A new ranking of the world's universities has led to the usual trumpeting that Australian academia is "world class" -- but this may come as cold comfort to students who feel they have been lured into paying top dollar for a second-rate education.

There are widespread rumblings from students and staff at Australia's universities that the quest for high research rankings, and the lucrative deluge of international student dollars that follows, is masking substandard teaching and learning. Some staff report pressure to give students higher marks than they deserve, to keep the fees coming.