The recent release of the 2016 QS World University Rankings shows that the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has succeeded in maintaining its global position in the category 601-650 in the context of most of the South African universities assessed by QS falling in rank.
Despite some universities achieving improved scores against certain criteria, it seems that every institution dropped in both Academic Reputation and Employer Reputation scores. These scores account for 50% of the total. The nationwide student fees must fall protest may have contributed to a perception of SA institutions which has negatively influenced the reputation scores.
The top two SA universities (UCT and Wits) fell by twenty places or more, while the Universities of Pretoria and Rhodes fell from category 501-550 to 551-600. Stellenbosch University (SU) was initially ranked at position 302 in 2015 and then corrected to 401-410 with an acknowledgement from QS that they had made an error. In terms of the corrected position, they have improved their rank in 2016.
Numerous changes in the QS methodology over the years have made it impossible to track outcomes consistently. One of these that has had a severe impact on many South Africa universities including UJ, is the exclusion of the research papers and citations that emerge from large international research collaborations.
On course to challenge global elite by 2030
Another report from the higher education strategy consulting firm Fire tail identifies a “Class of 2030”, a new generation of “challenger” universities set to make their influence felt globally in the next 15 years. UJ is among the 364 pioneering institutions identified as potential outliers.
The report was compiled by examining universities ranked between 500th and 1,500th place on the esteemed University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) system, specifically looking at how the institutions consistently improved their rankings between 2010-11 and 2015-16.
Named as one of the “upstream fighters” due to being located in a weak higher education ecosystem, UJ has seen its strategy to increase its global excellence and academic robustness pay off, with the university climbing 507 places from 2010-11 to 2015-16 in the URAP ranking.
The URAP ranking system ranks the top 2,000 higher education institutions globally on academic performance and excellence in research, focusing on research output, citations, impact and international collaboration.
UJ has progressively ascended the URAP ranking since 2010 when it was ranked 1,183rd compared with its current global ranking of 676th, and sixth in South Africa. This is impressive for a young institution only established in 2005 that does not have a medical school. It places UJ ahead of much older, research-intensive universities locally and internationally.
Earlier this year, the university was also noted by QS University Rankings: Brics as one of three South African higher education institutions that have moved up the rankings in 2016. The rankings feature the top 250 universities in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Ranked 63rd, four positions higher than in 2015, UJ has improved its overall score. It has also maintained its ranking at fifth in South Africa. Significantly, an enlarged QS survey database, high levels of competition and an increased pool of Brics universities assessed are the factors that account for most of the top South African universities dropping to lower positions. The ranking is based on eight performance indicators, reflecting global reputation, internationalisation, academic staff levels, and research production and impact.
In terms of individual criteria, UJ received favourable ratings for its proportion of international faculty and for its employer reputation and international students. These two indicators highlight the international standard of UJ’s teaching and learning as well as its outstanding reputation among academics and the employers of its graduates alike.
It also achieved a high ranking for its academic reputation and for the quality of its research as measured by the number of citations per research paper.
The latest URAP and QS rankings confirm UJ’s evolution into a pan-African epicentre of critical intellectual enquiry and scholarship.
Read more about the University of Johannesburg’s #UJBeTheSolution initiative.