South Africa’s university system vs the world

 ·18 May 2016

The latest data from the QS Higher Education Rankings shows how the strength of tertiary education in South Africa compares to other countries around the world.

According to QS, the strength score used to determine the placements is based on four factors: system strength, access, flagship institution performance, and economic context.

System strength refers to overall national system strength, based on performance in the international rankings. In the 2015 QS university ranking, seven South African universities made the cut, with the highest international ranking position claimed by the University of Cape Town, at 141st.

The University of the Witwatersrand (commonly known as Wits) is ranked 318th in the world, and Stellenbosch University 390th.

Four more South African universities make it into the world’s top 650: the University of Pretoria, University of Kwazulu-Natal, Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg.

Access refers to the number of places available at universities ranked within the global top 500, divided by an indicator of population size.

The ‘flagship’ category assesses the performance of the country’s leading institution within the global rankings – and the economic context assess the impact of national investment in higher education, by comparing each nation’s financial situation to its performance in the international rankings

Overall, South Africa’s university system strength ranked 30th out of 50 countries listed.

The group noted that those who study in South Africa do not receive an overall grade for their bachelor’s degree with a level of honors.

“If you study in South Africa at undergraduate level, it will usually take three years of full-time study to complete a bachelor’s degree, and one or two years to complete a master’s degree,” QS said.

The group also highlighted the rich multi-cultural environment for students as well as “good academic facilities, a range of social activities and clubs, and good support systems for international students.”

This is how South Africa scored in each category:

Category Rank
System Strength 30
Access 39
Flagship Institute 32
Economic Context 16
Overall 30

With over 150 universities in the QS World University Rankings, the United States was ranked as having the strongest university system in the world – ranking top in every category.

“The sheer volume and variety of universities in the US means that you can be pretty confident of finding a suitable institution in your preferred surroundings. And if you don’t get it right the first time, moving between universities in the US is not uncommon,” QS said.

These are the countries with the best university systems in the world:

# Country Score
1 USA 100.0
2 UK 98.5
3 Germany 94.0
4 Australia 92.6
5 Canada 90.2
6 France 89.0
7 Netherlands 84.8
8 China 83.5
9 South Korea 80.1
10 Japan 78.5
11 Spain 75.3
12 Switzerland 74.5
13 Italy 73.4
14 Sweden 73.1
15 Belgium 71.6
30 South Africa 47.1

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