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South Africa’s top 5 ranked universities

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These are the country’s best universities according to Times Higher Education.

Each year universities contest to be ranked highest across as many comparable fields as possible. Factors that can affect a University’s ranking are research output, staff and student diversity, student facilities and employability rates.

South Africa has twenty-six government institutions of higher learning. Each of the country’s nine provinces is home to at least one university.

There is no South African ranking system for universities yet. As a result, South African universities are ranked globally. Our universities fair well, being the strongest university system within Africa. Five of the top six universities in Africa are South African. The two universities most often ranked as the strongest academically in Africa are the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand.

Times Higher Education 2018 rankings

Times Higher Education is a global ranking system. According to this system these are the top five ranked South African universities for 2018:

  1. University of Cape Town – world ranking 171
  2. University of the Witwatersrand – world ranking 251-300
  3. Stellenbosch University – world ranking 351–400
  4. University of KwaZulu-Natal – world ranking 401-500
  5. University of Johannesburg – world ranking 601 – 800

Most other global ranking systems, including the QS World University Ranking Systems are congruent with this outcome. The University of Cape Town is ranked nineteenth within the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) rating system according to the QS scale. The University of the Witwatersrand comes in at number thirty-six.

Times Higher Education rates these two universities much higher up on the list compared to other BRICS universities. UCT ranks fourth, while WITS is eighth.

Subject rankings

One of the assessment criteria for universities competitive standards, is the ranking of its subject offerings.

Both UCT and WITS are noted as being universities with a high research output. However, they have faired differently according to the subjects they offer.

UCT is most highly ranked for its Development Studies programmes coming in eleventh world ranking.

WITS is most recognised for its Mineral and Mining Engineering courses. The university ranks at fifteenth for this subject.


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