South Africa’s best universities to study at if you want a job

As the world recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of graduating with the skills and qualities required by modern employers has arguably never been greater, says higher education analytics group, QS Quacquarelli Symonds.

It said that given the fierce competition for graduate roles globally, students should be seriously considering how their university can prepare them adequately for full-time employment, by connecting them with global employers and ensuring they develop the necessary skills and knowledge.

The employer reputation metric is based on in excess of 50,000 responses to the QS Employer Survey, which asked employers to identify the institutions from which they source the most competent, innovative and effective graduates.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) received a perfect score of 100 and retained the top spot. MIT was followed by Stanford University in second, also maintaining its position from the previous ranking in 2020, and which received perfect scores in ‘Employer reputation’ and ‘Alumni outcomes’.  

The QS Graduate Employability Rankings offer a more granular comparative examination of the work universities are doing to cultivate propitious pathways into high-quality employment, said QS.

Universities are rated on partnerships with employers (including internships), the number of sectoral leaders among their alumni, the frequency with which employers are present on campus, and a location-adjusted graduate employment rate, it said.

Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles completed an all-American top three, while the University of Sydney is the top non-American institution (4th), joined in the top 10 by the University of Melbourne (8th).

Asia’s leader is China’s Tsinghua University (6th), while only one British university attained a top 10 place – the University of Oxford up to 7th, from 10th.

Canada’s leader is the University of Toronto (21st), while Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey (26th) is Latin America’s leader.

Ben Sowter, director of research, QS, said: “With students becoming increasingly conscious of the competitiveness of the global graduate jobs market, and of the ever-increasing financial costs of their educational investment, it is crucial that independent data of this sort is available to them, to inform evidence-based decisions about their educational futures.

“With Australian institutions performing better at the top than British ones, and with a variety of universities in Latin America and Asia outperforming their overall rank, it is also clear that it is valuable to shine a unique light on outstanding employability performance – one that rewards institutions successfully fulfilling this critical aspect of their mission.”

University Location 2022 ranking
Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States 1
Stanford University United States 2
University of California, Los Angeles United States 3
The University of Sydney Australia 4
Harvard University United States 5
Tsinghua University China (Mainland) 6
University of Oxford United Kingdom 7
The University of Melbourne Australia 8
Cornell University United States 9
The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong SAR 10

South Africa’s best

Graduates of the University of Cape Town (UCT) remain among the world’s most employable, with UCT placing 95th in this year’s rankings, which covered 550 institutions.

UCT performed best in the indicators for alumni outcomes and graduate employment rate.

In alumni outcomes, UCT scored 90.3 out of a possible 100, ranking 37th globally. This, the university said, recognises UCT’s strength in producing distinguished achievers considered to be “wealthy, successful and powerful”. The university placed 58th for the graduate employment rate indicator with a score of 90.2.

The University of the Witwatersrand placed second in SA, squeezing into the top 200 institutions globally.

South African universities

University 2021 ranking 2022 ranking
University of Cape Town 91 95
University of the Witwatersrand 181-190 191-200
University of Pretoria 251-300 251-300
Stellenbosch University 251-300 301-500
University of Johannesburg 301-500 301-500
University of KwaZulu-Natal 301-500 301-500

To produce these annual rankings, QS considers five indicators with different weightings, although it acknowledges that its methodology – as with any other university ranking – cannot encompass the full complexities of graduate employability.

The indicators are:

  • Employer reputation (30%): How well-reputed the institution is among employers. This indicator is based on more than 75,000 responses to the QS Employer Survey, which asks employers to identify the most competent, innovative and effective graduates.
  • Alumni outcomes (25%): Whether the institution is nurturing high-achievers. This indicator looks at the alumni on more than 150 lists of high achievers.
  • Partnerships with employers (25%): How connected the institution is to employers. This indicator captures the number of collaborative publications with global companies and work-placement related partnerships.
  • Employer–student connections (10%): The extent of employer presence on campus. This is a measure of the number of companies that have been present at events on campus and that have promoted themselves on university websites.
  • Graduate employment rate (10%): The proportion of recent graduates who are employed. This indicator considers the proportion of graduates employed within one year of graduation (excluding those who opt to study further).

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South Africa’s best universities to study at if you want a job