Wits has just topped a second major global university ranking in SA

The Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University has released its 2016 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), presenting the world’s top 500 universities – including four South African institutions.

For the 14th year in a row, Harvard University in the USA was ranked as the world’s top university, claiming the top spot in many of the fields covered in the ranking.

In South Africa, there were two big changes in the 2016 ranking – Wits’ average score pushed past UCT, making it the top-ranked university in the country, followed by the former number one.

The second development comes as Stellenbosch’s score pushed it ahead of former number three, the University of KwaZulu Natal.

This makes Wits the top of its second major global university ranking, having been ranked as the top university in South Africa for the third year in a row in the 2016 Center for World University Rankings (CWUR).

The CWUR list is determined by looking at how many university alumni and faculty members have won international awards, and who currently hold top executive jobs.

Wits again ranked highest on the list for South Africa, at 176th with a score of 48.11. This is down from its position in 2015 (149th), though a far reach from its highest point in 2014 (114th).

Here’s how South Africa’s universities fared in the ARWU ranking:

South African universities

# University 2015 Score 2016 Score
1 University of the Witwatersrand 15.34 17.42
2 University of Cape Town 16.52 16.53
3 Stellenbosch University 10.11 11.25
4 University of KwaZulu Natal 10.87 10.10

The Shanghai rankings work by assigning the highest scoring institution (Harvard) a score of 100, and other institutions are calculated as a percentage of the top score.

An institution’s rank reflects the number of institutions that sit above it.

As with all university rankings, the Shanghai ranking weighs category scores differently, though relatively more evenly than other rankings.

  • 10% – Alumni – Alumni of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals;
  • 20% – Awards – Staff of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals;
  • 20% – HiCi – Highly cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories;
  • 20% – N&S – Papers published in Nature and Science;
  • 20% – PUB – Papers in Science Citation and Social Science Citation Indices;
  • 10% – PCP – Per capita academic performance of an institution.

The ARWU does not officially rank universities outside of the top 200, but provides given scores across all categories, which can be calculated into a total.

Overall, UCT, Wits and Stellenbosch University improved on their general scores, with all listed SA universities seeing improvements in academic performance.

Here’s how the universities performed across all categories:

University category scores

Indicator Weight UCT Wits UKZN Stellies
Alumni 10% 18.5 18.5 0.0 0.0
Awards 20% 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
HiCi 20% 10.3 14.5 0.0 10.3
N&S 20% 12.6 15.7 8.3 5.4
PUB 20% 38.1 35.2 32.8 31.2
PCP 10% 21.4 21.3 16.7 16.4
Total 100% 16.53 17.42 10.10 11.25

Total scores are the weighted total expressed as a percentage of the top-ranked university (=100).

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Wits has just topped a second major global university ranking in SA