Africa is a rising star in higher education. Dubbed the Continent of the Future, universities are slowly but surely breaking into elite league tables, making a name for themselves through growing numbers of notable alumni graduating from these respected institutions.
Leading the way are South African institutions, making up the majority of top ten universities in Times Higher Education’s Best Universities in Africa 2019. Known to be reputable and well-funded, these universities attract and retain the best and brightest scholars, also publishing a wealth of high-quality work in respected academic journals.
No university reflects the continent’s meteoric rise in higher education better than South Africa’s Stellenbosch University. A hundred years ago, this institution started out with just four faculties (Arts, Science, Education and Agriculture), 503 students and 40 teaching staff.
Today, this is where students receive a truly international education. Ranked in the top five in the Best Universities in Africa 2019 ranking, more than 32,000 students, 3,300 talented full-time staff and 352 postdoctoral fellows make the most of the Stellenbosch experience.
Located in the Western Cape, this is the nation’s leading tertiary institution according to research output, student success and top-rated scientists. It boasts the highest weighted research output per full-time academic staff member of all South African universities, and the second-highest number of scientists in South Africa as rated by the National Research Foundation (NRF). Among the university’s many achievements, Stellenbosch designed Africa’s first microsatellite in 1999.
In the next five years, Stellenbosch will embark on a strategic plan to deliver a transformative student experience; foster networked and collaborative teaching and learning; address the core challenges of society through more research for impact; interact deeper with business, industry and government; become the employer of choice and cultivate a thriving university.
It’s an ambitious plan but one fit for Vision 2040, which aims to make Stellenbosch Africa’s leading research-intensive university, globally recognised as excellent, inclusive and innovative, as well as for advancing knowledge in service of society.
Powering the research feats listed above are the institution’s talented staff. Whether it’s in animal science, forestry or the social sciences, students trained here go on to accept senior management positions early in their careers, playing key roles in meeting some of the world’s greatest challenges.
These are the graduates, local and international, who go on to be the nation’s and the world’s pioneers – after all, their degrees are from the only South African university that offers complete undergraduate programmes in conservation ecology, viticulture and oenology, as well as forestry and wood sciences.
BSc Conservation Ecology alumnus, James Robbins, says: “The unpredictable and unstable future of wildlife and ecosystem services has driven me to educate myself in this field. I want to make a difference, contribute and try to ensure sustainable use and protection of wildlife and ecosystem services…so future generations will benefit…”
It isn’t just academic achievements, unique course offerings and teaching quality that makes Stellenbosch so impressive. International students love it for its vibrant campus community and way of life. In a world that can seem to be growing more inward-looking, Stellenbosch is its truly cosmopolitan antidote, with over 4,000 international students from 100 countries from as far as China, Switzerland, Australia, Gabon, Russia, Colombia, and beyond.
“People have been so kind, nice and welcoming to me,” says Karmijne Vrede, a psychology student from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, currently spending a semester at Stellenbosch.
Travelling halfway across the world is a thrilling experience, but it also comes with a specific suite of needs for international students. To cater to this, the university’s International Office (SU International) is on-hand to help with the logistical, the academic and the social, also serving as the central administrative hub for all international campus activity.
The Welcome and Orientation programme ensures many international students are greeted straight from Cape Town International Airport. As global learners at Stellenbosch, they receive full-access to SU International – the meeting place that allows international (and local) students to connect with people from all over the world.
Things are just as exciting outside of the Stellenbosch campus. Nestled in the lush mountain ranges of the Western Cape, there’s never a dull day at Stellenbosch for the 32,000 who call this vibrant town home. An eclectic mix of restaurants and pubs dot one of South Africa’s most historic towns, as well as quirky theatres and grand music halls. More than 200 picturesque wine farms are just a short drive away, with some even offering a fine dining experience and wildlife safaris. If there’s a place to fulfil every international student’s wanderlust needs, it’s here.
This combination of impressive academics and student life is unrivalled. Student Morgan Cornwall from Canada believes it’s a significant contributing factor to why Stellenbosch students excel:
“I chose to study at Stellenbosch University because from what I saw, the University is very student-interest-based, allowing you to be more than just a student number. It has a multitude of programmes and classes and the campus in Stellenbosch is incredibly beautiful, inside and out. I feel that the learning environment really contributes to students’ overall performance.”