To Rank or Not to Rank, That is the Question

university rankings

Fuss or no fuss about university rankings? EduOne ambassador Francesca Matthys helps us understand why we should take university rankings more seriously.

Did you know that South Africa’s university system is ranked as the strongest on the continent? We proudly boast five of the highest ranked universities in Africa, two of which include the University of Cape Town as well as the University of Witwatersrand. Both are ranked as the most academically strong on the continent.

So what are university rankings even? Why should we make such a big fuss about it when it comes to selecting the perfect university? Should we even be considering rankings?

Although some of South Africa’s universities are rated amongst the top, we still don’t have our own ranking system, and thus, the rankings in South Africa are derived from international university rankings.

The QS World University Ranking is based on 6 categories, which assess the universities internationalisation, employability, teaching and research. Each category carries its own weight, contributing to the overall ranking of an institution.

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Ranking Categories

Academic Reputation. The most important category, holds 40%, and is a global survey taken by academics all over the world. By expressing which institution they believe is the best in their field, students are able to get a concise and honest opinion from someone who has enough knowledge in the specific field. The survey is a thorough one, as they only use the latest responses, keeping it up to date. The 2015/2016 survey received almost 76 800 responses and was surveyed over five years. Participants are asked to not choose their own university, allowing for an unbiased opinion.

Employer Reputation. This weighed in at 10%. This is just as useful as academic reputation, as it allows prospective students insight into how future employers view various universities. This survey is targeted at employers and their opinion of which universities produce the best graduates. The 2015/2016 study included 44 200 participants and was also a global study.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio. Assesses the number of academic staff members in relation to students. This monitors how many students will be in each class as well as whether or not there will be enough lecturers to provide individual attention to students.

Citations Per Faculty. Like the previous category, counts 20%. For academically oriented people, this may just be the most important point. This documents how many times a paper published by the university, is cited or referenced. The more papers that are cited, the more the university contributes to research. This assessment is done using information from the last five years.

International Student and Faculty Ratio. This only takes up 5% of the ranking, determines how many international staff and students the university interests, giving it international appeal. Without much explanation, it is clear that the university ranking system is based on extremely valuable points, which certainly have a valid impact on the quality of your university experience. But should you really be checking up on the latest rankings before you make your decision? The answer is yes! And here’s why…

Reasons Why You Should Make A Fuss About University Rankings 

  • Rankings offer a concise overview of genuine opinions from real people, who are experts in their various fields. What’s better than hearing the truth from people who know exactly what’s going on in the field you’re interested in?
  • This will in a way allow you to pick which type of teaching environment you would benefit from and appreciate more. A varsity with less students and more lecturers, offering you more individual support? Or an institution that favours research and academics and making a contribution to the research in various fields?
  • Rankings also offer you more insight into which university graduates employers favour more. No, this won’t necessarily guarantee you a job, just something to keep in mind.
  • In general, the rankings system is a very clear way of distinguishing which universities are the top in a specific field, strongest academic institutions and overall best performing.

If you have no clue about which university to attend, having a look at the latest top ranked universities is probably the best way to start. If you already have an idea of where you’d like to attend, there’s no harm in doing the same, just to clarify your choice and make the best informed decision. The university ranking system is a positive way to uphold the quality and performance of an institution, only making it better for future students – for you!

EduConnect 2cents

We say yes! This is something to make a fuss about. Choosing the right university is possibly the most important and most stressful choice to make. Use these rankings to your advantage, it won’t make your choice for you, but will assist you in making the best possible choice.

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