What South Africa’s millionaires studied – and where

Wealth-X has released its report on the universities that have the most ultra-high net worth individuals – defined as having a net worth in excess of $30 million (R430 million).

The report shows that most of the top 20 universities have an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 UNHW alumni. Twelve institutions count the number of such alumni within this range, however only the top five command more than an estimated 3,000.

The one exception is Harvard which is in a league of its own according to the report. Harvard has more than 13,650 estimated UHNW alumni, more than double the figure for Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, in second and third place respectively.

The rest of the top 20 is dominated by US universities, with the exception being two universities in the UK and a university in France.

This reflects the US’s status as the country with the world’s largest UHNW population, the networking effects of its top universities and their attractiveness to students from around the world. Oxford and Cambridge represent the UK, while France’s INSEAD appears in 19th place.

Similar to the most UNHW individuals, the majority of wealthy alumni from these institutions have created their own wealth. At 89%, the UHNW alumni of the Tsinghua University in China show the highest proportion, followed by the alumni of the University of Virginia and University of Chicago, both at 84%.

However, the report shows that the characteristics of UHNW individuals differ by university and region. Harvard’s UHNW alumni are large in number, very wealthy and often self-made.

Cambridge UHNW alumni are substantially international and their wealth tends to be a mixture of inheritance and self-made fortunes, while the alumni of the National University of Singapore tend to be slightly older and have lower levels of average wealth.

South Africa

While no African universities feature on the Wealth-X list, the latest South African wealth report looked at the trends among the country’s wealthiest people.

The report found that the country is currently home to 39,200 High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) – defined as individuals who have net assets of $1 million (R14 million) or more.

The largest portion of the country’s HNWIs acquired their wealth through the financial and professional services (including banks, law firms, accountants, fund managers and wealth managers), closely followed by the property sector.

These HNWIs typically studied law, with finance and accounting degrees also popular.

The University of the Witwatersrand is the most popular university among HNWIs (20%), followed closely by the University of Cape Town (19%), and Stellenbosch University (12%).

Over two-thirds (68%) of these HNWIs have an undergraduate degree, while 27% have a post-graduate qualification, while just 5% have only a matric.

What they studied

Area of study Type of degree Percentage of HNWIs
Law LLB/LLM 28%
Finance and Economics MBA/Bcom/Business Science/CFA 19%
Accounting Chartered Accountant 10%
Medicine Doctorate (or other) 7%
Computers and Science Bachelor of Science 5%
Engineering Bachelor of Engineering 4%
Actuarial Bachelor of Actuarial Science 3%
Other Other 24%

Where they studied

University Percentage of HNWIs
University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) 20%
University of Cape Town (UCT) 19%
Stellenbosch University 12%
University of South Africa (UNISA) 10%
Rhodes University 7%
University of Pretoria 6%
University of Johannesburg (including RAU) 4%
US universities 4%
UK universities 3%
Other 15%

Read: These are the best subjects to study at South Africa’s top universities

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What South Africa’s millionaires studied – and where