The best universities in South Africa to study these subjects

ShanghaiRanking has published its Global Ranking of Academic Subjects report for 2022 ranking the top tertiary institutions globally by the quality of their subject offerings.

The Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (GRAS) 2022, claims to represent the most comprehensive and objective ranking of world universities by subjects.

This year league table contains rankings of universities in 54 subjects across Natural Sciences, Engineering, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, and Social Sciences. More than 1,800 out of 5,000 universities across 96 countries and regions were finally listed in the rankings.

The ranking includes 12 universities from South Africa, which rank among the top 500 universities in the world in 33 subjects, out of the 54 tracked by the group.

South African universities largely fall outside the top 100 global universities for most subjects, but there are a few standouts.

The University of Cape Town is the most ranked university in the country, featuring in 21 subject rankings, including being the only local university ranked for Oceanography, where it placed in the top 75, and for Environmental Sciences, where it ranked in the top 25.

UCT is followed by Stellenbosh University, which is featured in 15 subject rankings. Stellies is the only South African university to be ranked for Food Science and Technology, where it placed in the top 150 schools, and for Communication, where it ranked among the top 300.

The University of Pretoria and the University of the Witwatersrand tied for third locally, each featuring in 12 subject rankings. UP is uniquely featured in three subjects in South Africa. It is the only local university to rank in Mechanical Engineering (top 200), Finance (top 200) and Engineering Science and Engineering (top 400).

The University of Johannesburg and the University of KwaZulu Natal also tied – featuring in 10 subject rankings.

UJ was uniquely ranked in three subjects – Sociology (top 200), Public Administration (top 200) and Management (top 400) – and also has the top honour of achieving the highest ranking in a subject out of all local universities, ranking 9th in the world for Hospitality and Tourism Management.

The tables below outline the top-ranked subjects at all South African universities featured in the ranking. Top 100 subjects are bolded, and unique subjects rankings are highlighted in green.


University of Cape Town 

Subject Global rank
Environmental Science and Engineering 24
Oceanography 51-75
Mining and Mineral Engineering 76-100
Clinical Medicine 76-100
Public Health 76-100
Geography 101-150
Ecology 101-150
Atmospheric Science 101-150
Human Biological Sciences 151-200
Earth Sciences 151-200
Physics 201-300
Biological Sciences 201-300
Medical Technology 201-300
Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 201-300
Law 201-300
Biotechnology 301-400
Economics 301-400
Political Sciences 301-400
Psychology 301-400
Education 301-400
Agricultural Sciences 401-500

Stellenbosch University 

Subject Global rank
Food Science and Technology 101-150
Ecology 151-200
Veterinary Science 151-200
Agricultural Science 151-200
Clinical Medicine 151-200
Public Health 151-200
Communication 201-300
Geography 201-300
Biotechnology 301-400
Human Biological Sciences 301-400
Medical Technology 301-400
Political Sciences 301-400
Earth Sciences 401-500
Biological Sciences 401-500
Education 401-500

University of Pretoria 

Subject Global rank
Veterinary Sciences 51-75
Mechanical Engineering 151-200
Finance 151-200
Ecology 151-200
Economics 201-300
Energy Science and Engineering 301-400
Biological Sciences 301-400
Agricultural Sciences 301-400
Biotechnology 401-500
Chemical Engineering 401-500
Public Health 401-500
Education 401-500

University of the Witwatersrand 

Subject Global rank
Mining and Mineral Engineering 76-100
Public Health 101-150
Clinical Medicine 151-200
Earth Sciences 201-300
Geography 201-300
Law 201-300
Physics 301-400
Ecology 301-400
Human Biological Sciences 301-400
Biotechnology 401-500
Biological Sciences 401-500
Psychology 401-500

University of Johannesburg 

Subject Global rank
Hospitality and Tourism Management 9
Sociology 151-200
Public Administration 151-200
Earth Sciences 201-300
Geography 201-300
Education 201-300
Management 301-400
Political Sciences 301-400
Physics 301-400
Chemical Engineering 401-500

University of KwaZulu Natal 

Subject Global rank
Mining and Mineral Engineering 51-75
Clinical Medicine 101-150
Public Health 101-150
Veterinary Sciences 201-300
Ecology 201-300
Human Biological Sciences 301-400
Physics 401-500
Biotechnology 401-500
Chemical Engineering 401-500
Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 401-500

North-West University 

Subject Global rank
Clinical Medicine 101-150
Public Health 101-150
Hospitality and Tourism Management 101-150
Veterinary Sciences 201-300
Atmospheric Science 301-400
Education 301-400

Nelson Mandela University 

Subject Global rank
Ecology 301-400
Earth Sciences 401-500

University of the Western Cape 

Subject Global rank
Physics 401-500
Public Health 401-500

Tshwane University of Technology

Subject Global rank
Chemical Engineering 201-300

Rhodes University

Subject Global rank
Ecology 401-500

University of South Africa (Unisa)

Subject Global rank
Chemical Engineering 401-500

Read: South Africa’s top-ranked university is moving to a hybrid working model

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The best universities in South Africa to study these subjects