Where studies and research in agriculture and forestry are concerned, Stellenbosch University (SU) ranks as the most sought after and influential institution in South Africa. It is also ranked among the top 100 institutions worldwide in these fields, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2015.
SU is considered one of the world's elite institutions in 10 of the 36 subjects featured on the list. This authoritative annual ranking serves as a useful guide for prospective international students. It indicates which universities are the most sought after and influential in specific fields of study. Institutions are measured based on their academic reputation, how highly regarded they are by employers, and their research impact.
According to Prof Danie Brink, acting dean for the Faculty of AgriSciences at Stellenbosch University, the results indicate the quality and applicability of the research undertaken in the faculty.
He thanked staff, co-workers, industry partners and postgraduate students for their contributions towards making Stellenbosch University a leader in agricultural research.
"We want to be increasingly involved in agricultural endeavours both in South Africa and Africa as a whole. Through our research and training we wish to contribute to the development of applicable technology, human resources and policy, in order to unlock the available potential in a sustainable manner for the benefit of society," explains Prof Brink.
Most studies and research in agriculture at SU are conducted within the eleven departments of the Faculty of AgriSciences. These include the Departments of Agronomy, Forest and Wood Science, Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Genetics, Soil Science, Horticultural Sciences, Agricultural Economics, Plant Pathology, Animal Sciences, Food Science, and Viticulture and Oenology. The faculty is furthermore also home to the Institute for Wine Biotechnology and the Institute for Plant Biotechnology, as well as four SARChl Chairs – in meat science, wine biotechnology, plant biotechnology and postharvest technology.
The Department of Forest and Wood Science in the Faculty of AgriSciences is the only tertiary institution in South Africa to offer both graduate and postgraduate courses in wood product sciences, forestry and natural resource management. It attracts many postgraduate students from other African countries.
According to Dr Pierre Ackermann, chairperson of Forest and Wood Sciences, the Department's success is due to the fact that activities are focused on the full value chain within forest and wood sciences, and not merely parts thereof.
"The Department is also in the unique position to effectively service forestry and processing industries locally and in the rest of Africa. This is done through capacity development programmes and research conducted by a small but talented team of lecturers and researchers," he says. "Our continued cooperation with European and North American institutions further underlines the Department's credibility."
Seven South African institutions (UCT, Wits, UP, UKZN, Rhodes, SU and UJ) took part in the latest QS ranking. The SU consistently appears in the top five positions nationally. It scored top honours in Agriculture and Forestry; second in Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Mathematics, third in Medicine, Environmental Sciences, Development Studies and Geography and fourth in English Language & Literature as well as Law.
On an overall international level, SU is ranked in the following positions, performing best in Development Studies at #46; followed by Agriculture & Forestry - #51-100; English Language & Literature - #151-200; Geography - #151-200; Law - #151-200; Biological Sciences - #251-300; Medicine - #251-300; Environmental Sciences - #251-300; Chemistry - #301-350; and Mathematics - #301-350.
"Rankings can be problematic in certain respects, but they are the global academic currency of our time. The achievement is however a clear indication that Stellenbosch University is indeed a world-class institution that can compete with the best in the international arena. I would go as far as saying that the SU brand is still undervalued. The achievement is also an endorsement of the academic and research excellence of an institution that has distinguished itself as an active and relevant role player in a global context," SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers said.