South Africa’s best universities as ranked by you

A new university ranking site, U-Multirank, aims to break down the “over-simplified” league table approach to listing universities.

The group aims to compare “like with like”, and pairs institutions with similar activity profiles across five main categories and 16 indicators.

The U-Multirank system is designed to cater for a user-driven approach to ranking. That is, the group does not rank universities based on a weighted score, but instead requires users to define the terms in which universities are matched.

“There is no theoretical or empirical justification for such composite scores,” the group said.

“Empirical studies have shown that the weighting schemes of existing global rankings are not robust: small changes in the weights assigned to the underlying measures (the indicator scores) will considerably change the composite scores and hence the league table positions of individual universities.”

Therefore, the U-Multirank methodology looks at the scores of universities on individual indicators and places these in five performance groups.

The group’s ranking works on a symbol system from A to E, where A is “very good” and E is “weak”.

Here is a breakdown of South Africa’s best university, per indicator.

The University of Cape Town – considered the best university in the country – ranks top in 6 of the 16 groups.

Teaching and learning

Indicator Top-ranked University
Bachelor Graduation rate University of KwaZulu Natal
Masters Graduation rate Stellenbosch University
Graduating on time (bachelors) Wits University
Graduating on time (masters) University of the Free State


Indicator Top-ranked University
Citation rate University of Cape Town
Research publications University of Cape Town
External research income Durban University of Technology

Knowledge transfer

Indicator Top-ranked University
Co-publications with industrial partners Wits University
Income from private sources Durban University of Technology
Patents awarded University of Cape Town
Publications cited in patents University of Cape Town

International Orientations

Indicator Top-ranked University
Student mobility University of Cape Town
International joint publications University of Cape Town

Regional engagement

Indicator Top-ranked University
Bachelor graduates working in the region N/A
Regional joint publications Durban University of Technology
Income from regional sources Durban University of Technology

General picture

Taking all symbols into account, and assigning numbers (A = 1, B = 2, and so on), it is possible to determine a general, non-weighted overview of South Africa’s universities.

In some cases data is not available or not applicable for certain indicators, thus the averages below are based on the symbols for indicators where information was available.

# University Average Symbol Non-weighted score
1 University of Cape Town B 2.00
2 Wits University C 2.75
3 Stellenbosch University C 3.07
4 University of KwaZulu Natal C 3.25
5 Durban University of Technology C 3.33
6 University of Pretoria C 3.43
7 North West University D 3.50
8 University of Free State D 3.80

Across 8 indicators, the University of Cape Town maintains a B average, making it the top rated university in the country. Durban University of Technology, with 15 datapoints featured across the most indicators, is ranked 5th, with a C average.

Wits University ranked second, followed by Stellenbosch University and the University of KwaZulu Natal – which along with the University of Pretoria (6th) all shared a C average with Durban Tech.

North West University and the University of the Free State rounded off South African insitutes in the ranking, with a D average.

UCT was also ranked as the top University in Africa out of all 23 listed institutions, using this method.

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South Africa’s best universities as ranked by you