UCT graduates a cut above the rest

21 June 2017 | Story by Kate-Lyn Moore. Photo by Michael Hammond.
UCT graduates remain highly sought after. The 2016 graduate exit survey uncovered a consistently high rate of employment for graduates.
UCT graduates remain highly sought after. The 2016 graduate exit survey uncovered a consistently high rate of employment for graduates.

2016 saw the continuation of widespread protest action at South African institutions of higher learning, but these challenges have not tarnished UCT graduates’ reputation for excellence.

UCT graduates remain highly sought after. This is the indisputable result of the graduate exit survey, which was completed with the May 2017 cohort.

Careers Services – based in the Centre for Higher Education Development – asked graduating students what they planned to do after obtaining their degree in May 2017.

Of the 4 350 students who attended the May graduation, 3 051 responded to the survey, constituting a robust response rate of 70.1%.

The numbers paint a clear picture. In it, high levels of employment are complemented by increased postgraduate enrolment.

Sought after

Employment rates for UCT graduates remain consistently high. At an impressive 43%, the latest figure is no exception.

When broken down by faculty, this percentage reveals promising trends. An impressive 57.14% of graduates from the Faculty of Law were employed come May graduation. Students from the Faculty of Commerce fared similarly well, with an employment rate of 49.69%.

The faculties of Humanities and Science, which have higher numbers of students, had a slightly lower employment rate (30.61% and 19.32% respectively) but boast higher rates of students pursuing further study (47.07% and 59.66% respectively).

Of the UCT graduates already employed, 41.44% of them are earning a starting salary of over R20 000 per month. A further 16.05% are in the R15 001 to R20 000 bracket, and 11.81% earn between R12 001 and R15 000 per month.

The private sector is the leading employer of UCT graduates, providing for 62.19% of employed graduates. Next is government, which employs 16.74%.

The majority of graduates are employed in positions that are related to their fields of study, with 67.36% having listed their jobs as directly related to their studies, and 25.39% having listed their jobs as somewhat related to their studies.


Overall, the survey pointed to increased numbers at a postgraduate level.

Of the students graduating with undergraduate degrees, 43.52% were continuing their studies. And 25.26% of students obtaining postgraduate qualifications were also studying further.

This is a promising trend for a research-led university.

“Postgraduates are the engine room of research at UCT and are pivotal to our future success,” explains Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation.

“UCT is committed to creating a research environment that enables young researchers from diverse backgrounds to develop their skills and make a meaningful contribution in whatever discipline they choose.”

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