SU takes top position on the continent in latest Webometrics ranking

Stellenbosch University (SU) occupies the top position among African universities in the latest Webometric Ranking of World Universities announced recently. The Ranking is based on an evaluation of universities’ web presence.

A screenshot of the rankings. Visit http://webometrics.info/en/Africa for more information.Founded in 2004, the Webometric Ranking of World Universities is published bi-annually by the Cybermetrics lab, a research group of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) located in Madrid.  The Ranking evaluates more than 20 000 universities worldwide using various web indicators.

Based on a composite indicator, the Ranking is determined by factors such as web content (number of web pages and files), web visibility and web impact.  Elements which contribute to the calculation of the indicator are: number of links and number of pages on the site domain; the number of files in online formats such as pdf, doc, docxa and ppt; number of articles, papers and citations in the academic domain; as well as articles published in high impact, international journals.  The underlying premise is that a university’s web presence is a reliable indicator of its performance and prestige.

Important objectives of the Ranking are to promote Web publication and to improve the presence of academic and research institutions on the Web.  Supporting Open Access initiatives and electronic access to scientific publications and other academic material are regarded as crucial strategies towards reaching its objectives.

Commenting on the rankings, Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research and Innovation, says that the University is cementing its reputation as a world-class institution. “Not only has the University since 2011 broken into three global rankings in quick succession – the QS World University Ranking, The Times Higher Education World University Ranking, and the Leiden Ranking, but the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) reported that Stellenbosch achieved the highest weighted research output per fulltime-equivalent academic staff member of all universities in South Africa for the third time in a row.”

He adds that the University is cognisant of the scepticism and doubts surrounding rankings and holds firm to a decision not to model its programmes and academic output to chase after rankings. “We remain steadfast in our endeavour to apply science to transform communities and improve the quality of life of people, even way beyond our national borders as embodied in the University’s HOPE Project.”

According to Ms Ellen Tise, Senior Director of the Library and Information Service, the University’s Open Access initiatives and institutional repository play an instrumental role in the transfer of the scientific and cultural knowledge between the University and society and increases the visibility of the University substantially.

During the past few years, SU has made great progress in terms of open access. The digital research repository SUNScholar, which houses the University’s theses, dissertations and research articles, has grown significantly. It already contains more than 14 000 full text records and approximately 32 000 bibliographic references of research output. The University also publishes 16 Open Access journals on SUNJournals. These initiatives are based on the aspiration of making optimal use of the internet to provide unimpeded access to scientific information.

Ms Ina Smith, manager of SUNScholar, explains: “Research freely available on the internet has increased discoverability which leads to increased citations and ultimately enhances the profile of both the researcher and his or her university.  In other words, with research freely available, scientific advancement and production is enhanced.”

“The University’s achievement in the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities bears evidence of the success achieved by the University’s Open Access initiatives. Indeed these initiatives contribute substantially to the visibility of the University’s research products on the internet and its usage, contributing to the University’s reputation of excellence” says Ms Tise.

Mr Ralph Pina, Director: Information Technology (Development) adds: “Over the last few years the Communications and IT divisions, in concert with other stakeholders, have steadily been improving the governance and enablement of the institutional web presence through providing better web publishing and analytics platforms, standardising on an institutional web content management system, enabling greater editorial participation across the institution, and ensuring improved consistency in web presence. All these initiatives are very much works in progress, but may have started to already pay dividends as well.”

  • More information and the complete ranking are available at: http://www.webometrics.info/en/Ranking_africa
  • In the latest release of “The Ranking Web of World repositories”, SUNScholar was listed in the 96th place out of 1654 international repositories (157th in 2012).