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The University of Fort Hare is one of the coolest university brands in South Africa – this according to the Sunday Times GenNext survey that unveiled the most admired South African brands across 70 categories, including institutions of higher learning last week.

The University of Fort Hare is the only Eastern Cape university that appeared on the list.

Other institutions of higher learning in the brand survey that the University of Fort Hare surpassed in ranking position included UNISA, Northwest University, and Sol Plaatje University. The overall top five coolest brands were (1) Univen, (2) Yale University, (3) Stanford University, (4) Oxford, and (5) and the University of Fort Hare.

Researchers conducted visits to 98 schools to survey tweens (8 – 12 years) and teens (13 – 18 years), and other engagements took place to survey young professionals (25 – 30 years).  The Northern Cape was excluded from visits due to sparse distribution of schools.  With 5 900 young people being surveyed, the Sunday Times GenNext survey had a statistically representative sample of South African youth.  The survey was also audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

“This is a major achievement and highlight for the University this year,” announced Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Sakhela Buhlungu.

“The achievement is the sum of all our collective efforts across the entire institution. A brand involves many touchpoints, experiences and interactions. It is impossible to attribute this achievement to a specific portfolio or directorate.

“I want to congratulate every employee, student and alumnus that have adopted our vision, lived and demonstrated our values, or engaged as ambassadors for our institution. Special thanks also go to my management team and also the Council of the University of Fort Hare,” he said.

Professor Buhlungu said the findings of Sunday Times project intersect with what the University is witnessing in terms of application increases to the University.

“We’ve had a massive jump in undergraduate applications. Applications to UFH increased from 38 000 for the 2022 academic year to 219 000 for this academic year [2023]. This represented an increase a 476% increase on a year-on-on year basis,” he said.

JP Roodt, Director: Marketing and Communications at UFH said:  “The Sunday Times GenNext survey delivers insights into youth brand preference and behaviour and ranks the most beloved brands for South African youth. It is a barometer of what youth find trendy and inspirational.  It is also a holy grail for the assessment a brand’s health and performance.”

Roodt said Institutional Advancement (Marketing and Communications) conducts several studies and frequently present findings to University’s Management Executive Committee (MEC) or Committees of Council.

“Consistently prospective students tell us they select Fort Hare because of the excellent quality of academics, the inspirational leaders and the helm of the organisation, the programme mix that aligns with their future career plans, the good reputation of the institution and also the high levels of brand affinity they have with the University.”

Roodt explained brand affinity as one of the highest attainments of effective brand management, communication and reputation management.

“Brand affinity involves the alignment between the personal value systems of an individual with the University’s vision, mission and values.  This forges strong emotional connections between students.

Roodt dispelled myths and misinformation that the University’s bold and tough stance on rooting out corruption had resulted in unmitigated reputational damage and that management did not handle matters around academic fraud and the SIU investigations with diligence, care and urgency.

“We have empirical data that shows the opposite.  In one of our recent studies, 86,49% of prospective applicants for postgraduate studies indicated they strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that the University has a good reputation.”