6 leading global postgraduate research universities

“If I have an hour to solve a problem and life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper questions to ask.” – Albert Einstein

Behind every groundbreaking discovery, there lies a tight-knit team of highly qualified and exceedingly inquisitive research staff.

Be it in technology, health, anthropology, chemistry, and beyond, research is what feeds the expansion of global knowledge, allowing us to progress as a wiser and more integrated society.

While the most prominent figures of modern culture, like politicians and financial backers, for example, often cite research as the traceable catalyst behind new patents, companies and new jobs, the wider-ranging benefits of deep investigation are too often overlooked.


Image courtesy of the University of Notre Dame


“Researchers… can be useful in many different ways that are not directly linked to commercial value for a specific actor,” said Eugenia Perez Vico, an expert in the field of research and innovation policy, specialising in the unique ways research can be used to socially benefit global communities.

In a comprehensive thesis, Perez Vico identified seven alternative roles in which the researcher could prove valuable: researcher, teacher, advisor, debater, networker, infrastructure developer and entrepreneur. She points out that these roles both complement and enable one another.

“If everyone heads in the same direction working to utilise in the same way, the real benefit may well be lost,” Perez Vico said.

It takes a long time to build a solid knowledge base, and can often take longer for a situation to arise in which this information can be utilised. Think, for example, that a researcher may focus on particular area for a lifetime, but until a specific industry or investigation seeks out this specialist information, no one would ever know.

But once this information eventually comes to light, more and more people become educated in the process, taking this knowledge with them into a diverse range of contexts where it can be put to new and innovative use.


Image courtesy of the University of the Witwatersrand


“The research also becomes useful in an indirect manner when a researcher develops a knowledge base that others can pick up and continue to develop, thus generating a benefit of their own. Students and collaborative partners also share the benefit of the research with others,” Perez Vico said.

“If you only include things where direct benefit in the short-term perspective is apparent, you risk watering down research and ruining the conditions needed for future utilisation. One of the most important tasks of research is to cover future needs that we don’t know much about yet.”

If you aspire to investigate; to forge brand-new conclusions to help people better understand the complex world that surrounds them, here are six leading postgraduate research universities that will set you on that path:

As one of the leading higher education institutions on the continent, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, is a research-intensive university that transforms lives and societies with the far-reaching impact of its research.

The University’s exceptional academics pioneer brand-new knowledge, elaborate on novel discoveries, promote human rights and social justice, and allow us to think critically in order to find alternative solutions to the challenges of tomorrow.

The University also has the highest number of elite, government-funded Centres of Excellence in the country, hosting 14 research institutes, 19 research units, 10 Centres of Excellence and four specialised research groups. Wits’ academic community has also brought home four out of 14 Harry Oppenheimer Fellowships, arguably the most prestigious annual research competition in South Africa.

Wits’ postgraduate cohort encompasses 34 percent of the University’s total student enrolment, all of whom allow the institution to lead social change and respond to the diverse needs of the economy, and society as a whole. In 2015, the University of the Witwatersrand was ranked in the top 275 global universities by the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) ranking system, highlighting the international prominence of this outstanding university.

Wits has recently also been ranked the number one in Africa on the CWUR.

King’s College London is a world top-20 institution, ranked 19th in the most recent QS World University Rankings. King’s is internationally renowned for the high quality of its provisions, as well as for the global impact of its research and talented network of alumni.

As a research-led institution with a resounding reputation for driving cutting-edge research, King’s College collaborates on an international scale across virtually every discipline.

With its experts advancing science, informing policy, shaping industry and engaging communities, King’s College London is responding to global challenges and truly making a difference.


Image courtesy of King’s College London


The Vrije University of Brussels (VUB) is the offshoot of the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles, and represents a dynamic and modern university with two parkland campuses in the Brussels Capital Region.

High quality education and research are central to the institution, with its research teams receiving international recognition in many disciplines of fundamental and applied research. The VUB may not be the biggest university, but its research departments punch well above their weight in the global higher education world.

Not only are they efficient, they offer time, space and reflect multidisciplinary pools of excellence.

The University of Exeter is one of the prestigious Russell Group institutions, and is well known as a provider of high-quality education and research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 98 percent of Exeter’s research was deemed of international quality.

As a result of this, the school was awarded an additional £3.8 million for research – the third highest gain amongst English universities. As a member of the Russell Group, research from Exeter University makes a difference around the world.

Staff at the university believe the future of research lies in breaking traditional barriers, and progress comes when we examine the problems of the 21st century from a variety of perspectives.


Image courtesy of the University of Exeter


Texas A&M opened its doors in 1876 as the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Today, it stands as a research-intensive flagship university dedicated to sending graduates out into the world fully-prepared to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

Texas A&M is currently one of the largest research universities in the United States. Its faculty researchers generate more than $866 million in research expenditures, all while enhancing undergraduate and graduate education by providing hands-on research.

Texas A&M is one of only 17 institutions in the nation to hold the triple designation as a land grant, sea grant, and space grant university.

The University of Notre Dame is one of the few universities to regularly rank in the top 25 in the U.S. News & World Report survey of America’s best colleges and the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings of the best overall athletics programs.

Researchers at the university are committed to advancing human understanding through research, scholarship, and creative endeavor in order to be a repository for knowledge and a powerful means for doing good in the world.

Notre Dame’s research supports and encourages innovation in more than 20 core facilities and resources, as well as in a number of key areas of research, including cancer, environmental change, global health, and more.

Feature image courtesy of the University of the Witwatersrand

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