By Anakin Curtis
According to ShanghaiRanking’s 2022 Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS), various faculties and departments at Stellenbosch University (SU) have been placed amongst the top 500 in the world.
“The GRAS rankings use a range of objective academic indicators and third-party data to measure the performance of world universities in respective subjects”, which include the research quality, output and influence, as well as international collaboration and international academic awards, as per ShanghaiRanking’s website.
According to a corporate communication and marketing article posted by the university on 27 July, SU is the only South African university to be ranked for its achievements in food science and technology, with both departments featuring in the top 150 out of the more than 1 800 institutions listed in the rankings. Other notable achievements include agricultural sciences in the top 200 globally, and first place in biotechnology and political Science locally. Furthermore, SU is also the only South African university to have placed in the rankings for communication and falls within the top 300 universities in this field.
“Overall, SU is one of the 500 best institutions in the world in 14 of the 54 subjects featured on the list for 2022,” reads the university’s communication.
The university has managed to maintain high standards in various fields of research throughout the pandemic. Professor Gunnar Sigge, associate professor and departmental chair of food science at SU, said that many research projects continued throughout the pandemic, as they were food industry-related. The facilities involved did not close, so research could continue. He further explained how his department managed to overcome challenges and maintain the research output necessary to achieve a ranking amongst the top 150 universities in the world.
“We are blessed with an incredibly dedicated and passionate staff that ensured that teaching and online practicals were instituted to keep students engaged,” Sigge said.
“Postgraduate graduations and research outputs have also been maintained, mainly because we collaborate widely locally and globally, and during the pandemic there were also opportunities for researchers to write up research that hadn’t been written up yet.”
On what sets SU apart from other universities in the field of food science, Sigge added, “I believe Stellenbosch attracts a high calibre of students and academics.”
Sigge continued by saying that the food science department collaborates closely with the food industry and with many other disciplines within the university and internationally. This means that research outputs are increased and are industry-relevant.
“Excellent staff, students and collaboration are the key to our success,” Sigge concluded.
Jenna Egberink, a third-year BSc (Food Science) student, added that it is reassuring to know that the food science students are in good hands.
“You definitely feel a sense of pride knowing you’re a part of the food science faculty,” Egberink said.
She added that the knowledge and experience gained in the food science department will be invaluable for the futures of all the students in their further endeavours.
According to GRAS, SU also ranked highly in the field of technology. These rankings are based on the research output of the many researchers and postgraduate students toiling away in the laboratories on campus. This plays a key role in the decisions made by prospective students when determining where they will continue their academic careers.
Nathan Luke Misdorp, a first-year BEng (Mechanical) student, said that he considers it very special to be afforded the privilege of studying at a top institution such as SU.
He said, “It does feel rewarding because a very small percentage of all applicants get accepted.”
About the plans he has for joining the group of researchers responsible for the high ranking in the future, Misdorp added, “Fourth-year is still some time away, so if I find a niche that really fascinates me, I will continue on and contribute to the research that our faculty is doing.”