Top universities for business studies and accounting in South Africa

 ·19 Apr 2024

The University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria are the two best tertiary institutions in South Africa for studying business and accounting, respectively.

This is according to the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject, which identifies which subjects universities are particularly strong in relative to international competitors – focusing specifically on academic reputation and research output.

The ranking is an independent comparative analysis of over 16,000 university programmes at 1,500 universities in 95 countries and territories across 55 academic subjects.

The rankings are based on five indicators:

  1. Academic Reputation – based on the expert opinion of 144,000 university faculty members
  2. Employer Reputation – based on the opinion of 98,000 hiring managers, HR and Talent manager
  3. Citation per Paper as indexed by the bibliometric database Scopus/Elsevier
  4. H Index – The number of publications for which an author has been cited by other authors at least that same number of times.
  5. International Research Network

South African universities ranked in 39 of the 55 subjects covered in the QS listing, with a particularly strong showing in Engineering, Medicine and Natural Sciences.

Only five South African universities qualified for the ranking criteria in Social Sciences and Management disciplines.

Within these disciplines, the five universities qualified in Accounting, Anthropology, Business, Communication, Development Studies, Economics & Econometrics, Education, Hospitality, Law, and Sociology.

SA RankingUniversity2023 rank2024 rank
2University of Pretoria283318

The University of Cape Town (UCT) was the top South African university in these subjects and for almost all measured fields.

UCT placed 222nd of all 1,500 universities in Social Sciences and Management, down 42 spots from its 2023 ranking.

UCT was ranked the top institution in most subjects in South Africa (32), followed by the University of Pretoria (6) and Wits (3).

One of these subjects was Business Studies, with the Cape Town university ranking between 351 and 400 out of 1,500, followed by the University of Pretoria (Tuks) ranking between 401 and 450.

However, when it comes to Accounting, only two institutions qualified, with Tuks topping the list of South African institutions, placing in the 151 to 200 bracket – which is then followed by UCT (251-300).

The tables below show the top South African universities in Business Studies and Accounting, according to the QS) World University Rankings 2024.

Business Studies

SA rankingUniversity2023 rank2024 rank
2University of Pretoria401-450


SA rankingUniversity2023 rank2024 rank
1University of Pretoria101-150151-200

International QS Ranking highlights

On an international level, highlights of the latest rankings include:

  • US universities lead in 32 subjects. Harvard University is the world’s strongest-performing institution, first in 19 disciplines. MIT follows, leading in 11 subjects.
  • UK institutions lead in 16 subjects. The University of Oxford tops four, followed by the University of Cambridge, UCL, Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music with two.
  • Switzerland boasts the highest concentration of #1 programs (4) proportionally to its ranked universities. ETH Zurich offers three, making it Continental Europe’s strongest institution.
  • Australia’s universities in Melbourne and Sydney boast the world’s top 100 subjects, 53 and 52.
  • France is the most internationally collaborative research hub, with 23 entries among the top 10 for the International Research Network.
  • Japan reverses more than five years of decline. 26% of its previously-ranked entries climb,
  • 21% drop, and 42% remain stable – an overall improvement of 5%.
  • China is the third most represented country. It ranks in the top 10 for eight subjects. Tsinghua University achieves its three highest ranks, including top-performer, History of Art (5th).
  • India’s ranked entries and overall performance soared by 19% and 17%, respectively.
  • Brazil is Latin America’s most-represented country overall and among the top 100. Mexico boasts the region’s most top-20 entries (4).
  • Saudi Arabia’s KFUPM offers the Arab Region’s highest-ranked programmes, Petroleum Engineering (5th) and Mineral & Mining Engineering (8th).

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