UCT HAS been included in a list of the world's top 23 universities, according to an article that appeared in the Financial Times (May 11/12) and dramatically headlined: A world elite is beginning to take shape. The candidates were chosen by university vice-chancellors according to a list of 10 criteria.
The top 23 are (in alphabetical order): Australian National University, Cambridge, University of Cape Town (we were dubbed University of the Cape in the survey), Chicago, ETH Zurich, Fudan, Glasgow, Harvard, Kyoto, Melbourne, MIT, Oxford, Peking, Princeton, Singapore, Stanford, Sydney, Tokyo, Tsinghue, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, Witwatersrand and Yale.
The telling 10 benchmarks were seen as:
- an ability to recruit world-class faculty and students
- a through-put of world-class visiting academics
- alumni in positions of power and influence
- well-resourced marketing
- private sector demand for graduates
- leading edge pure research
- research leading to extensive private/public exploitation
- a perception by opinion formers, so-called "movers and shakers" that the university is an "in place"
- faculty who travel and share ideas globally
- a presence across the "waterfront" of all academic disciplines
- a long history of quality.
The FT article's introductory paragraph reads: "Vice-Chancellors have nominated 24 institutions which they believe have an international reputation for excellence, the first step in identifying a "global cluster" of world class universities." The aim of the Top Universities Survey, which is linked to the Financial Times, was to pinpoint those institutions that are seen to be operating in an international market.
The FT article reports that the study "proved controversial", with some vice-chancellors refusing to take part and others saying it "reinforced traditional snobbery". However, the survey did show that there is general agreement on those institutions deemed to have an international reputation. The vice-chancellors were offered a list of 82 universities and added five of their own choices. The final list contained 33 names and, by eliminating those institutions nominated only once, the group was reduced to 23.
The list has a strong American bias; of the top 24 eight are US institutions, followed by six Asian, four European and three Australian universities. The choices for Africa were equally clear cut with UCT and Wits the only ones nominated.
Did the survey deliver anything valuable? "Most of those who took part recognised that the emergence of brand names on a global scale was key to the future success of many universities," the article stated. "Internationally recognised and research-led universities are seen as major players in economic development and often act as the catalyst for inward investment in their regions," said one VC.