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By Asanda Masoka

Mostly, a university’s ranking is an indication of the quality of education that particular university offers. Part of the ranking also has to do with the facilities it has, along with the programs and endless lists of societies that its students can immerse themselves in.

The part no-one likes to admit out loud is the fact that universities are like brands –the higher the ranking, the more people want to be associated with that brand, in this case, that university. Brand association is one of the key elements when it comes to making the decision on which university to apply to. Associating oneself with one of the best universities in the country, and in the province, unleashes a magnitude of benefits that extend far beyond the perimeters of the institutions and into the student’s career opportunities.

Over decades, university ranking is one of the most influential factors encouraging the idea of higher quality education across all aspects and departments of the institution.  Thus, belonging to an institution such as UCT has become this self-conferred status symbol for current students and aspiring students alike. Not so long ago, I was in a conversation with a friend of a friend. Our conversation had taken a detour from the current topic we had been discussing, to the point where I asked about what she was studying. Long story short, she responded by stating she was at UCT. I’m not quite sure whether it was my facial expression or telepathic communication, but she soon realized that wasn’t my question and proceeded to answer my question. This shows how students focus on the status symbol that UCT has become, instead of what they have achieved themselves.

And perhaps aspiring students attribute their application decision to the building of their cultural capital. By doing so, they can use the accumulation of knowledge, behaviors and skills that they built up to demonstrate their cultural competence and, therefore, their social status or position in society. The perception, therefore, is graduating from a high-ranked university will garner far better social rewards and intellectual pleasure, connect you with a network of peers who’ll be able to help you later in your career, and open many more doors for you.

Cultural capital and social rewards aside, it may not be entirely wise for one to solely base their decision of attending a particular university on its ranking. But rather to examine if the particular institution caters to their personal and academic development in such a manner that the environment aids in enhancing their forte.

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