South African universities boost reputation among world’s employers

According to global higher education analysts QS, SA is home to the most successful higher education system in Africa. Picture: McElspeth/Pixabay

According to global higher education analysts QS, SA is home to the most successful higher education system in Africa. Picture: McElspeth/Pixabay

Published Jun 10, 2022


The 2023 edition of the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings sees 90% of South African universities increase their renown among global employers, climbing the ranks in this indicator by a whopping average of 69 places. QS’ Employer Reputations indicator is based on the opinion of 99 000 global employers and hiring managers.

Three universities have improved their ranking, while four remained stable, and two showed decline.

Eight of South Africa’s nine universities are held in higher esteem among employers in this year’s rankings. The University of Cape Town is South Africa’s highest-ranked institution overall in 237th. It commands the country’s highest employer renown, climbing 60 positions to 166th in this metric. South Africa’s improvement in this indicator gives the county two top-200 universities for Employer Reputation as the University of Pretoria also breaks into this tier.

A similar yet less profound trend is seen in Academic Reputation. More than half of South Africa’s universities improve in this metric, which is based on the expert opinion of 151 000 academics. The University of Cape Town is also the national leader among academics and South Africa’s only top-200 university in this measure.

The report showed that teaching capacity is a struggle for South Africa in this year’s rankings. Contrastingly to Employer Reputation, eight out of nine universities decline in Faculty per Student Ratio. The University of Johannesburg is the top university in this indicator, indicating small class sizes.

Furthermore, the University of Johannesburg is South Africa’s second-best university, placing 412th in the world. It is also the county’s most international university, taking the national top spot for both International Faculty and Internal Students, indicating that it is an attractive destination for students and researchers from around the world.

The report showed that South Africa dropped in Citations per Faculty, in which six universities fell down the rankings. North-West University (1001-1200) is South Africa’s top university for research. Its primary area of study is Medicine.

And South Africa is also highly international in terms of research. It has produced 50% of its scholarly output between 2016 and 2020 alongside international partners, 30% more than the national average. This level of international collaboration is reflected in QS’ new unweighted performance lens, International Research Network, in which more than half of its universities place in the world’s top-200, including two in the top-100.

“South Africa has every opportunity to assert itself as a bastion of higher education. This is clear from its intense level of international collaboration, which has, no doubt, diffused through to the wider community of academics and employers,” said QS Senior Vice President Ben Sowter.

He said South Africa’s success in Employer Reputation reflects the success its graduates achieve in the workplace, meaning that its universities are excellent at fulfilling that crystallised definition of higher education success – preparing students for the future.

“South Africa invests a considerable amount in education and has achieved moderate success. However, deep divides still exist in educational access and equity, as well as between the country’s top-performing universities and its lower ones – levelling up its universities at all levels and enhancing access to them should surely be South Africa’s next step,” Sowter said.