South Africa’s best universities to study these top subjects

 ·16 Nov 2021

Times Higher Education (THE) has published its annual ranking of the top universities for 2022 by subject, featuring 10 South African universities in four key fields of study.

The higher education specialist’s list is a global performance ranking that judges research-intensive universities.

THE bases its subject rankings on the same 13 performance indicators used in its world university rankings which are grouped under five categories: teaching, research, citations (the number of times a publication is referred to), international outlook, and industry income.

However, the methodology is recalibrated to suit the individual fields. Exact positions are only published for the top 100, and thereafter, universities are ranked in broad bands.

The results of the rankings are independently audited by PwC. For subject rankings, university performance is split across various fields of study.

Business and Economics

The business and economics ranking assesses universities by their performance in the following disciplines: business and management, accounting and finance, and economics and econometrics.

The 2022 business and economics table includes 795 universities, up from 729 last year. None of South Africa’s universities cracked the top 200 list, but the highest-ranked institutes – the University of Cape Town, the University of Pretoria, and Wits University – all fall within the top 500.

“While rankings are a very imperfect measure of excellence, we do pay attention to them because they reflect how we are seen and positioned by the rest of the world, and can influence important decisions such as funding and research collaborations,” said deputy vice-chancellor for Research and Internationalisation professor Sue Harrison.

“There has never been a more important time to attract funding and collaborations, as the continent faces a multitude of existential challenges. UCT has a long and proud history of world-leading research in clinical and health fields, and we are pleased that this continues to be recognised.

“More important than the recognition through rankings, however, is the real impact of this research and teaching in our communities and across the continent: good health is critical to achieving other measures of well-being, such as financial stability, and the pandemic has brought this into stark focus.”

The following 10 South African universities made the overall list:

University Rank
University of Cape Town 251-300
University of Pretoria 401-500
University of the Witwatersrand 401-500
University of Johannesburg 501-600
North-West University 501-600
Durban University of Technology 601+
University of KwaZulu Natal 601+
University of South Africa 601+
Stellenbosch University 601+
Tshwane University of Technology 601+


When it comes to law, the ranking included 257 universities, up from 224 last year. Nine South African universities made it into the list, led by the University of Pretoria, which ranked 60th overall.

University Rank
University of Pretoria 60
University of Cape Town 126-150
University of Johannesburg 151-175
University of the Witwatersrand 176-200
University of KwaZulu Natal 201+
North-West University 201+
University of South Africa 201+
Stellenbosch University 201+
University of the Western Cape 201+


The engineering table includes 1,188 universities, up from 1,098 last year. Nine South African universities made the cut, but none were ranked within the top 200.

The highest-ranked local institute is the Tshwane University of Technology, in the 301-400 range. Only three others – the University of Johannesburg, North-West University and Stellenbosch University – made it into the top 500.

University Rank
Tshwane University of Technology 301-400
University of Johannesburg 401-500
North-West University 401-500
Stellenbosch University 401-500
University of Cape Town 601-800
University of KwaZulu Natal 601-800
University of Pretoria 601-800
University of the Witwatersrand 601-800
Durban University of Technology 801-1000

Computer science

This year’s table includes 891 universities, up from 827 last year. Only one South African university made the top 500 in this subject: Stellenbosch University. Eight South African universities were ranked overall.

University Rank
Stellenbosch University 401-500
University of Cape Town 501-600
University of Pretoria 501-600
University of Johannesburg 601-800
University of KwaZulu Natal 601-800
University of the Witwatersrand 601-800
University of South Africa 801+
Tshwane University of Technology 801+

Global ranking

The Times Higher Education global 2022 ranking was published in September.

The University of Cape Town again topped the local rankings as the best university in the country by THE’s methodology, though it dropped 28 places from the 2021 ranking, and represents a continued slide down the rankings over the last few years.

Wits University has also declined, falling out of the 201-250 bracket and into the 251-300 bracket, with Stellenbosh University. In 2020, Wits was still ranked among the global top 200, so this represents another continued slide.

The only university to move up the rankings into a higher bracket is the University of South Africa (Unisa), which managed to climb from the 1001+ bracket to the 801-1000 bracket. All other local universities remained within their respective brackets.

University 2021 ranking 2022 ranking
University of Cape Town 155 183
University of the Witwatersrand 201-250 251-300
Stellenbosch University 251-300 251-300
University of KwaZulu-Natal 351-400 351-400
Durban University of Technology 401-500 401-500
North-West University 501-600 501-600
University of Johannesburg 601-800 601-800
University of Pretoria 601-800 601-800
University of the Western Cape 601-800 601-800
University of South Africa 1001+ 801-1000
Tshwane University of Technology 1001+ 1001-1200

Read: 11 universities in South Africa ranked among the best in emerging economies

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter