Some of Australia's most prominent and well known schools are based in Melbourne. Of the top twenty high schools in Australia according to the Better Education ranking, six are located in Melbourne. There has also been a rapid increase in the number of International students studying in the city. Furthermore, Melbourne was ranked the world's fourth top university city in 2008 after London, Boston and Tokyo in a poll commissioned by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Melbourne is the home of seven public universities: the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), Deakin University, La Trobe University, Swinburne University of Technology and Victoria University.
Melbourne universities have campuses all over Australia and some internationally. Swinburne University has campuses in Malaysia, while Monash has a research centre based in Prato, Italy. The University of Melbourne, the second oldest university in Australia, was ranked first among Australian universities in the 2010 THES international rankings. The 2012–2013 Times Higher Education Supplement ranked the University of Melbourne as the 28th (30th by QS ranking) best university in the world. Monash University was ranked as the 99th (60th by QS ranking) best university in the world. Both universities are members of the Group of Eight, a coalition of leading Australian tertiary institutions offering comprehensive and leading education.
RMIT University was also ranked among the top 51–100 universities in the world in the subjects of: accounting, Business and Management, communication and media studies, computer science and information systems. The Swinburne University of Technology, based in the inner city Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn is ranked 76–100 in the world for Physics by the Academic Ranking of World Universities making Swinburne the only Australian university outside the Group of Eight to achieve a top 100 rating in a science discipline. Deakin University maintains two major campuses in Melbourne and Geelong, and is the third largest university in Victoria. In recent years, the number of international students at Melbourne's universities has risen rapidly, a result of an increasing number of places being made available to full fee paying students. Education in Melbourne is overseen by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), whose role is to 'provide policy and planning advice for the delivery of education'.
The Hoddle Grid (dimensions of 1 by 1⁄2 mile (1.61 by 0.80 km)) forms the centre of Melbourne's central business district. The grid's southern edge fronts onto the Yarra River. Office, commercial and public developments in the adjoining districts of Southbank and Docklands have made these redeveloped areas into extensions of the CBD in all but name. The city centre has a reputation for its historic and prominent lanes and arcades (most notably Block Place and Royal Arcade) which contain a variety of shops and cafés and are a byproduct of the city's layout. Melbourne's CBD, compared with other Australian cities, has comparatively unrestricted height limits and as a result of waves of post-war development contains five of the six tallest buildings in Australia, the tallest of which is the Eureka Tower, situated in Southbank. It has an observation deck near the top from where you can see above all of Melbourne's structures. The Rialto tower, the city's second tallest, remains the tallest building in the old CBD; its observation deck for visitors has recently closed.
The CBD and surrounds also contain many significant historic buildings such as the Royal Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Town Hall and Parliament House. Although the area is described as the centre, it is not actually the demographic centre of Melbourne at all, due to an urban sprawl to the south east, the demographic centre being located at Glen Iris. Melbourne is typical of Australian capital cities in that after the turn of the 20th century, it expanded with the underlying notion of a 'quarter acre home and garden' for every family, often referred to locally as the Australian Dream. This, coupled with the popularity of the private automobile after 1945, led to the auto-centric urban structure now present today in the middle and outer suburbs. Much of metropolitan Melbourne is accordingly characterised by low density sprawl, whilst its inner city areas feature predominantly medium-density, transit-oriented urban forms. The city centre, Docklands, St. Kilda Road and Southbank areas feature high-density forms.
Melbourne is often referred to as Australia's garden city, and the state of Victoria was once known as the garden state. There is an abundance of parks and gardens in Melbourne, many close to the CBD with a variety of common and rare plant species amid landscaped vistas, pedestrian pathways and tree-lined avenues. Melbourne's parks are often considered the best public parks in all of Australia's major cities. There are also many parks in the surrounding suburbs of Melbourne, such as in the municipalities of Stonnington, Boroondara and Port Phillip, south east of the central business district. The extensive area covered by urban Melbourne is formally divided into hundreds of suburbs (for addressing and postal purposes), and administered as local government areas 31 of which are located within the metropolitan area.
