19 UP students feature in the Absa Gradstar 2020 Top 100 for academic excellence and leadership

Posted on November 12, 2020

The University of Pretoria (UP) dominated this year’s Absa Gradstar Top 100 with 19 students making it onto the list, the most from any other institution. Vaschel Naidoo, a fourth-year BCom LLB student at UP’s Faculty of Law, made it into the awards’ Top 10 of the Finest.

GradStar is a programme that recognises the Top 100 students across the country, based on leadership qualities and readiness for the workplace. Annually, university careers centres from across the country are contacted to market the GradStar programme to their students, ensuring representation from all disciplines. The Gradstar Awards also connect top students with potential employers. This affords employers an opportunity to develop long-lasting relationships with the top talent in the country.


UP Faculty of Law student Vaschel Naidoo made it into the awards’ Top 10 of the Finest.

This event is the culmination of a stringent selection process that filters through more than 8 000 students to find the Top 100 students who not only excel academically, but also show strong leadership skills. After a rigorous four-phase judging process, students are first selected to be in the Top 500, then the Top 100. Then, through a full-day workshop with companies who are prospective employers represented, the Top 100 are given the opportunity to showcase who they are and to impress the sponsors. Representatives from the companies then narrow down the Top 100 to the Top 10 of the Finest in South Africa.

Naidoo, who completed her BCom degree in 2019 and majored in statistics and economics, will graduate with her LLB degree at the end of 2021. She said, “Being a part of this programme was an experience to not only test my readiness for my future in a corporate law career, but it also provided me with valuable skills and experience through the different assessments, consistent mentorship and exciting workshops. The programme offers the Top 100 students business mentors as well as the possibility of job opportunities with some of the best employer’s in South Africa.”                                

She said her GradStar journey is one that “is unique and incredibly rich with knowledge and opportunity. The road to becoming one of the Top 10 of the Finest was filled with tenacity, motivation and the chance to meet some of the most incredible leaders and get to know about inspiring firms across many different professional sectors.”

GradStar recognises the Top 100 students across the country, based on leadership qualities and readiness for the workplace.

Elma Akob, a BCom honours student who featured in the Top 100, said, “Just when I thought COVID-19 had stolen absolutely everything from us, Gradstar 2020 showed me the importance of resilience and being able to display antifragility in an ever-changing world. What a phenomenal experience it was to interact with some incredible young people who have ignited a fire in me to seek excellence as a lifestyle.” 

She said she is “proud to say our future is in good hands”. “I am so looking forward to the incredible future stories that come from the 2020 Gradstars. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and I would encourage every single student out there to take that step and apply for Gradstar. As Oprah [Winfrey] says, ‘The key to realising a dream is to focus not on success but significance, and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on a greater meaning.’”

UP students in the Top 100





Nicole Philips


BSc Actuarial and Financial Mathematics



Melissa Papiyana

BCom Economic Management Science


Ashlee Luckhun

BCom Law


Elré Sauerman

BSc Genetics double major in biochemistry


Priyanka Dhanraj

MSc in Medical Immunology (MBChB)


Tusani Tembe

Medical student (MBChB)


Anél de Villiers

Consumer Science: Clothing Retail Management


Gopika Ramkilawon

MSc Advanced Data Analytics


Serena Joubert

BSc Biochemistry student.


Elma Akob

BCom Law (graduate) BComHons Communication Management


Laetitia Makombe



Vaschel Naidoo 

BCom Law (graduate) LLB


Elekanyani Siphuma

Industrial and systems engineering


Emely Moleko



Fundile Nene

BCom law (graduate) LLB


Mpilwenhle Magwaza



Palesa Tsotetsi

BCom Informatics: Information Systems


Sigcino Kubeka

Diplomatic Studies


Lethabo Kgwadi

BCom Informatics

- Author Primarashni Gower

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