Best university in South Africa

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2014 has been published, revealing which South African university comes out on top.

ARWU – also known as the Shanghai ranking – was first published in June 2003 by the Center for World-Class Universities (CWCU), with the group claiming to be the first global university ranking ever published.

The ranking uses six objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes; highly cited researchers; and articles published in journals of Nature and Science, amongst others.

Although not given a specific rank (as no South African universities cracked the top 100), University of Cape Town is listed above the University of the Witwatersrand as the country’s top university.

Both universities ranked within the top 201-300, while the only other two South African universities listed – Stellenbosch and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal – were ranked between 401-500.

Over the past 12 years, UCT has maintained its position in the 201-300 grouping, while Wits has entered into the grouping for the first time in 2014.

UNISA, University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, North-West University and Rhodes University were not ranked as they did not make the top 500.

Top South African universities

# University Score
1 University of Cape Town 15.76
2 University of the Witwatersrand 15.16
3 University of Kwa-Zulu Natal 10.50
4 Stellenbosch University 9.90

University category scores

Indicator Weight UCT Wits UKZN Stellies
Alumni 10% 19.0 19.0 0 0
Awards 20% 0 0 0 0
HiCi 20% 12.2 7.1 3.6 5.0
N&S 20% 10.0 16.3 9.0 5.8
PUB 20% 35.6 31.9 31.0 30.2
PCP 10% 19.1 18.3 15.2 14.6
Total 100% 15.76 15.16 10.50 9.90

For the twelfth year in a row, Harvard University in the USA has once again ranked as the world’s best university, followed by another recurring number two, Standford.

The top 20 in the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities included only four non-American institutions, all from Europe, including Cambridge in fifth place and Oxford in joint ninth.

The top 10 were virtually unchanged on last year, with MIT in third, swapping position with fourth-placed University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton in sixth doing the same with Caltech in seventh.

“ARWU considers every university that has any Nobel Laureates, Fields Medalists, Highly Cited Researchers, or papers published in Nature or Science,” the group said, adding that, in total, more than 1200 universities are actually ranked, and the best 500 are published on the web.

Top 10 global universities

# University Score
1 Harvard University 100.0
2 Standford University 72.1
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 70.5
4 University of California-Berkley 70.1
5 University of Cambridge 69.2
6 Princeton University 60.7
7 California Institute of Technology 60.5
8 Columbia University 59.6
9 University of Chicago 57.4
9 University of Oxford 57.4
10 Yale University 55.2


The highest scoring institution is assigned a score of 100, and other institutions are calculated as a percentage of the top score. An institution’s rank reflects the number of institutions that sit above it.

As with all university rankings, the Shanghai ranking weights category scores differently, though more evenly than other rankings.

  • 10% – Alumni – Alumni of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals;
  • 20% – Awards – Staff of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals;
  • 20% – HiCi – Highly cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories;
  • 20% – N&S – Papers published in Nature and Science;
  • 20% – PUB – Papers in Science Citation and Social Science Citation Indices;
  • 10% – PCP – Per capita academic performance of an institution.
ARWU indicator weights
ARWU indicator weights

The list was originally intended to benchmark the performance of Chinese universities, and European officials have criticised the ranking as biased against universities in Europe as it gives a greater emphasis to science than humanities.

(With Sapa)

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Best university in South Africa