These are the 11 best universities in South Africa

 ·29 Jun 2023

Quacquarelli Symonds has published its latest QS World University Rankings and has named the University of Cape Town (UCT) as the best university in South Africa.

The 2024 QS World University Rankings looks at 1,500 institutions across 104 locations and emphasises employability and sustainability.

Its results are based on over 17 million academic papers and expert opinions from nearly 250,000 academic faculty and employers.

The 2024 edition expanded on its methodological approach and features three new metrics: Sustainability, Employment Outcomes and International Research Network. 

The rankings flagged employability as an incredibly important feature to the overall study. It achieved this by increasing the weight of Employer Reputation Employment Outcomes in the overall score.

UCT remained the best university in South Africa in the rankings, climbing 64 places since the 2023 edition.

“UCT is delighted to record such an impressive jump in the rankings. We are particularly pleased to see this new recognition of our international collaborations [for which UCT ranked in the top 50 institutions globally], together with recognition in the new category of social and environmental impact,” said UCT Vice-Chancellor Daya Reddy.

“Both are critical to our mission to create and teach the best of knowledge and, in so doing, to contribute towards addressing complex and critical challenges facing our country, our continent, and the world at large. The introduction of employment outcomes is also especially welcome in a country like South Africa, where higher education institutions have a critical role to play in addressing the vital need to increase employment opportunities.”

Most other South African universities also saw their rankings skyrocket.

For example, the University of Witwatersrand climbed from 428 in 2023 to 264 in 2024, whilst Stellebosch University jumped from 454 to 283.

Below are the rankings of the 11 best South African Universities in South Africa, according to the QS World University Rankings.

University2023 Rank2024 Rank2023 Score2024 Score
University of Cape Town23717339.448.7
University of Witwatersrand42826427.137.9
Stellenbosch University4542832636.5
University of Johannesburg41230627.734
University of Pretoria591-60032332.8
University of Kwazulu-Natal801-1000621-630
North-West University1001-1200801-850
University of South Africa851-900
Rhodes University801-1000901-950
University of the Western Cape1001-1200951-1000
University of the Free State1001-1200

International rankings

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was named the best university in the world for the 12th year in a row, with a perfect score.

In addition, two English universities, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, completed the podium.

There are two new entrants to the top 10 in the 2024 rankings from the previous edition, the National University of Singapore and the University of California, Berkeley.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA (100)
  2. University of Cambridge, UK (99.2
  3. University of Oxford, UK (98.9)
  4. Harvard University, USA (98.3)
  5. Stanford University, USA (98.1)
  6. Imperial College London, UK (97.8)
  7. ETH Zurich, Switzerland (93.3)
  8. National University of Singapore (92.7)
  9. UCL, UK (92.4)
  10. University of California, Berkeley (90.4)

Read: New ranking of the top universities in South Africa working to make the world a better place

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