George van Dyk

Stellenbosch University (SU) has placed higher on the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for 2018. It is now in the 351-400 category.

In 2017, it was in the 401-500 category.

In the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and emerging economies rankings, SU was ranked 42nd.

“Stellenbosch University is pleased with its new position on this particular ranking,” said Prof Eugene Cloete, vice-rector of research, innovation and postgraduate study.

“But it maintains a nuanced approach to university rankings in general – given the current realities of the institution, our country and our continent, as well as the methodology of the various rankings of which there are well-documented differences of opinion.” 

THE analyses data from over one million data points spread across 2 600 institutions in 93 countries, and then compares research-intensive universities, such as SU, based on 13 performance indicators grouped into five areas.

These areas judge universities based on what their intrinsic core missions are; namely teaching, research, citations (research influence), international outlook, and industry income (knowledge transfer).

Although SU’s industry income sharply fell from 32,1% to 7,3%, citations rose from 53% to 60%, while research also improved from 24,8% to 36,1%.

“We are also pleased with the fact that we have shown an improvement on the research pillar of the THE World University 2018 Rankings. This is a reflection of the University’s research status in South Africa and on the continent,” added Cloete.

In addition, SU has maintained the highest research output per fulltime staff member in South Africa for the past seven years, as per statistics provided by the Department of Higher Education and Training.

“I feel that the lecturers are really competent for what they’re doing, which is of value to research output as they’re the ones leading it,” said Gerhard Bekker, a master’s mechanical engineering student.

“In addition, I’ve found that SU is really cutting-edge when it comes to air-cooled condenser design and optimisation, etc.”

Although SU is somewhat lacking in industry income, the university is a national and continental leader in superlative research. This benefits the South African economy significantly.

“Our clear point of departure is still that we do not place too much emphasis on rankings, that academic excellence is non-negotiable, that quality always comes first, and that no attempt is being made to artificially influence any rankings,” said Cloete.