What does a world class university look like?

 ·15 Sep 2014
University of Cape Town

New research has revealed the key characteristics of what it takes to be a “world class” globally recognised top 200 university.

Ahead of the publication of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015 report, Times Higher Education magazine said that the quest to create “world-class” universities has become a global obsession, with governments across the globe putting the development of competitive higher education and research systems at the heart of their national economic strategies.

It noted that in Russia, for example, President Vladimir Putin has made it a key policy objective to move five Russian universities into the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings by 2020.

In Japan, President Shinzo Abe has said that there should be 10 Japanese universities in the world top 100 by 2023.

According to the report, the average top 200 university has the following:

  • A total annual income of $751,139 per academic (compared with $606,345 for a top 400 university);
  • A student-to-staff ratio of 11.7:1 (compared with 12.5:1 for a top 400 university);
  • Hires 20% of its staff from abroad (compared with 18% for a top 400 university);
  • Has a total research income of $229,109 per academic (compared with $168,739 for a top 400 university);
  • Publishes 43% of all its research papers with at least one international co-author (compared with 42% at a top 400 university);
  • Has a student body made up of 19% international students (compared with 16% at a top 400 university)

In the 2013 edition of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the University of Cape Town ranked 126th, with only Stellenbosch University, ranked between 301-350, the other SA based tertiary institution to feature.

Phil Baty, editor of The World University Rankings, said: “First, you need serious money. Significant financial resources are essential to pay the salaries required to attract and retain the leading scholars and to build the facilities needed.”

“Second, providing an intimate and intensive teaching environment for students, where they can expect to truly engage with leading academic staff, can really help. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a world-class university must be genuinely international.”

“It must be a magnet for the planet’s most talented staff and students, wherever they happen to come from; it must bring people together from a range of different cultures and backgrounds to tackle shared global challenges; and it must work and think across national borders.”

The new edition of the the Times Higher Education World University Rankings is expected out in October.

BRICS universities

In December, the magazine published the Times Higher Education Brics and Emerging Markets Rankings for 2014, which ranks universities in emerging markets according to 13 performance indicators, including teaching, research volumes and research influence.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) was ranked the top university in South Africa, placing 3rd in the overall rankings.

SA’s University of the Witswatersrand (Wits) ranked 15th on the list, Stellenbosch University was ranked 21st, the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN) and the University of Pretoria (TUKS) rounded off South Africa’s showing in the rankings in 45th and 78th position, respectively.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2014, published recently, revealed UCT as the top SA university, followed by Wits, while in July, Wits was ranked amongst the top 115 universities in the world, in a list compiled by the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), while UCT featured in at 267th, and Stellenbosch, 311.

Top South African universities

# University Province Score
3 University of Cape Town Western Cape 50.5
15 University of the Witwatersrand Gauteng 39.8
21 Stellenbosch University Western Cape 36.2
45 University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Kwa-Zulu Natal 28.0
78 University of Pretoria Gauteng 21.7

More on universities

Top universities in South Africa

Top South African universities in BRICS ranking

Tuition fees for SA universities compared

South Africa university rankings

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter