October has long held a special place in the hearts of South African university students, despite the fact it marks a ramp-up in workload ahead of final exams. Because October possesses a virtue that is off limits to every other month: Oktoberfest, the best excuse of the year to get drunk on cheap beer. Invented by the Germans (initially in the form of a royal celebration), this beer drinking nation at the southern tip of Africa has taken to Oktoberfest like a duck to water – golden, bubbly water of the intoxicating variety.
Adding to my nostalgia this October was a visit to my Alma Mater at the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Auckland Park campus. There are other reasons I’ve had varsity on my mind, though. The latest global rankings from the authority on such things, QS World University Rankings, show that the University of Cape Town continues to be the pride of SA, although its ranking slipped from 141 to 171 in the world. Two of our other institutions – Stellenbosch University and Wits – made it into the top 400, with a total of nine qualifying for the rankings, which is two more than last year. UJ occupied a spot in the 601 to 650 range.
But, of course, the elephant in the room is the wave of protest from students across the country against fee hikes. Idealistically it would be wonderful if cost were no barrier for our youth to have the opportunity to further themselves. It would also be in the country’s best interests to give them the chance to be the best they can be in their area of expertise. Pragmatically, though, a university education is expensive, and the money has to come from somewhere. If only some bright spark could work out the answer to that problem.
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