South Africa’s best universities

 ·2 Oct 2014
University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has been ranked as the top university in South Africa according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015.

UCT also improved its position on a global scale to 124th spot, up two positions from last year.

UCT improved its overall score from 50.5, to 52.6, although well below the best placed institutions who scored up to 94.3 points. The university scored really well in Industry income, and Citations.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015 powered by Thomson Reuters, claims to be the only global university performance tables to judge world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) comes in a distant second in the SA rankings, placing between 251-275 globally, and therefore sliding down the ranks from its position of between 226-250 in 2013/2014.

Wits scored highly in Industry income (94.8 points), with Teaching  and Research letting it down.

Stellenbosch University was the third and only other university to feature on the list of top 400 universities, ranking at between 276-300, climbing up from its position of between 301-350 in the prior period.

Maties also scored highly in Industry income (94.t points), but performed poorly in Teaching  and Research.

Top SA universities

# University Score
124 University of Cape Town 52.6
251-275 University of the Witwatersrand
276-300 Stellenbosch University

The Times Higher Education (THE) ranking is the fourth global ranking to be released this year, with the QS World University Rankings (QSWUR), Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) and Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) lists published previously.

Each ranking uses different indicators with different final score weighting to determine the top institutes, and thus reflect different levels of excellence.

The QSWUR places emphasis on academic reputations; the ARWU has a more even spread across its indicators, with a focus on published research; and the CWUR focuses on alumni and what they went on to achieve.

Looking at the results of all four university rankings as a whole, it’s clear that the University of Cape Town holds the top position in South Africa, overall, with only the CWUR rankings placing the institute second.

Similarly, Wits is the clear number two, with Stellenbosch University ranking third.

# University THE SA rank  ARWU SA rank  CWUR SA rank  QSWUR SA rank 
1 University of Cape Town 1 1 2 1
2 University of Witwatersrand 2 2 1 2
3 Stellenbosch University 3 4 3 3
4 University of Kwa-Zulu Natal 3 4 5
5 University of Pretoria 5 4
6 Rhodes University 6
7 University of Johannesburg 7

Global university rankings

California Institute of Technology took top honours for a fourth straight year ahead of Harvard University, with the US taking up seven of the top 10 spots.

UK institutions filled the other three places, led by Oxford University, in third position.

Morocco based, University of Marrakech Cadi Ayyad, was the only other institution in Africa to feature in the top 400. It ranked between 301-350.

Top 10 universities

# University Score
1 Caltech 94.3
2 Harvard University 93.3
3 University of Oxford 93.2
4 Stanford University 92.9
5 University of Cambridge 92.0
6 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 91.9
7 Princeton University 90.9
8 University of California, Berkeley 89.5
9 Imperial College London 87.5
9 Yale University 87.5


According to Times Higher Education, the 13 performance indicators are grouped into five areas:

  • Teaching: the learning environment (worth 30% of the overall ranking score);
  • Research: volume, income and reputation (worth 30%);
  • Citations: research influence (worth 30%);
  • Industry income: innovation (worth 2.5%);
  • International outlook: staff, students and research (worth 7.5%).

The full rankings can be found here

More on South African universities

South Africa’s best university

South Africa university rankings

Top South African universities in BRICS ranking

Top universities in South Africa

Tuition fees for SA universities compared

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