These 6 South African universities are ranked among the world’s top 500

US News & World Report has released its 2020 Best Global Universities rankings – which includes a list of the top 13 tertiary learning institutions in South Africa.

The overall rankings encompass the top 1,500 institutions spread across 81 countries – up from 75 countries last year – and are the largest and most comprehensive assessment of research universities worldwide, it says.

The rankings put a particular focus on the research output of universities, as well as the reputations tied to that research, both locally and globally.

This includes bibliometric indicators such as publications, citations and international collaboration. Each subject ranking has its own methodology based on academic research performance and reputation in that specific area.

The 13 indicators the group looks at (and their weightings) are:

  • Global research reputation – 12.5%
  • Regional research reputation – 12.5%
  • Number of publications that are among the 10% most cited – 12.5%
  • Percentage of total publications that are among the 10% most cited – 10%
  • Publications – 10%
  • Normalised citation impact – 10%
  • Total citations – 7.5%
  • International collaboration – 5%
  • Percentage of total publications with international collaboration – 5%
  • Number of highly cited papers that are among the top 1% most cited in their respective field – 5%
  • Percentage of total publications that are among the top 1% most highly cited papers – 5%
  • Books – 2.5%
  • Conferences – 2.5%

The US has the most universities in the overall ranking with 249 institutes ranked, followed by China (188), the UK (86), Japan (82) and Germany (66).

The universities that make up the top 10 in 2020 are unchanged from the 2019 ranking, with only one real shift. The University of Cambridge, which ranked 7th in 2019 has dropped to 9th position in 2020, pushing Colombia University and Princeton University one place upwards.

Harvard University remains the top-ranked institute in the world.

Top 10 Universities in the world:

# Country University
1 United States Harvard University
2 United States Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3 United States Stanford University
4 United States University of California—Berkeley
5 United Kingdom University of Oxford
6 United States California Institute of Technology
7 United States Columbia University
8 United States Princeton University
9 United Kingdom University of Cambridge
10 United States University of Washington Seattle

South African universities

South Africa’s universities largely slipped down the global rankings in 2020, with 13 institutes ranked.

The University of Cape Town remains the top university locally, and in Africa, but has fallen from 114th position last year to 120th this year.

UCT is followed by the University of Witwatersrand, which placed 200th overall, down from 197th last year.

Other universities which saw a drop were the University of KwaZulu Natal (ranked 338th, down from 336th) and the University of Pretoria (441st, down from 427th).

However, there were some risers – Stellenbosch University ranked 329th, overall, up from 341st last year, overtaking UKZN to be ranked as the third best university in the country.

The University of Johannesburg climbed from 397th to 366th, and North West University rose from 708th to 645th.

The Tshwane University of Technology gained entry to the local ranking for 2020, coming in at 12th nationally (1,100th overall), pushing Nelson Mandela University to the bottom of the ranking at 13th.

This is how South Africa’s universities ranked.

Top Universities in South Africa:

SA # Global # University
1 120 University of Cape Town
2 200 University of Witwatersrand
3 329 Stellenbosch University
4 338 University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
5 366 University of Johannesburg
6 441 University of Pretoria
7 645 North-West University
8 722 University of the Western Cape
9 893 Rhodes University
10 951 University of South Africa
11 970 University of the Free State
12 1100 Tshwane University of Technology
13 1194 Nelson Mandela University

Read: The salaries of South Africa’s university vice-chancellors are being investigated – here’s how much they earn

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These 6 South African universities are ranked among the world’s top 500