South Africa’s best universities to study maths, science and technology

The University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) was recently published, ranking 16 of South Africa’s universities among among 2,500 higher education institutes (HEI) across the world.

As with most assessments of South Africa’s local universities, the University of Cape Town (UCT) was again ranked as the best university in the country, followed by the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

In the overall ranking, however, most local institutions slipped down the global list in 2017, with UCT losing three spots from 2016, and Wits down four places. The UKZN remained stable, but Stellenbosch University dropped 13 places.

The overall score of each HEI is based on its performance over several indicators, including current scientific productivity, research impact, research quality and international acceptance.

Data is gathered from Web of Science and other sources which provide lists of HEIs, the group said.

You can view the full ranking in our previous coverage.

As part of its annual assessment, URAP also ranks universities by fields of study, including many technical and scientific qualifications.

Surprisingly, while UCT is the best-ranked university in the country, it does not place at the top of the local list in mathematics, science, engineering or technology and related fields.

Among the 16 ranked universities in South Africa, only 10 managed to be ranked among the top universities in these fields.

The University of Pretoria managed to place top in the country in three of the seven ‘technical’ fields covered below (mechanical engineering, information and computing sciences and economic), while UKZN scored the next highest, placing first twice (physical sciences and engineering).

Stellenbosch University was the only South African university ranked in the technology field, and Wits ranked first for mathematics.

The tables below show which South African universities come out at the top across these fields.

Physical Sciences

#/1000 University Score
204 University of KwaZulu Natal 54.14
346 University of Cape Town 51.46
485 University of the Western Cape 46.26
602 University of the Witwatersrand 36.18
723 North-West University 22.96
774 University of Johannesburg 19.93
786 Stellenbosch University 18.84
822 Rhodes University 16.17
905 University of Pretoria 10.11
923 University of the Free State 9.15


#/1000 University Score
437 University of KwaZulu Natal 49.56
582 University of Pretoria 38.65
591 Stellenbosch University 37.11
697 University of the Witwatersrand 30.18
725 University of Cape Town 28.02
887 University of Johannesburg 17.05


#/750 University Score
330 University of the Witwatersrand 49.71
381 University of Cape Town 45.53
499 University of KwaZulu Natal 32.63
609 Stellenbosch University 20.94
662 University of Pretoria 15.53

Information and Computing Sciences

#/750 University Score
539 University of Pretoria 28.88
654 University of KwaZulu Natal 17.16
700 University of Cape Town 13.01
708 Stellenbosch University 12.47

Mechanical Engineering

#/500 University Score
423 University of Pretoria 18.70
462 University of the Witwatersrand 14.20


#/300 University Score
217 University of Pretoria 29.61
247 University of Cape Town 21.40


#/500 University Score
472 Stellenbosch University 19.04

Read: The top 16 universities in South Africa ranked

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South Africa’s best universities to study maths, science and technology