Melbourne has minimal public housing and high demand for rental housing, which is becoming unaffordable for more and more people. Public housing is usually provided by the Housing Commission of Victoria, and operates within the framework of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, by which federal and state governments provide housing funding. Melbourne is experiencing high population growth, generating high demand for housing. This housing boom has increased house prices and rents, as well as the availability of all types of housing. Subdivision regularly occurs in the outer areas of Melbourne, with numerous developers offering house and land packages. However, after 10 years of planning policies to encourage medium-density and high-density development in existing areas with greater access to public transport and other services, Melbourne's middle and outer-ring suburbs have seen significant brownfields redevelopment.
Melbourne is an international cultural centre, with cultural endeavours spanning major events and festivals, drama, musicals, comedy, music, art, architecture, literature, film and television. The climate, waterfront location and nightlife make it one of the most vibrant destinations in Australia. For five years in a row (as of 2015) it has held the top position in a survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit of the world's most liveable cities on the basis of a number of attributes which include its broad cultural offerings. The city celebrates a wide variety of annual cultural events and festivals of all types, including Australia's largest free community festival—Moomba, the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The culture of the city is an important drawcard for tourists, of which just under two million international overnight visitors and 57.7 million domestic overnight visited during the year ending March 2014.
Melbourne's rich and diverse literary history was recognised in 2008 when it became the second UNESCO City of Literature. The State Library of Victoria is one of Australia's oldest cultural institutions and one of many public and university libraries across the city. Melbourne also has Australia's widest range of bookstores, as well the nation's largest publishing sector. The city is home to significant writers' festivals, most notably the Melbourne Writers Festival. Several major literary prizes are open to local writers including the Melbourne Prize for Literature and the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. Significant novels set in Melbourne include Fergus Hume's The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, Helen Garner's Monkey Grip and Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap. Notable writers and poets from Melbourne include Thomas Browne, C. J. Dennis, Germaine Greer and Peter Carey.
Established in 1861, the National Gallery of Victoria is Australia's oldest public art museum. The Heidelberg School, also known as Australian Impressionism, grew out of Melbourne's rural suburbs in the 1880s. The city is also home to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Melbourne is regarded as one of the world's major street art centres; readers of Lonely Planet voted the city's street art and laneways as Australia's most popular cultural attraction.
Melbourne's live performance institutions date from the foundation of the city, with the first theatre, the Pavilion, opening in 1841. The city's East End Theatre District includes theatres that similarly date from 1850s to the 1920s, including the Princess Theatre, Regent Theatre, Her Majesty's Theatre, Forum Theatre, Comedy Theatre, and the Athenaeum Theatre. The Melbourne Arts Precinct in Southbank is home to Arts Centre Melbourne, which includes the State Theatre, Hamer Hall, the Playhouse and the Fairfax Studio. The Melbourne Recital Centre and Southbank Theatre (principal home of the MTC, which includes the Sumner and Lawler performance spaces) are also located in Southbank. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl, which dates from 1955, is located in the gardens of Kings Domain; and the Palais Theatre is a feature of the St Kilda Beach foreshore.
The national ballet company, the Australian Ballet is based in Melbourne, as are the state based companies, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC), and the Victorian Opera. Melbourne is also the second home of the national Opera Australia after it merger with the defunct Victoria State Opera in 1996.
The Story of the Kelly Gang, the world's first feature film, was shot in Melbourne in 1906. Melbourne filmmakers continued to produce bushranger films until they were banned by Victorian politicians in 1912 for the perceived promotion of crime, thus contributing to the decline of one of the silent film era's most productive industries. A notable film shot and set in Melbourne during Australia's cinematic lull is On the Beach (1959). The 1970s saw the rise of the Australian New Wave and its Ozploitation offshoot, instigated by Melbourne-based productions Stork and Alvin Purple. Picnic at Hanging Rock and Mad Max, both shot in and around Melbourne, achieved worldwide acclaim. 2004 saw the construction of Melbourne's largest film and television studio complex, Docklands Studios Melbourne, which has hosted many domestic productions, as well as international features. Melbourne is also home to the headquarters of Village Roadshow Pictures, Australia's largest film production company. Famous modern day actors from Melbourne include Cate Blanchett, Rachel Griffiths, Guy Pearce, Geoffrey Rush and Eric Bana.
As of 2013, Melbourne is home to at least 460 music venues, and its live music industry contributes A$1 billion per annum to the Victorian economy. Bands that have emerged from the Melbourne music scene include Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Crowded House, TISM, The Living End, Augie March, Men at Work and The Temper Trap. Melbourne was named as a top music city in the world by IFPI.com in a white paper it released in conjunction with Music Canada.