How does higher education of international quality contribute to shaping the leaders in South Africa?

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Apartheid ended twenty-three years ago in South Africa, as a nation of 55.6 million is placed alongside Nigeria representing two of largest economies within the African Continent.

South Africa is broadly positioned as a ‘middle-income driven emerging market, holding large reserves of natural resources, supported with well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy and transportation segment, while its stock exchange is ranked amongst the top 20 in the world. It is home to 11 official languages.

The South African Qualifications Authority [SAQA] Act was enacted as a statutory body to oversee a National Qualifications Framework, with SAQA commencing its operations in 1995. However, by 2001, the erstwhile SAQA law was replaced by the National Qualifications Framework Act [No.67 of 2008], while SAQA continued to serve as a reference point for Universities in South Africa along with the revised NQF regulations when structuring academic curriculum.

Now, lets understand how the Academic Ranking of Global Universities carried out by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy places the top five tertiary institutions within South Africa among the top 500 globally.The University of Cape Town currently leads the way being placed within the (101-200) range band and is ranked first, followed closely by the University of Witwatersrand(201-300) as the second best, while Stellenbosch, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Johannesburg and University of Pretoria (301-500) are currently featured within this range rank to hold the third, fourth  fifth & sixth place respectively..

Technically speaking, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, is regarded as one of the most trusted international ranking models, which involves external assessment standards, while objectively measuring university performance based on ‘research and impact’.

Top Universities in South Africa:

SA # Global # University
1 113 University of Cape Town
2 216 University of Witwatersrand
3 336= University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
4 359= Stellenbosch University
5 453= University of Pretoria
6 457= University of Johannesburg
7 731= University of the Western Cape
8 781= North-West University
9 925= Rhodes University
10 1019= University of the Free State
11 1034= University of South Africa


A 2017 World Education Services Survey tracked the ‘destinations’ and ‘Outbound Mobility’ among South Africans, representing currently a mere 0.1% or 7395 students of the country’s eligible tertiary age population.

While the nation’s chosen below were classified for their educational standards academic credibility, the cultural/ traditional outlooks as‘English-Speaking’ Nations,proved a major attraction towards acquiring US Degrees ( a popular choice accounting for nearly 57% of South African student migration and seeking employment)as it clearly stood out  as a ‘preferred choice’, followed closely by UK and Australian degrees, when considering graduate and under-graduate qualifications naturally connected with compensation structures [ Read :- Pay Scale Data below] along with professional growth..

The trend towards of attaining UK Based MBA Programs from knowledge and business readiness perspective has been well worded by Ms. Zizo MDA, South African National, currently completing her MBA program at the University of Wolverhampton as expressed below:-

One of the best decisions in my life was enrolling for The Westford MBA from the University of  Wolverhampton, UK. This was after completing the Executive Diploma in International Business Management which has enriched me with necessary confidence. Although an intense course aimed at improving our strategic skills in management. The course was challenging yet rewarding on many levels especially in knowledge gathering. It included a variety of subjects like Research Methodology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Business Analytics, Strategic Management & Finance to mention a few which are informative and imperative in the ever- evolving global sphere.

A Bachelor of Arts, meanwhile, is ranked as one of the lower-paying fields, while accounting/finance and engineering degrees fetched a higher salary medians and a rewarding career path when compared to some general technology and business administration domains.

South African Pay Scale Data :[2017-19].

Bachelor’s Degree Less than 1 year of experience 1-4 years of experience 5-9 years of experience 10-19 years of experience 20 years of experience+
Bachelor of Science, Electrical/Mechanical Engineering R239 529 R367 439 R625 334 R942 431 R1 364 393
Bachelor Degree (all) R211 000 R287 271 R427 654 R673 801 R1 146 077
Bachelor of Engineering R259 426 R357 385 R559 773 R840 935 R996 396
Bachelor of Commerce R219 863 R287 055 R479 285 R623 379 R883 622
Bachelor of Accounting R274 754 R360 421 R504 691 R675 429 R883 347
Bachelor of Science R197 478 R281 583 R478 566 R648 141 R863 526
Bachelor of Business Administration R172 172 R230 022 R439 715 R527 197 R817 078
Bachelor of Technology R180 940 R230 094 R369 132 R537 796 R746 665
Bachelor of Arts R160 948 R201 722 R337 260 R547 436 R711 583
Bachelor of Education R144 457 R160 621 R144 457 R253 445 R463 052

Currently no distinctions have been made to classify the degree levels obtained between – Standard Degrees, Honors, Master’s and Doctorate Qualifications which have all been grouped together as per the Pay Scale Data from a Sample Size of 26,000 employee respondents, however, technical and finance led qualifications continues to be a clear winner!!.

Interestingly 38% of South African CEO’s are Chartered Accountants, Law, Econometric s, Arts Graduates., while 33% of CEO’s placed in the country’s top 100 listed companies own a B.Com degree and only 16% carried an MBA qualification..while the composite median of professional experience was relative to the qualifications& eventual compensations running across a 0 to 20- year timeline period.

Here’s a View on South African Industry’s Iconic Business Leaders and their Qualification’s

CEO Company University Qualification
KoosBekker Naspers Stellenbosch, Wits Law, Literature
Nicandro Durante British American Tobacco Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo Degree: Finance, Economics and Business Administration
Alan Clark SABMiller Unisa PhD Psych
Ivan Glasenberg Glencore Wits & Marshall School of Business, US B Acc & MBA
Bob van Dijk Naspers INSEAD, Erasmus University Rotterdam MBA, MSc Econometrics
Johann Rupert Compagnie Financiere Richemont Dropped out of College

 South Africa’s Richest Man

Honorary Doctorate in Economics, University of Stellenbosch,


Honorary Doctorate, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University,


Honorary Degree(Doctor of Laws), University of Scotland

Andrew Mackenzie BHP Billiton University of Bristol PhD in Organic Chemistry
Sizwe Nxasana FirstRand Fort Hare BCom, (BCompt)(Hons), CA(SA)
Jacques Celliers FNB Stellenbosch, UCT B.Eng (Civil), MBA
Ben Kruger Standard Bank UP, Harvard BCom (Hons), CA(SA), AMP
Sim Tshabalala Standard Bank Rhodes, University of Notre Dame, Wits, Harvard BA LLB, LLM, HDip Tax, AMP
Maria Ramos Absa Wits, University of London BCom, CAIB, MSc
Mike Brown Nedbank UKZN, Harvard BCom, AMP
Gerrie Fourie Capitec Stellenbosch BCom (Hons), MBA
Elon Musk Tesla and Space X University of Pennsylvania B.A and B.Sc
Allan Gray Fidelity Fund Management Harvard MBA
Stephen Saad Aspen Pharmacare University of Kwa-Zulu Natal B.Com, PG, Acc, CA
Patrice Mostepe African Rainbow Materials Wits and University of Swaziland B.A. L.L.B
Nikcy Oppenheimer De Beers Consolidated Mines University of Johannesburg,  University of Oxford Degree:  M.A -Philosophy, Politics, Economics, Honrary Doctrate in Technology, University of Johannesburg.


Written by

Dr. Raman Subramanian,

Westford University College

Westford University College provides a lot of international accredited courses for working and non working professionals to boost their career. Some of the top courses listed below

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