11 universities in South Africa ranked among the best in the world

Times Higher Education has published its annual ranking of the world’s top universities for 2021, listing 11 South African universities among them.

The ranking is a global performance ranking that judges research-intensive universities, with the full list comprising 1,500 institutions.

It assesses 13 performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons. These are grouped into five areas: Teaching (the learning environment); Research (volume, income and reputation); Citations (research influence); International outlook (staff, students and research); and Industry Income (knowledge transfer).

The results of the rankings are independently audited by PwC.

This year’s ranking analysed more than 80 million citations across over 13 million research publications and included survey responses from 22,000 scholars globally.

The University of Cape Town has again topped the local rankings as the best university in South Africa by THE’s methodology, though its position is down 19 places from the 2020 ranking.

Wits University, which was the only other local university to feature in the top 200 in 2020, has also dropped down the rankings, falling into the 201-250 bracket. The Tshwane University of Technology also dropped out of its 2020 bracket, and is now outside the top 1,000.

The only university to move up the rankings into a higher bracket is the University of KwaZulu Natal, which is now ranked within the top 400.

2021’s ranking also saw a new local institution debut on the list, with the Durban University of Technology being ranked for the first time. It placed ahead of North-West University, which was first ranked in 2020.

University 2020 ranking 2021 ranking
University of Cape Town 136 155
University of the Witwatersrand 194 201-250
Stellenbosch University 251-300 251-300
University of KwaZulu-Natal 401-500 351-400
Durban University of Technology 401-500
North-West University 501-600 501-600
University of Johannesburg 601-800 601-800
University of Pretoria 601-800 601-800
University of the Western Cape 601-800 601-800
Tshwane University of Technology 801-1000 1000+
University of South Africa 1001+ 1000+

Global leaders

The University of Oxford tops the rankings for the fifth consecutive year, while mainland China’s Tsinghua University becomes the first Asian university to break into the top 20 under the current methodology (launched in 2011).

The US claims a record eight places in the top 10, after the University of California, Berkeley climbed six places to seventh, but US universities outside the top 200 show signs of decline.

Meanwhile, there are 141 first-time entrants in the rankings this year, topped by France’s recently merged Paris-Saclay University (joint 178th). India has the highest number of new entries (14) and as a result boasts a record number of ranked institutions (63).

# University Country
1 University of Oxford United Kingdom
2 Stanford University United States
3 Harvard University United States
4 California Institute of Technology United States
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
6 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
7 University of Californai, Berkley United States
8 Yale University United States
9 Princeton University United States
10 University of Chicago United States

Read: These are the 9 best universities in South Africa for academic performance

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11 universities in South Africa ranked among the best in the world