International Alumni Survey

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Rhodes University – International Survey


Rhodes University conducted a comprehensive online survey of alumni in May, 2013 with the help of GlobalFluency, an international marketing firm, and The SABLE Accelerator, a global network of South African expats advancing commercial innovation in South Africa. There were 957 participants from 22 countries. Some 40 percent of respondents (387) currently reside abroad. Countries where Old Rhodian survey respondents are living included South Africa, USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong/China, Bermuda, India, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The author of the survey was Donovan Neale-May, a member of the Rhodes University Board of Governors and chairman of the Rhodes University Trust USA (


Initial Observations:


  • Rhodes University alumni (957) responding to the May, 2013 survey are widely distributed across 20-plus countries; 40 percent of those responding to the survey live abroad
  • They span all age groups and remain connected to the university no matter how old
  • Alumni are not as wealthy as you would think; only 18 percent earn more than $200K annually
  • Most alumni are married (58 percent) and have very diverse career and recreational interests
  • Many believe Rhodes should provide better “early career” assistance, including: 1) professional mentoring 2) business internships 3) job placement services 4) career counseling
  • Longstanding friendships are the primary way alumni stay in touch with one another and the university
  • Digital media channels (social media, web sites, mobile devices) are key to Old Rhodian engagement with more than half of alumni favoring these sources
  • Only a small percentage of Old Rhodians rely on the alumni web site (49 percent have never visited the site) but those who do have clear opinions on how it can be improved
  • Old Rhodians have a strong attachment, affinity and emotional link to the university; 74 percent find their time at Rhodes extremely memorable and valuable
  • What made Rhodes a formative and valuable life stage experience was that it stimulated critical thinking and a questioning mind for 54 percent of respondents
  • Alumni believe a unique campus and community setting, combined with high academic standards and teaching excellence, are what really distinguish Rhodes
  • In contrast to other universities in South Africa, Rhodes is seen as offering a more intimate and challenging educational environment by 68 percent of alumni; 49 percent view Rhodes as equal to or better than comparable colleges and universities in other parts of the world
  • Alumni are most inclined to help Rhodes by sharing experiences, making introductions, mentoring, using their influence on behalf of the university, and contacting other alumni
  • Just 29 percent of Old Rhodians have contributed money to Rhodes in the past, while an additional six percent plan to shortly



  • A better understanding of where contributions would go, in addition to interesting, groundbreaking projects or research from Rhodes, would encourage more to donate 


Key data points from the Rhodes alumni survey:


  • 49 percent of survey respondents have never visited the Rhodes alumni web site
  • 74 percent view their time spent at Rhodes as extremely memorable and valuable
  • 79 percent of alumni believe that the unique campus and community setting distinguishes Rhodes as a place of higher learning; 67 percent point to academic standards and teaching excellence
  • 54 percent of those who attended Rhodes believe that is was a formative life stage experience because it stimulated critical thinking and a questioning mind
  • 33 percent view Rhodes as the best liberal arts university in South Africa and 68 percent say it has a more intimate and challenging educational environment compared to others
  • 49 percent of alumni believe that Rhodes is equal in caliber, or better than, leading private colleges/universities in other parts of the world
  • However, 42 percent believe that Rhodes is not very well known outside of South Africa and still needs to gain prominence internationally
  • 57 percent of alumni frequently refer and recommend Rhodes to others
  • 71 percent of alumni would attend a reunion if it were held close to them
  • Only 20 percent would attend a fundraising event
  • 44 percent of alumni would like to know more about developments at Rhodes
  • 65 percent have not contributed money to Rhodes in the past
  • 47 percent say a better understanding of where contributions go would encourage them to donate
  • 37 percent say that interesting and groundbreaking projects, or research, would encourage donations


How Global Rhodes Alumni View South Africa


  • 90 percent of Old Rhodians living abroad (387 out of the 957 surveyed) are satisfied with their lifestyle or professional position overseas
  • However, 32 percent would consider returning to, or retiring in, South Africa and 28 percent are undecided
  • 72 percent of Old Rhodian expats living in more than 20 countries feel their skills and knowledge would be useful and valuable to South Africa
  • 48 percent say they would be interested in learning more about incentives to relocate back to South Africa
  • 40 percent of Old Rhodians living abroad consider themselves ambassadors and champions of the new South Africa and 33 percent visit South Africa more than once a year
  • The majority of these Global South Africans still identify with their home country – 36 percent say they have strong emotional and cultural attachment and 51 percent retain affinity and connections

Last Modified: Mon, 08 Aug 2016 15:04:40 SAST