These are the 21 best universities in South Africa

 ·2 Feb 2022

A new ranking by the Informatics Institute at the Middle East Technical University, in Turkey, lists the 21 top universities in South Africa.

The University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) for 2022 differs from other widely published rankings by not precluding the lower-end of institutions, particularly in developing nations.

With 21 South African universities making the list for the 2021/22 review period, it is the most comprehensive look at higher education institutes (HEIs) in the country.

The URAP ranking system focuses on academic quality. The group gathered data about 3,000 HEIs, covering approximately 12% of all HEIs globally. From the 3,000-plus universities and learning institutions assessed, a ranking is derived based on multiple criteria focusing on academic performance.

The overall score of each HEI is based on its performance over several indicators, including current scientific productivity, research impact, research quality, and international acceptance.

“Since URAP is an academic performance-based ranking, publications constitute the basis of the ranking methodology. Both quality and quantity of publications and international research collaboration performance are used as indicators,” the group said.

In the 2022 ranking, South Africa’s top university – the University of Cape Town – joined six other local institutes in sliding down the global ranking. However, the remaining 15 local institutions all climbed the global list.

Five South African universities are ranked among the top 500 in the world, with UCT being the only one within the top 250. These universities are:

  1. University of Cape Town
  2. University of the Witwatersrand
  3. University of KwaZulu Natal
  4. Stellenbosch University
  5. University of Pretoria

In the local rankings, Rhodes University has slipped below the University of South Africa and out of the top 10. Similarly, the Tshwane University of Technology has slipped below the Durban University of Technology, now ranked 13th locally.

Both the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Limpopo saw a big jump in the global ranking, but the former edged out the latter in the local ranking, pushing it to 16th, overall.

Local 2022 Global 2022 University Score
1 240 University of Cape Town 406.9
2 323 University of the Witwatersrand 385.24
3 358 University of KwaZulu Natal 375.39
4 377 Stellenbosch University 370.61
5 474 University of Pretoria 348.40
6 592 University of Johannesburg 323.27
7 611 North-West University 318.29
8 886 University of the Western Cape 274.14
9 927 University of the Free State 268.47
10 948 University of South Africa (Unisa) [up] 264.90
11 1130 Rhodes University [down] 246.58
12 1256 Durban University of Technology [up] 233.73
13 1367 Tshwane University of Technology [down] 222.82
14 1474 Nelson Mandela University 211.54
15 2053 Cape Peninsula University of Technology [up] 165.04
16 2068 University of Limpopo [down] 163.48
17 2292 University of Fort Hare 147.18
18 2340 University of Venda 143.81
19 2445 Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University 137.15
20 2738 University of Zululand 116.11
21 2947 Vaal University of Technology 101.83

Top universities in the world

The top 10 global ranking is virtually unchanged from the 2021 listing, with only one significant movement.

The Universite Paris Saclay in France has dropped out of the global top 10, making room for China’s Tsinghua University to enter into the elites. University of Washington, Seattle, moved up to ninth position, with Tsinghua University coming in tenth.

Harvard University in the USA continues to lead the global rankings.

Rank University Country Score
1 Harvard University USA 600.00
2 University of Toronto Canada 586.23
3 University College London UK 579.50
4 Stanford University USA 572.61
5 University of Oxford UK 568.75
6 Johns Hopkins University USA 565.69
7 University of Cambridge UK 553.25
8 University of Michigan USA 552.87
9 University of Washington Seattle USA 549.87
10 Tsinghua University China 547.46

Methodology

The URAP looks specifically at academic quality and performance, assessing the output of scientific data, published and cited works, as well as the impact of these works on academia. The scores are broken down as follows:

  • Articles (21%): a measure of current scientific productivity that includes articles published in journals that are listed within the first, second, and third quartiles in terms of their Journal Impact Factor. Articles that include more than 1,000 authors are excluded. The weight of this indicator on the overall ranking is %21.
  • Citations (21%): a measure of research impact and scored according to the total number of citations received in 2016-2020 for the articles published in 2016-2020 in journals that are listed within the first, second, and third quartiles in terms of their Journal Impact Factor. Articles that include more than 1,000 authors are excluded. The effect of citation on the overall ranking is %21.
  • Total Document (10%): the measure of sustainability and continuity of scientific productivity and presented by the total document count which covers all scholarly output of the institutions, including conference papers, reviews, letters, discussions, scripts in addition to journal articles published during 2016-2020 period. The total document counts are not subjected to any filtering.
  • Article Impact Total (18%): a measure of scientific productivity corrected by the institution’s normalized citations per paper (CPP) with respect to the world CPP in 24 subject areas between 2019 and 2020. The ratio of the institution’s CPP and the world CPP indicates whether the institution is performing above or below the world average in that field.
  • Citation Impact Total (15%): a measure of research impact corrected by the institution’s normalized CPP with respect to the world CPP in 24 subject areas between 2016 and 2020. The ratio of the institution’s CPP and the world CPP indicates whether the institution is performing above or below the world average in that field.
  • International Collaboration (15%): a measure of global acceptance of a university. International collaboration data, which is based on the total number of articles published in collaboration with foreign universities, is obtained from InCites for the years 2016-2020.

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