These are the top universities in South Africa based on their performance in 38 subjects

The Informatics Institute recently published its Universal Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) for subjects, listing the world’s top universities according to how they excel in various fields of study.

The ranking lists the top 1,000 universities in the world across 61 fields of study (some rankings are limited to top 500 or top 200, depending on how narrow the field is), with 12 South African universities ranked in 38 of them.

The University of Cape Town was by far the top performer in the country, ranking among the world’s best in 32 of the 61 subjects – having a unique placing in four of them.

Stellenbosch University is the second-best performer, ranking in 24 subjects, followed by the University of Pretoria (22 subjects), and Wits University and the University of KwaZulu Natal tied, being ranked in 21 fields, each.

However, where UKZN stands apart from Wits is its unique placing in three subjects where no other South African universities featured. Where Wits stands out, is its top 10 placing for Anthropology and Archeology – the only South African university to rank within the top 10 at all for any subject.

The key focus of the URAP is on academic performance, which is measured on six academic performance indicators.

Since URAP is an academic performance based ranking, publications constitute the basis of the ranking methodology, it said. Both quality and quantity of publications and international research collaboration performance are used as indicators.

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

This is how South Africa’s universities performed. Unique listings have been highlighted.

University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town

Subject Ranking
Archeology 14
Anthropology 19
Human Movement and Sports Sciences 62
Marine Sciences and Technology 77
Studies in Human Society 86
Veterinary Sciences 108
Environmental Sciences 118
Urban Planning 130
Philosophy 132
Earth Sciences 143
Astronomy and Astrophysics 149
Agriculture 149
Psychology 150
Zoology 153
Sociology 155
Medical and Health Sciences 159
Historical Studies 175
Biological Sciences 176
Geology 191
Education 204
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences 208
Language, Communication and Culture 212
Pharmacology and Pharmacy 265
Economics 314
Neurosciences 320
Molecular Biology and Genetics 337
Physical Sciences 372
Technology 497
Mathematical Sciences 593
Engineering 695
Information and Computing Sciences 749
Chemical Sciences 787

Stellenbosch University

Subject Ranking
Zoology 85
Agriculture 95
Historical Studies 110
Food Engineering 112
Environmental Sciences 152
Philosophy 158
Language, Communication and Culture 219
Biological Sciences 227
Psychology 260
Education 278
Studies in Human Society 311
Medical and Health Sciences 328
Geology 337
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences 353
Earth Sciences 354
Economics 425
Molecular Biology and Genetics 436
Pharmacology and Pharmacy 452
Engineering 465
Mathematical Sciences 567
Technology 599
Chemical Sciences 713
Information and Computing Sciences 724
Physical Sciences 805

University of Pretoria

Subject Ranking
Veterinary Sciences 47
Zoology 49
Agriculture 127
Language, Communication and Culture 137
Archeology 167
Anthropology 177
Biological Sciences 231
Environmental Sciences 254
Economics 255
Studies in Human Society 349
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services 394
Engineering 435
Molecular Biology and Genetics 447
Medical and Health Sciences 449
Earth Sciences 464
Geology 467
Information and Computing Sciences 475
Technology 570
Mathematical Sciences 575
Electrical and Electronic Engineering 633
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences 714
Chemical Sciences 852

University of KwaZulu Natal

Subject Ranking
Zoology 107
Philosophy 144
Astronomy and Astrophysics 150
Agriculture 198
Environmental Sciences 241
Environmental Engineering 268
Biological Sciences 270
Physical Sciences 274
Studies in Human Society 323
Medical and Health Sciences 330
Pharmacology and Pharmacy 333
Geology 339
Earth Sciences 351
Engineering 392
Chemical Sciences 395
Chemical Engineering 411
Mechanical Engineering 491
Mathematical Sciences 530
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences 548
Electrical and Electronic Engineering 664
Technology 684

Wits University


Subject Ranking
Archeology 4
Anthropology 5
Studies in Human Society 74
Zoology 89
Language, Communication and Culture 157
Geology 166
Earth Sciences 186
Medical and Health Sciences 216
Biological Sciences 310
Agriculture 337
Psychology 378
Environmental Sciences 381
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences 422
Pharmacology and Pharmacy 426
Economics 441
Mathematical Sciences 460
Physical Sciences 600
Technology 606
Engineering 623
Electrical and Electronic Engineering 695
Chemical Sciences 908

University of Johannesburg

Subject Ranking
Studies in Human Society 267
Geology 320
Earth Sciences 371
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services 385
Chemical Sciences 546
Physical Sciences 654
Engineering 777
Biological Sciences 804
Technology 907

North-West University

Subject Ranking
Zoology 199
Education 274
Psychology 410
Pharmacology and Pharmacy 487
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences 552
Medical and Health Sciences 696
Physical Sciences 720
Chemical Sciences 873

Rhodes University

Subject Ranking
Marine Sciences and Technology 163
Agriculture 379
Environmental Sciences 402
Biological sciences 656
Physical Sciences 721
Chemical Sciences 969

University of the Free State

Subject Ranking
Agriculture 497
Physical Sciences 873
Biological Sciences 933
Chemical Sciences 945
Technology 962

University of the Western Cape

Subject Ranking
Astronomy and Astrophysics 162
Physical Sciences 494
Medical and Health Sciences 843
Chemical Sciences 934

Nelson Mandela University

Subject Ranking
Environmental Sciences 428
Agriculture 478
Biological Sciences 724

Tshwane University of Technology

Subject Ranking
Engineering 972

Read: These are the best subjects to take at the top universities in South Africa

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These are the top universities in South Africa based on their performance in 38 subjects