According to the World Economic Forum, South Africa has the worst maths and science skills in the world – but that hasn’t stopped individuals from excelling in the field, nor South African institutions from shining through.
The CWTS Leiden Ranking for 2016 shows which institutions had the best scientific performance out of over 800 major universities worldwide – with five South African universities making the cut.
The ranking is based exclusively on bibliographic data from the Web of Science database produced by Thomson Reuters, across a number of science indices, including maths, science, social science and arts and humanities.
The overall ranking works by not only looking at the amount of published work, but also how often a university’s work is cited in relation to other published work on the same or similar subject.
Leiden enriches the data through its own citation matching processes and assigning research to universities in the most consistent and accurate way possible.
“Universities may be referred to using many different name variants, and the definition and delimitation of universities is not obvious at all,” it said.
Notably, the ranking does not take into account conference proceedings publications and book publications.
Overall, four of the five ranked SA institutes are within the top 500, with the University of Pretoria narrowly missing out, at 512th.
As with all (except one) university rankings in the country, the University of Cape Town is once again ranked as the best university in South Africa, ranked 378th overall.
|378||University of Cape Town||2681|
|447||University of KwaZulu Natal||2293|
|472||University of the Witwatersrand||2184|
|512||University of Pretoria||1947|
However, when looking at the different fields of science, it becomes clear that each of the top science universities in the country have their own forte.
UCT excels at the biomedical and social sciences, but the University of KwaZulu Natal (2nd in SA and 447th overall) ranks top for physical science and engineering.
In terms of mathematics and computers, the University of Pretoria is ranked as the best university in the country.
The following tables show the best universities based on the field of science, as well as the top and bottom score range on the global scale.
|1||University of Cape Town||1160|
|2||University of the Witwatersrand||840|
|4||University of KwaZulu Natal||601|
|5||University of Pretoria||497|
Life and earth sciences
|2||University of Pretoria||689|
|3||University of KwaZulu Natal||684|
|4||University of Cape Town||598|
|5||University of the Witwatersrand||362|
Mathematics and computer sciences
|1||University of Pretoria||200|
|2||University of the Witwatersrand||150|
|4||University of KwaZulu Natal||125|
|5||University of Cape Town||100|
Physical science and engineering
|1||University of KwaZulu Natal||710|
|2||University of the Witwatersrand||565|
|3||University of Cape Town||464|
|5||University of Pretoria||337|
Social Sciences and humanities
|1||University of Cape Town||358|
|2||University of the Witwatersrand||268|
|3||University of Pretoria||224|
|4||University of KwaZulu Natal||173|