QS Rankings: SU agriculture and forestry experts the most influential in SA. Photo Credit: Stellenbosch University

QS Rankings: SU agriculture and forestry experts the most influential in SA. Photo Credit: Stellenbosch University

Written by: Engela Duvenhage from Stellenbosch University

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.

Extra information:

This story has been reproduced from the Stellenbosch University website.


Above: Prof. Fabian Moding Esamai Professor of Child health and paediatrics &     Principal, College of Health Sciences, Moi University

Above: Prof. Fabian Moding Esamai Professor of Child health and paediatrics &
Principal, College of Health Sciences, Moi University

Moi University researcher Prof. Fabian Omoding Esamai has been appointed to lead University Research Chairs (URC) programme in Kenya. Prof Esamai, who is also the Principal of the College of Health Sciences, emerged the best in a competitive selection process conducted by the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI). NACOSTI advertised for the position twice owing to a low number of quality applications received. In the second call for the expression of interest, the academic requirements for qualification was raised to that of a Professor and it is at this stage that Prof. Esamai submitted his proposal, which was one of the four selected for external review and possible funding. After the external review process, his application was declared the winner and was thereafter subjected to further revisions based on the review process.

Moi University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Richard Mibey has assured NACOSTI and the URC programme that he will continue to provide the necessary support to the RC and research in general.

University Research Chairs

URC is the latest research model that Kenya has adopted through the initiative of NACOSTI that seeks to promote top-quality research and research uptake, improve post-graduate training and enhance collaboration between universities and other research stakeholders.  The programme, which has already received a grant of $1 million from the Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), will be piloted in the health systems and agricultural biotechnology research fields. RC is a privileged appointment that is an acknowledgement that one is a leader in their research field. “The RC role is a national position and as the chair I will lead research on maternal and child health”, explained Prof. Esamai. He will be working closely with other universities, Ministry of Health, County Governments, policy makers and health care managers in his five year tenure. The RC is keen on sourcing for research grants and mentoring upcoming researchers.

URC and Research Uptake in Kenya

The URC model will challenge researchers to shift from mere generation of knowledge through research to actively participating in converting their research into products and services for socio-economic development.  According to Prof. Esamai, who has more than 70 publications in peer review journals and many other related publications under his name, low research uptake in the country is attributed to the disconnect between researchers and the policy makers. He urged the policy makers to establish close links with researchers to assist them in creating policies that are research and evidence based.

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Ms Sally Chikuta from Zambia

Above: Ms Sally Chikuta from Zambia a PhD student under the Plant Breeding and Biotechnology regional program at Makerere University in Uganda is one of the beneficiaries

Under the Academic Mobility thrust, 17 staff in RUFORUM Member Universities and research institutions from Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe have benefited to study Doctoral programmes in other countries within the ECSA region. RUFORUM has been partnering with Germany Academic Exchange Services (DAAD) since 2011 through the in-region fellowship programme. The partnership aims at supporting doctoral students in order to improve the capacity of universities in providing the human capital and leadership that is adaptable and able to meet the needs of the future and at the same time to add to the research output that addresses local conditions.

One of the beneficiaries, Ms Sally Chikuta is a Zambian national completing PhD Plant Breeding and Biotechnology studies at Makerere University in Uganda commends the funding arrangement. The funding has provided staff with international experience and exposure and allows them to still provide services to their home countries while they pursue their studies. Regionally, RUFORUM has been able to strengthen its PhD programmes to provide internationally competitive doctoral programs within Africa. The Regional PhD (7 and MSc-5) programmes are producing leaders who are committed to champion the transformation of African universities. The targeted Programmes for the DAAD cooperation include; PhD Plant Breeding and Biotechnology (Makerere University, Uganda), PhD Food Science and Nutrition (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya); PhD Agricultural and Rural Innovations (Makerere University); PhD Aquaculture and Fisheries Science (Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi) and PhD Life Sciences (Nelson Mandela Africa Institution of Sciences and Technology, Tanzania).

The RUFORUM’s newly refreshed Strategic Business Plan (2015-2020) places emphasis on a vibrant academic mobility as a tool for regional integration and internationalization of Higher Agricultural Education in Africa.  This is in response to the growing need for provision of quality tertiary education, supply of suitably qualified high education staff in the region and the necessity for learning flexibility, versatility and robust outreach, as encouraged by the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The modalities of the RUFORUM mobility programmes are built on RUFORUM’s own lessons, and those of other initiatives such under DAAD, Carnegie Cooperation of New York, Intra ACP Academic Mobility, and IDRC.


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