Most of Australia's leading universities have been downgraded in the latest Times Higher Education Rankings published on Thursday.
The latest World University Rankings show that Australia's top university, the University of Melbourne, slipped from 28th to 34th.
The Australian National University (ANU) dropped from 37th to 48th, the University of Sydney went from 62nd to 72nd and the University of New South Wales fell from 85th to 114th in the world.
Exceptions to the trend were University of Queensland, which rose from 65th to 63rd and Monash University which went from 99th to 91st.
"This ranking has us at 48th in the world and 2nd in Australia, and last month the QS rankings had us at 27th in the world and first in Australia. The rankings move every year, and every set of rankings tells a different story," Acting ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Harding said.
"It is a testament to the talent that resides in ANU that we remain firmly within the top 100, despite our relatively small size. We sit amongst a fine group of peers, and that is something to be proud of," she said.
Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, said the results are disappointing for his university and the Australian university sector in general.
Phil Baty, the editor of Times Higher Education Rankings, said the results are particularly alarming for Australia given that dramatic university cuts of 2.3 billion AU dollars (2.1 billion U. S. dollars) are yet to be fully felt.
Davis agreed that the cuts announced by the former Gillard government last April, and endorsed by the Abbott government, may have damaged the global perception of Australian higher education.
"Times Higher Education Rankings are largely based on peer perceptions of academics from around the world, and it is possible that international peers have marked Australia's universities down to reflect the reduced Government support for higher education," Davis said.
Baty said it would be "a terrible blow if short-sightedness as to the huge value of universities in driving the knowledge economy " left Australia unable to build on its strong position.