South Africa is home to Africa’s two top-ranked universities, including the only African university to be ranked in the top 200 in the world, according to the latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings.
The QS World University Rankings for 2012/13, which rate approximately 23500 universities worldwide, were released last week.
The University of Cape Town (UCT) remains Africa’s top-ranked institution, rising from 156th place overall in 2011/12 to 154th in 2012/13, scoring 55.7 ranking points out of a possible 100.
The University of the Witwatersrand, based in Johannesburg, jumped up the rankings by 36 places, from position 399 to 363.
The next-highest ranked African university is the American University of Cairo in 392nd spot.
The next-highest ranked South African institutions are the University of Stellenbosch, placed between 401 and 450, the University of Pretoria (501-550), and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (551-600). (From 400th position onwards, universities are grouped per 50 places, rather than given individual rankings.)
Another Egyptian university, Cairo University, is ranked between 501 and 550.
SA ‘must invest in high-level research’
Nhlanhla Cele, director of strategic planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, told the SA Press Association (Sapa) that South Africa needed to follow the lead of countries like China, the US, Australia and the UK in making investment in high-level research and education a priority.
“We need to do the same in South Africa if we are to compete in the global arena. South African institutions have to focus on global competitiveness, local transformation and skills development, high level research and top end graduateness,” Cele told Sapa.
“Rankings matter because they undeniably create a perception about a university,” Cele said. “For example, when top students, academics and researchers are looking worldwide as to where they would most like to study or work, they use the leading ranking systems as a key point of reference.”
Overseas study on the increase
According to the rankings, more students are studying abroad than ever before.
“One of the most notable trends in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings is the massive increase in the number of international students in the world’s highest ranked universities,” the QS website states.
“The total figure has increased by 10 percent at the top 100 universities. This is the biggest rise in the history of the rankings.”
And it’s not just the top 100 either, according to QS. “On average, universities in the top 700 now play host to nearly 4% more international students.
According to data from international trade and research organization OECD, about 4.1-million students were studying abroad in 2010, an increase of 0.4-million over 2009. It is forecast that the figure could rise to seven-million by 2020.