Ranking the 12 best universities in South Africa

 ·1 Sep 2022

Twelve universities from South Africa feature in the 2022-2023 list of the top 2,000 universities compiled by the Centre for World University Rankings (CWUR).

They are led by the University of Cape Town, ranked 270th globally – down one place from last year-  and followed by the University of the Witwatersrand (292), which retained its position on the global ranking.

Stellenbosch University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and the University of Pretoria round out the top five universities in South Africa, with the University of Johannesburg ranked sixth.

The only changes in the local university rankings for 2022/23 is the University of South Africa (Unisa) overtaking Rhodes University to be ranked 10th – having been ranked eleventh last year – and the Tshwane University of Technology dropping out of the top 2,000 and thus not featuring in the ranking.

The CWUR grades universities on four factors without relying on surveys and university data submissions: quality of education (25%), alumni employment (25%), quality of faculty (10%), and research performance (40%).

Eight of the twelve featured local universities climbed the rankings in 2022. The only universities to drop in the rankings were UCT, Stellies and UKZN, with Wits unchanged.

While UCT and UKZN’s drop down the rankings were marginal – by only one place each – Stellembosch University dropped six places.

Meanwhile, the gains made by other universities were more significant. The University of Johannesburg climbed 35 places, North-West University jumped over 40 places and Unisa moved up over 100 places.

2022 Rank 2021 Rank University 2022 Score (2021)
270 269 University of Cape Town 77.2 (77.3)
292 292 University of Witwatersrand 76.9 (76.9 )
441 435 Stellenbosch University 74.8 (74.9)
484 483 University of KwaZulu-Natal 74.3 (74.3)
555 580 University of Pretoria 73.6 (73.3)
629 674 University of Johannesburg 72.9 (72.5)
880 924 North-West University 71.0 (70.7)
1126 1163 University of the Free State 69.5 (69.3)
1186 1239 University of the Western Cape 69.2 (68.9)
1302 1416 Unisa 68.6 (68.1)
1304 1313 Rhodes University 68.6 (68.5)
1636 1631 Nelson Mandela University 67.1 (67.1)

Global rankings

For the eleventh year in a row, Harvard is the top university globally. The top 10 is as follows (last year’s rankings in parentheses):

  1. Harvard University (1)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2)
  3. Stanford University (3)
  4. University of Cambridge (4)
  5. University of Oxford (5)
  6. Princeton University (7)
  7. Columbia University (8)
  8. University of Chicago (7)
  9. University of Pennsylvania (9)
  10. California Institute of Technology (11)

The US has eight representatives in the top 10, which has been the case since the rankings started in 2012, and is the most represented country in the top 2,000 with 335 universities.

Harvard, Stanford, and MIT are the most cited universities, and all Ivy League institutions feature in the top 70 this year.

In China, the number of universities in the top 2000 is now 302, with all C9 League institutions improving this year. Japan – led by the University of Tokyo in 13th place – has 118 top-2000 institutions.

The number of UK institutions in the top 2000 this year is 94. The University of Cambridge is the top public university in the world for the eighth year in a row. France – led by PSL University at number 19 – has 77 representatives in the top 2000.

Elsewhere, the University of Melbourne ranks first in Oceania, the University of São Paulo tops Latin America, and the University of Cape Town ranks highest in Africa.

Read: South Africa to spend R43 billion a year on free university education: minister

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter