What’s in a name? What to look for when choosing a university Stellenbosch Business School Skip to main content
What’s in a name? What to look for when choosing a university
As a prospective university student, your entire future will be affected by your choice of tertiary institution.

As a prospective university student, your entire future will be affected by your choice of tertiary institution. This is why it’s vital you know the difference between a mediocre university and an excellent one.

In this blog, we’ll share 7 important assessment criteria you should keep in mind when deciding on a tertiary institution.


Do you like the look of a particular university? Make sure it offers a certain standard of education by checking its accreditation before you commit. In order for a university to receive accreditation, the institution or its programmes must be evaluated by an external body. This external body judges whether the institution or programme meets or exceeds a specific set of criteria that sets the bar for the quality of education. These evaluations may be performed by government organisations or private groups, depending on the country.

Alumni network

A strong alumni network is not only a valuable source of information about the alumni’s experience at the university – it can also be a useful tool for current students. Alumni are often invited back to give lectures, or to share their information and insights via reports and newsletters.

Graduates who want to kickstart their careers by gaining insight into the working world, or work experience through mentorship and internship programmes, will also find great value in the alumni network.

Lecturer quality

Does the lecturer know how to engage with students and teach them? Or do they stand at the front of the class reading from a textbook? A quality lecturer must not only be an expert in their field, but also a good teacher, preferably with industry-related experience and skills that they can share with their students.


Is the university located in a rural area or a metropolitan environment? If you are attending an agricultural university, you may find that a university located in a rural area has more to offer you than one situated in the middle of a concrete jungle. Similarly, if you want to study finance, picking an institution in a quiet mining town is unlikely to provide you with the environment you need to make connections and gain valuable experience.

Open days

Does the institution offer open days where you can talk to lecturers and other staff about their programmes, or ask them general questions about the university itself? Will you be able to get a tour of the facilities to ensure they are up to standard? Open days should provide a welcoming and transparent environment to prospective students to ensure they are properly informed before they make a decision on which university to attend.


A university’s reputation can be a powerful indicator of the quality of education it provides, but only if that reputation is credible and trustworthy. There are a number of factors that can influence the credibility of a university’s reputation, including:

  • How long a university has been operating – A more established university is likely to have a better reputation than a new one, which has yet to have time to build the same level of credibility.
  • Where it is located – A university located in a thriving city is likely to have a better reputation than a university in a rural town. One could argue that a university gains a certain amount of prestige by being located in a specific city or town, although in some cases it is the university’s reputation that helps the city or town around it.
  • The quality of the graduates it produces – Does a university repeatedly produce graduates that go on to be highly successful? The university is likely looking for the best students it can find, but thanks to a higher quality education, these students are able to thrive and continue their successes.
  • The academics that work at the university – On an academic level, a significant amount of a university’s reputation is influenced by the research work that they produce. While this is undoubtedly important, a critical factor for students is the quality of the staff that will be directly involved in teaching them.


University ranking systems differ, and prospective students must be aware of the criteria that influence a universities position. For example, one ranking system may be focused on the research output of the university, which will result in a lower ranking for institutions which are more focused on learning.

With this in mind, you should review multiple rankings to see how the institution you’re interested in compares across a variety of criteria.

Picking a top university in South Africa

The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) is a triple-accredited African business school that’s focused on responsible leadership development. Our business school first opened its doors to students in 1964. Starting with 14 MBA students, we’ve since delivered a world-class education to over 28 000 students across the globe. If you’re interested in finding out more about what our courses have to offer – from development finance courses to financial planning courses, be sure to check out our programme finder. If you have any other queries, you can also contact us – our staff are ready to assist.

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