Sydney University is considering cutting courses to compete with Melbourne University as the best in Australia

The University of Sydney — the country’s oldest university — is looking towards a large-scale revamp of its structure and culture in a bid to overtake Melbourne University as Australia’s best university.

In a series of discussion papers released by the University of Sydney this week, vice-chancellor Dr Michael Spence called for a review of the curriculum framework and “course architecture”.

In particular, the university looked towards a overhaul of its current bachelor system — decreasing the number of undergraduate degrees offered to bring it on par with Melbourne University.

“We were willing to put a degree on just about everything, so we ended up with 122 undergraduate degrees, and very complicated rules about degree progression that were designed to maximise student choice, but often just left students bewildered,” Spence told Fairfax Media.

“I think Melbourne has six undergraduate degrees and we are certainly not talking about doing anything as radical as that, but 122 does not make a huge amount of sense and they are expensive to maintain.”

The report also suggests idea of a four-year liberal arts degree — commonly seen in North America and the United Kingdom — is in the interests of longer-term learning and career adaptability.

Melbourne University has maintained a strong foothold against its competitors, taking out the 33rd spot on the Time Higher Education Rankings 2014-15, while Sydney University trailed in 60th place.

“On most of the league tables, Melbourne still beats us and that is not historically right,” Spence said.

“Much has been achieved over the past five years. We are a stronger institution academically, financially, and in our relations with government and the community.

“However, much remains to be done to restore us to our historic position as indisputably the best university in our nation, and arguably the region.”

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