Wits University beats UCT in latest global university ranking

Wits University has been ranked as the top university in South Africa for the fourth year in a row in the 2017 Center for World University Rankings (CWUR).

The CWUR claims to be the only global university ranking that measures the quality of education and training of students, as well as the prestige of the faculty members and the quality of their research, without relying on surveys and university data submissions.

Wits was again ranked the top university in South Africa using the ranking’s metrics, a position it has held since 2014, when local universities were first included in the list.

Globally, Wits was the only university to rank within the top 200, though its position has dropped from 176th in 2016, to 181st in 2017. This was down from 149th in 2015 and 114th in 2014, showing a gradual slip for the university over the years.

UCT, meanwhile, has climbed in the ranking, placing 259th overall, up from 265th in 2016. However, this is still down from its highest place on – 248th – where it ranked in 2015.

The CWUR is the only other university ranking where Wits is consistently ranked higher the the University of Cape Town – the other being the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).


Read: Wits trumps UCT for the second time in global university ranking


The local rankings were unchanged from last year, with UCT followed by Stellenbosch University (330th), UKZN (445th) and the University of Pretoria. The University of Johannesburg, which was not ranked in previous years, was ranked 951st overall in 2017.

Of the SA universities ranked, only UCT and UKZN improved their placing in 2017 (excluding UJ).

“The performance of South Africa’s representatives in the top 1000 has generally improved in 2017 compared to last year, but further funding should be invested in research if the country aspires to increase its competitiveness on the global stage,” said Dr Nadim Mahassen, President of the Center for World University Rankings.

2017 Rank 2016 Rank University Score
181 176 University of the Witwatersrand 46.13
265 265 University of Cape Town 44.77
330 329 Stellenbosch University 44.05
445 467 University of KwaZulu Natal 43.36
726 697 University of Pretoria 42.75
951 University of Johannesburg 42.53

The CWUR focuses on measurable data, specifically how many university alumni and faculty members have won international awards, and who currently hold top executive jobs. The ranking also assesses published research and citations, as well as metrics like patents.

For the 2017 edition of the rankings, 27,770 degree-granting institutions of higher education worldwide were evaluated, among which the top 1000 research-intensive institutions received rankings based on eight objective indicators covering education, alumni employment, and research.

Here is the full breakdown of its indicators:

  • Quality of Education – [25%] – the number of a university’s alumni who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals relative to the university’s size;
  • Alumni Employment – [25%] – the number of a university’s alumni who currently hold CEO positions at the world’s top companies relative to the university’s size;
  • Quality of Faculty – [25%] – the number of academics who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals;
  • Publications – [5%] – the number of research papers appearing in reputable journals;
  • Influence – [5%] – the number of research papers appearing in highly-influential journals;
  • Citations – [5%] – the number of highly-cited research papers;
  • Broad Impact – [5%] – the university’s h-Index;
  • Patents – [5%] – the number of international patent filings.

The scores are relative to the top-ranked institute, which gets a score of 100.00.

For 2017, Harvard University again ranked as the top university in the world, followed by Stanford University, MIT, and the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in the UK.

There has been no change in the placement of the top 15 universities in the world, with only two new universities entering into the top 20 – the USA’s Northwestern University (17th, up from 21st) and New York University (19th, up from 22nd).

These are the top 20 universities in the world:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Stanford University
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. University of Cambridge
  5. University of Oxford
  6. Columbia University
  7. University of California, Berkeley
  8. University of Chicago
  9. Princeton University
  10. Yale University
  11. California Institute of Technology
  12. Cornell University
  13. University of Tokyo
  14. University of Pennsylvania
  15. University of California, Los Angeles
  16. Johns Hopkins University
  17. Northwestern University
  18. University of California, San Diego
  19. New York University
  20. University of California, San Francisco

Read: The best university in South Africa to study law

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Wits University beats UCT in latest global university ranking