US News & World Report has published its 2021 Best Global Universities rankings, which includes a list of the top 13 tertiary learning institutions in South Africa – six of which are ranked among the top 500 in the world.
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 said.
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 top 10 schools in the overall Best Global Universities ranking are similar to last year’s edition, with Harvard University in Massachusetts again topping the list, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University in California.
Johns Hopkins University in Maryland is the only new addition to the top 10, moving up one spot to tenth place. Princeton University in New Jersey fell out of the top 10 this year, dropping from eighth to a tie with Yale University in Connecticut for the eleventh spot.
Most of the top 10 schools are located in the US, with the exception of two schools in the United Kingdom: the University of Oxford, ranked fifth, and the University of Cambridge, ranked ninth.
The US has more universities that qualified for the overall ranking than any other nation: 255.
China has the second-highest number of institutions, at 176, and the UK has the third-largest contingent, at 87. Universities in four countries that weren’t represented in the rankings last year made the cut this year: Algeria, Armenia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Top 10 Universities in the world:
|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||Columbia University|
|7||United States||California Institute of Technology|
|8||United States||University of Washington|
|9||United Kingdom||University of Cambridge|
|10||United States||Johns Hopkins University|
South African universities
South Africa’s universities largely climbed the global rankings in 2020/21, with 13 institutes ranked.
The University of Cape Town remains the top university locally, and in Africa, climbing to its highest point in three years, at 103rd.
UCT is followed by the University of Witwatersrand, which placed 192nd overall, up from 200th last year.
Other universities which climbed the rankings include Stellenbosch University, UKZN, North-West University, Unisa, University of the Free State and Tshwane University of Technology.
Notably, Unisa was the only university to shift places in the local ranking, climbing one place above Rhodes University.
Rhodes, along with the University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, University of the Western Cape and Nelson Mandela University, were the local institutes that dropped down the list.
Of the 13 universities ranked in South Africa, six ranked within the global top 500 – these are:
- University of Cape Town
- University of Witwatersrand
- Stellenbosch University
- University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
- University of Johannesburg
- University of Pretoria
This is how South Africa’s universities ranked.
Top Universities in South Africa:
|SA #||Global #||University|
|1||103||University of Cape Town|
|2||192||University of Witwatersrand|
|4||332||University of Kwa-Zulu Natal|
|5||378||University of Johannesburg|
|6||444||University of Pretoria|
|8||729||University of the Western Cape|
|9||923||University of South Africa|
|11||949||University of the Free State|
|12||1044||Tshwane University of Technology|
|13||1254||Nelson Mandela University|