to the university are also turned around quickly; students could potentially hear back about their admission within 5-8 business days (which, believe me, is almost unheard of--not just in Australia but across the world!)
Finally, Macquarie has only four faculties (Business, Arts, Science & Engineering and Medicine, Health & Human Sciences), and all of its deans are required to teach.
This means its leaders have their feet on the ground and can base decisions on their first-hand interactions with students--truly innovative!
With 45,000 students (10,000 international), Macquarie is a comprehensive university.
It's currently ranked #195 in the world (QS, 2023), which puts it in the same ballpark as Vanderbilt, the University of Florida, the University of Pittsburgh and Dartmouth rankings-wise.
The Bachelor of Commerce is the university's most popular course, and all business students must complete an interdisciplinary capstone project in the final year.
Other unique offerings include the only Bachelor of Cognitive and Brain Science of its kind in Australia, combining classes on cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology and computation.
In addition, Macquarie has the best-ranked Classics and Ancient History program in the country and also the largest collection of ancient manuscripts in Australia.
I found the on-campus museum to be an absolute delight, with a whole array of fascinating objects dating from medieval to modern times.
Students benefit from 3D object training with technology that allows them to scan and input objects into a database, after which the objects can be examined up close and on all sides digitally.
Museum ethics also play a major role; if the museum discovers a certain item has been illegally traded, it will be repatriated.
Macquarie also has outstanding facilities in the field of arts and social sciences, including a brand new Faculty of Arts building with a zen-like upstairs outdoor terrace, a lounge set aside specifically for PhD students and various types of modern study spaces, both private and communal.
There are even professional-quality music studios, large stages and broadcast equipment, which I got to try out!
On the graduate side of things, a new Master of Information Technology in the Internet of Things and a Master of Artificial Intelligence are starting next year, which is fitting as... well...
In the early 2000s, researchers from Macquarie University developed Wi-Fi as we know it!
Aside from tech, Macquarie also offers the top Master of Applied Finance program in Australia, and an MBA that doesn't require the GMAT to apply.
Why no GMAT? It's because Macquarie's goal is not to screen out potential leaders based on their math aptitude; conversely, they are looking for leaders that can integrate math wizards into their teams and manage them effectively.
Perhaps some of the most popular courses for American students are those in the health sciences field, however, such as the Doctor of Medicine program or physiotherapy, chiropractic and clinical science.
The presence of a hospital and training facilities right on site are a huge plus, and I was blown away by this 'dummy' who wasn't dumb at all.
In fact, he is connected to a computer system and can respond to questions, slow his breathing and more--perfect for CPR training, checking vitals and other types of clinical training.
Macquarie University: Summary
Spending nearly a week at Macquarie University gave me the chance to really take a deep dive into what makes this institution special.
I experienced taster science experiments, met many of the academic staff and had the chance to view its high quality studios, labs and other facilities.
I also met plenty of satisfied current students and had the chance to learn more about the teaching and learning philosophy as well as student life.
My main takeaway was just how very agreeable the overall campus experience is and how much green space and parkland there is to enjoy outside of classes; normally, you'd imagine a university in a city like Sydney to be cramped for space!
Everyone was super down to earth, approachable and engaging as well--exactly what you'd want as a student, particularly one from overseas.
When coupled with the beauty of Sydney as a whole, Macquarie is truly a fantastic study option for an American student looking into an undergraduate or graduate program abroad.