These are the best subjects to study at South Africa’s top universities

If you want to study hospitality industry, you should look to the University of Johannesburg, which now ranks as the 18th best hospitality and tourism school in the world.

This is one of the findings from the Academic Ranking of World Universities’ (ARWU) latest report on academic subjects – which highlights the subjects that global universities (including South Africa’s) excel in.

The ranking system is heavily focused on research quality, impact, and collaboration, and assesses more than 1,600 institutions from 83 countries across 54 subjects in five broad subject areas.

These include: natural sciences, engineering, life sciences, medical sciences, and social sciences.

For each field of study, the top 500 universities are listed, with 12 South African universities ranked among them in almost all fields.

Where South African institutes generally excel is in social sciences, with the  country’s top universities also featuring in the natural sciences, life sciences and certain engineering fields.

Engineering is generally South Africa’s weakest area, with our universities showing in only seven of the 22 subject fields – featuring most prominently in the mining and mineral engineering category.

While South African universities mostly rank in the lower-reaches of each category (outside of the top 200), several made it into the top 100, and even the top 50.

The University of Johannesburg attained the highest ranking of all SA universities, listed as the 18th best university in the world for its hospitality and tourism courses (up from 20th in 2018). Wits University meanwhile ranked as the 44th best university in the world for its mining engineering courses, and in the top 75 for public health sciences and clinical medicine courses.

The University of Cape Town ranked 20th in the world for its mining engineering courses, and 36th for oceanography, while the University of Pretoria ranked 45th overall for veterinary sciences.

The University of Cape Town featured in the most subject rankings (23), but the University of Pretoria ranked in the most engineering fields (6).

Below, we’ve listed the best fields of study across all 12 South African universities featured, ordered by highest to lowest rank.


University of Cape Town

Subject Ranking
Mining and Mineral Engineering 20
Oceanography 36
Clinical Medicine 51-75
Public Health 51-75
Ecology 100-150
Earth Sciences 151-200
Geography 151-200
Atmospheric Sciences 151-200
Human Biological Sciences 151-200
Law 151-200
Public Administration 151-200
Physics 201-300
Biological Sciences 201-300
Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 201-300
Economics 201-300
Political Sciences 201-300
Communication 201-300
Psychology 201-300
Environmental Science and Engineering 301-400
Agricultural Sciences 301-400
Education 301-400
Chemical Engineering 401-500
Biotechnology 401-500

University of Pretoria

Subject Ranking
Veterinary Sciences 45
Mining and Mineral Engineering 76-100
Ecology 151-200
Economics 151-200
Finance 151-200
Geography 201-300
Agricultural Sciences 201-300
Law 201-300
Chemical Engineering 301-400
Energy Science and Engineering 301-400
Biological Sciences 301-400
Public Health 301-400
Political Sciences 301-400
Education 301-400
Business Administration 301-400
Electrical and Electronics Engineering 401-500
Computer Science Technology 401-500
Biotechnology 401-500
Human Biological Sciences 401-500
Management 401-500

Stellenbosch University

Subject Ranking
Mining and Mineral Engineering 51-75
Food Science Technology 51-75
Ecology 101-150
Agricultural Sciences 101-150
Clinical Medicine 101-150
Public Health 101-150
Geography 201-300
Veterinary Sciences 201-300
Political Sciences 201-300
Education 201-300
Communication 201-300
Hospitality and Tourism 201-300
Earth Sciences 301-400
Environmental Science and Engineering 301-400
Biological Sciences 301-400
Human Biological Sciences 301-400
Biotechnology 301-400
Economics 301-400
Chemical Engineering 401-500

Wits University

Subject Ranking
Mining and Mineral Engineering 44
Public Health 51-75
Clinical Medicine 51-75
Earth Sciences 151-200
Geography 151-200
Communication 151-200
Human Biological Sciences 201-300
Law 201-300
Political Sciences 201-300
Education 201-300
Physics 301-400
Ecology 301-400
Atmospheric Sciences 301-400
Biological Sciences 301-400
Business Administration 301-400
Chemical Engineering 401-500
Economics 401-500

University of KwaZulu Natal

Subject Ranking
Public Health 76-100
Clinical Medicine 101-150
Ecology 151-200
Geography 151-200
Physics 201-300
Chemical Engineering 201-300
Agricultural Sciences 201-300
Veterinary Sciences 201-300
Atmospheric Science 301-400
Human Biological Sciences 301-400
Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 301-400
Politiical Sciences 301-400
Education 301-400
Electrical and Electronics Engineering 401-500
Environmental Science and Engineering 401-500
Psychology 401-500

University of Johannesburg

Subject Ranking
Hospitality and Tourism 18
Sociology 101-150
Geography 101-150
Education 151-200
Communication 201-300
Political Sciences 201-300
Chemical Engineering 201-300
Earth Sciences 201-300
Physics 301-400
Ecology 301-400
Mathematics 401-500

North-West University

Subject Ranking
Atmospheric Sciences 151-200
Clinical Medicine 151-200
Hospitality 151-200
Public Health 201-300
Mathematics 301-400
Education 301-400
Psychology 401-500
Chemical Engineering 401-500
Environmental Science and Engineering 401-500

University of the Western Cape

Subject Ranking
Public Health 401-500
Education 401-500

Rhodes University

Subject Ranking
Oceanography 151-200
Ecology 201-300

Nelson Mandela University

Subject Ranking
Ecology 301-400

University of the Free State

Subject Ranking
Education 301-400

University of South Africa

Subject Ranking
Education 301-400

Read: 5 awesome business ideas from the minds of South African university students

Latest news

Partner Content

Show comments

Follow us

Recommended

These are the best subjects to study at South Africa’s top universities