Ranking the top 22 universities in South Africa in 2024

 ·8 Jan 2024

South Africa’s top universities have slid down the global ranking of the best higher education institutes in the world – but one more local university has entered into the top 500.

22 South African universities have been listed in the Informatics Institute at the Middle East Technical University’s latest University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) for 2024.

The URAP ranking system primarily focuses on academic quality. The group gathered data about 3,000 higher education institutes (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.

In the 2023/24 ranking, 22 South African universities made the cut, accounting for almost all of the 26 official universities in the country.

The University of Cape Town ranked as the top institute in the country, followed by Wits University, Stellenbosch University and the University of KwaZulu Natal.

There are now six South African universities in the top 500 globally, with the University of Johannesburg climbing the rankings, even pushing ahead of the University of Pretoria, which ranked fifth in 2023.

Stellenbsoch University also managed to improve its position among the top universities, overtaking UKZN to be ranked third.

These are how positions have changed among South Africa’s top 10:

  1. University of Cape Town (=)
  2. University of the Witwatersrand (=)
  3. Stellenbosch University (+1)
  4. University of KwaZulu Natal (-1)
  5. University of Johannesburg (+1)
  6. University of Pretoria (-1)
  7. North-West University (=)
  8. University of the Free State (+1)
  9. University of South Africa (+1)
  10. University of the Western Cape (-2)

Among the South African universities ranked, nine dropped down the global rankings, including UCT and Wits. However, the balance – 13 universities – saw their global ranking improve, though fewer are now counted among the top 1,000.

The table below outlines the top universities in the country.

1243University of Cape Town400.85
2340University of the Witwatersrand374.29
3362Stellenbsoch University369.38
4371University of KwaZulu Natal366.08
5467University of Johannesburg343.35
6475University of Pretoria342.01
7589North-West University320.36
8884University of the Free State275.62
9970University of South Africa (UNISA)267.38
101048University of the Western Cape258.32
111298Rhodes University229.59
121328Durban University of Technology227.22
131392Tshwane University of Technology220.61
141432Nelson Mandela Uninversity217.49
151952University of Fort Hare176.62
162229Sefako Makghato Health Sciences University157.97
172255University of Venda156.30
182365Cape Peninsula University of Technology148.39
192420University of Limpopo145.13
202653Walter Sisulu University130.45
212735University of Zululand125.22
222938Vaal University of Technology109.90

Read: The best universities in South Africa – that rank among the top 200 in the world

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