These are the 15 best universities in South Africa

 ·12 Oct 2022

Update: The article has been updated to reflect Wits and Stellenbosch University ranking within the same band.

Times Higher Education has published its annual ranking of the world’s top universities for 2023, listing 15 South African institutions among them.

The ranking looks into an institution’s global performance and judges research-intensive universities, with the full list comprising 1,799 universities across 104 countries and regions.

It is based on 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators that measure an institution’s performance across four areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

This year’s ranking analysed over 121 million citations across more than 15.5 million research publications and included survey responses from 40,000 scholars globally. “Overall, we collected over 680,000 data points from more than 2,500 institutions that submitted data,” said Times Higher Education.

The University of Oxford tops the ranking for the seventh consecutive year, with Harvard University remaining in second place, while the University of Cambridge jumped from joint fifth last year to joint third.

The US and UK continue to dominate the upper echelon of the rankings, The University of Cambridge is followed by Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, University of California, Berkeley, Yale University and Imperial College London in the top 10.

The highest new entry is Italy’s Humanitas University, while five countries enter the ranking for the first time – all of them in Africa: Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Mauritius.

Mainland China now has the fourth-highest number of institutions in the top 200, having overtaken Australia, and its share of the top 100 positions has climbed to seven from only two in 2018.

The University of Cape Town continues to lead the pack in South Africa, ranking 160th overall, climbing 23 places over the past year from 183rd. It ranked 155th in 2021 and 136th in 2020. Stellenbosch University and the University of the Witwatersrand ranked in the same band of 251-300. The University of KwaZulu-Natal, and the Durban University of Technology close out the top five places.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal slipped down a notch, as did the Durban University of Technology, the latter being the product of a merging of two prestigious institutions: ML Sultan and Technikon Natal in 2002. This university ranked 112th on the Young University Rankings 2022.

North-West University swapped places with the University of Johannesburg and dropped many places on the global list. The University of Pretoria is also a big faller on the list, losing spots globally and locally.

The 2022 list contained just 11 local institutions, with the University of the Free State, Rhodes University, the University of Fort Hare, and the University of Venda joining the rankings in the 2023 edition.

A further 526 universities are listed with “reporter” status, meaning that they provided data but did not meet the eligibility criteria to receive a rank and agreed to be displayed as a reporter in the final table. For South Africa, this includes Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, located in Pretoria North.

The university was formed in its current state in 2015, but it has a long history before that. It was first established in 1976 when it was known as the Medical University of South Africa (MEDUNSA), before becoming a campus of the University of Limpopo.

University 2022 ranking 2023 ranking
University of Cape Town 183 160
Stellenbosch University 251-300 251-300
University of the Witwatersrand 251-300 251-300
University of KwaZulu-Natal 351-400 401-500
Durban University of Technology 401–500 501-600
University of Johannesburg 601-800 601-800
North-West University 501-600 601-800
University of the Western Cape 601-800 601-800
University of the Free State 801-1000
University of Pretoria 601-800 801-1000
Rhodes University 801-1000
University of South Africa 801-1000 1001-1200
University of Fort Hare 1201-1200
Tshwane University of Technology 1001-1200 1201-1200
University of Venda 1201-1200


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