The affordable education loan option
Higher education in South Africa will need a considerable cash injection to keep competing with the world’s best, according to the latest Times Higher Education university rankings.
The release of the 2013/14 rankings on Wednesday, which name the top tertiary institutions in the world, saw local universities slide down the list.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) first appeared in the top 400 of the rankings last year, but dropped just below that this year.
UCT came in 126th position, down from 113th last year, but remained the only African university in the top 200. The University of Stellenbosch slipped from the band between 251st and 275th, to between 301st and 350th position, while the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) held firm in the grouping between 226th and 250th.
Information from 715 universities, covering areas such as teaching and research, was collected and analysed by Thomson Reuters, and the results were published by British magazine Times Higher Education.
The California Institute of Technology was in first place, with Harvard University and the University of Oxford sharing second prize. While tertiary institutions in China, Singapore and Japan improved their standings, the top universities in Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium all lost their footing. Brazil, Russia and India are not in the top 200.
Phil Baty, the editor of the Times Higher rankings, said that the dip did not reflect a severe decline in UKZN’s performance.
“South Africa is struggling to retain its global status as other nations, notably in east Asia, invest heavily in their academies,” Baty said.
“This is a concern for the whole continent. Africa needs globally competitive universities to help drive economic and political growth.”
UKZN vice-chancellor Professor William Makgoba was pleased to still have secured a place in the rankings, just outside the top 400, and said that UKZN (ranked in the top three percent of research universities) consistently placed well across the major ranking systems.
UCT said its ranking remained a measure of consistently high international standing and reputation, and of research and academic excellence, but that South Africa simply did not invest as much in higher education and research as other countries, “and these countries are moving ahead”, said communications head Gerda Kruger.
Mohamed Shaikh, a communications director at Stellenbosch University (SU), said it was well documented that the rankings favoured universities in affluent, English-speaking countries.
“More reliable measures would be to consider hard evidence such as student success rates and research output. In this regard, SU has consistently stood its ground over the last few years, with a success rate of 84 percent (one of the top three in South Africa) and the highest research output per staff member of all the South African universities,” Shaikh said.