“My experience studying at Stellenbosch University in South Africa has been very rewarding. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of an international community of researchers. In light of the environmental challenges in our industry, my research focused on the development of sustainable and economic composite wood products.” – Dr Stephen Amiandamhem, PhD, Stellenbosch University 2016
If you’re keen to get set for study overseas, you can hardly be blamed for feeling more than slightly nervous. Packing your life up in a suitcase and waving heartfelt goodbyes will ultimately always be a really BIG deal, but a brand-new era of cultural enlightenment, learning and adventure is just around the corner…
And while dominant study locations like the UK, US and Australia remain a solid choice, less obvious global destinations pack that unforgettable punch, promising a world-class education, infallible support, and a stunning natural setting that will make you feel alive.
Take, for instance, South Africa.
Often described as the Continent of the Future, Africa is thriving agriculturally and economically. But as an emerging global region, the continent consistently rises in the face of challenge, pledging a rich and exciting study experience for all prospective students.
Stellenbosch University (SU) is the prime example. As an innovative higher education provider that is globally-renowned, SU presents the unique opportunity for students of the Northern Hemisphere to head south and study at one of Africa’s Top 5 universities. The institution’s unparalleled setting in the rural winelands of the western cape makes it ideal for the pursuit of agriculturally-focused studies – and since the nation’s agricultural sector contributed about 12 percent of its total export earnings in FY2016, amounting to a value of US$9.2 billion; students are hard-pushed to find a better place to be.
Standing as a pioneer of agricultural education for 100 years, SU’s Faculty of AgriSciences boasts a long-held tradition of excellence in this lucrative field of study. It’s a Faculty that’s ranked in the global Top 100, cementing its position at the leading-edge of teaching and research.
Nestled upon a World Heritage site, the biodiversity of the campus ensures every day of study is more engaging than the last. Above all else, SU’s cutting-edge Applied Science Faculty embodies the extraordinary chance to study at an elite institution, equipped with prominent academic credentials and a landscape as breath-taking as it is biologically-diverse.
Cashing in on the abundance of biological forms that surround, this Department consciously strives to address the world’s most important issues. From pollution, to climate change, to species extinction and every concern you’ll find in between; the Department strives to manage and conserve the biological diversity of land used and impacted by human activity.
“The world’s ecosystem services, resources and wildlife are under significant strain though indirect and direct anthropogenic utilisation and disturbances,” says James Robbins, former student of SU’s BSc in Conservation Ecology.
“The unpredictable and unstable future of wildlife and ecosystem services has driven me to educate myself in this field,” he explains. “I want to make a difference, contribute and try to ensure sustainable use and protection of wildlife and ecosystem services are maintained, so future generations will benefit from these natural wonders.”
Lecturers here come with disparate range of interests and expertise, breaking through the disciplinary boundaries of topics like best-practice agriculture, biological conservation, ecological restoration, sustainable harvesting and wildlife management. By instilling budding scientists with the Afro-centric knowledge, skill and attribute needed to maintain a sustainable environment, students leave having received exponential intellectual growth and ready to contribute to societal demand.
“Conservation Ecology at Stellenbosch University helped to encapsulate the importance of ecosystem services and these every day services that we often take for granted,” Robbins adds. “Through many fieldtrips into different biomes across South Africa, hands on experience of scientific research and data collection was a major part of the degree.”
The Department of Genetics encompasses an interdisciplinary group of researchers and postgraduate students who focus on exciting and modern research opportunities in plant, animal and human genetics. From a single DNA base pair, to a whole genome of complex organisms, to classical breeding and highly-advanced biotechnological innovations, this Department serves as basis for the creative development of human resources to benefit the individual, the environment, and society as a whole.
“I was attracted to…Stellenbosch University because it is highly-recognized both locally and internationally,” says Zanele Mdodana, a student at the School. “Once I started with my honours, I was impressed by the high-quality of scientific research, the academic support and resources made available to students. The diverse cultural interaction also keeps me going!”
Hosting the only tertiary programme on the African continent where students can pursue these fields, SU’s Department of Viticulture and Oenology is both eminent and unique. The course looks into a spectrum of basic science principles, which can then be applied to the grapevine and winemaking process.
This sought-after knowledge and skillset is then set to a real-world context through service learning in the grape and wine business. But this globally-recognised programme ends on a definite high, enrolling students on a six-month internship placement with a regional wine farm, granting them invaluable real-world experience before they earn their full degree.
“From a practical point of view, as a student you are thoroughly prepared for working either in a commercial cellar or as a Viticulturist once you have graduated,” says Maryke Botha, BSc graduate of 2016.
“Exposure to the wine industry is also prevalent, which is an easy portal to be able to get to know influential people you will be working with in the future.”
South Africa’s export relationship with the northern hemisphere is steadily on the rise, making now a better time than ever to delve into the Food Science sphere. It’s dynamic, it’s innovative, and SU currently stands as South Africa’s leading training institution.
Staff here demonstrate a real passion for teaching, constantly engaging in impactful, relevant research that aims to improve how products are developed, processed, packaged, stored and transported. The Department’s overarching mission is to drive cutting-edge technology, knowledge, and environmentally-friendly products and practices.
“After graduating with my BSc in Food Science I had graduated with a degree that gave me a detailed yet general background in all the fields of food science,” says Shannon Howell of the Food Science BSc. “The future in the food industry is endless simply because food being essential for life. With the ever growing population and the limited agricultural land, food processing is becoming essential part of sustaining life.”
Understanding that sustainable management and utilisation of forests is crucial to the survival of all life on Earth, this Department is committed to upholding human wellbeing, as well as countering the harmful effects of issues such as climate change.
“Completing an undergraduate degree with the department has provided me with general skills in science, management and communication, in addition to preparing me for a career in a subject I am passionate about,” says Roland Wenhold, former student of SU’s Forest and Wood Science BSc.
“This programme has inspired me to continue my education through completing an MSc with the department.”
The Forest and Wood Curriculum centres on four distinct arenas:
- Intensively-managed, high-yielding industrial plantation forest systems;
- Sustainable management in moist Afro-temperate and dry tropical forest types;
- Integration of the entire value chain from forest ecosystems to wood-based products;
- Utilisation of wood, fibre and composites in novel applications.
All these factors – and so many more – ensure students gain exposure to a varied range of scientific disciplines, introducing brand-new ideas and combinations in a quintessentially-African setting.
An institution with a broad and inspiring vision…
“Here we produce reliable and relevant knowledge, develop human potential optimally, and forge meaningful partnerships with the rest of the society,” says Professor Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU.
“Nearly on hundred years after our official inception, SU is once again undertaking an exciting journey into the future. We are well placed to be an important meeting point between Africa and the rest of the world.” the Professor concludes.
“For this we have the visionary leadership and the unselfish dedication of our predecessors to thank. Now we can move forward with passion.”