11 universities in South Africa ranked among the best in emerging economies

Times Higher Education (THE) has published its annual ranking of the top universities in emerging markets for 2022, listing 11 South African universities among them.

The rankings use the same 13 performance indicators as the World University Rankings to judge institutions’ teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. However, they have different weightings to reflect the development priorities of universities in emerging economies.

The latest rankings include institutions in 50 countries or regions classified by the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE Group as “advanced emerging”, “secondary emerging” or “frontier”, show that emerging universities are improving faster than those around the rest of the world.

These include:

  • Advanced emerging: Brazil, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey;
  • Secondary emerging: Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates;
  • Frontier: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana, Bulgaria, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Ghana, Iceland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tunisia, Vietnam.

Overall, there are 698 universities in the ranking this year, up from 606 in 2021, and 50 territories are represented, two more than last year. Eleven countries have a new number one university this year – including South Africa.

Mainland China is once again home to the top five positions, but Peking University overtakes Tsinghua to claim the number one spot. It is also the most-represented country in the ranking, with 97 institutions in total, up from 91 last year.

Russia and Taiwan are the only other higher education systems in the top 10, while South Africa drops out of this elite group. After overtaking Brazil, Russia now has the third-highest number of universities in the ranking, behind China and India.

While the University of Cape Town is ranked as the top university in South Africa in the global ranking, when adjusting the weighting to focus on emerging market development, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) edges ahead.

Wits ranked 15th overall, followed by UCT, which tied for 16th. Stellenbosch University was the only other South African university to feature in the top 50, ranking 24th overall.

Only two South African universities saw improvements in the rankings, with the University of South Africa (Unisa) climbing from the 251-300 range into the 201-250 range. Meanwhile, the University of the Western Cape saw a more significant gain, moving from 126th in 2021 to 107th in the 2022 ranking.

The University of KwaZulu Natal remained at 57th overall.

All other universities in South Africa dropped in the ranking, with the University of Pretoria notably falling from 116th in 2021 to 153rd in 2022.

University 2021 ranking 2022 ranking
University of the Witwatersrand 12 15
University of Cape Town 10 16
Stellenbosch University 23 24
University of KwaZulu-Natal 57 57
Durban University of Technology 90 96
North-West University 97 100
University of the Western Cape 126 107
University of Johannesburg 116 117
University of Pretoria 116 153
University of South Africa 251-300 201-250
Tshwane University of Technology 251-300 351-400

Read: A top university warns that these skilled people are leaving South Africa

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11 universities in South Africa ranked among the best in emerging economies