Best university in South Africa rankings

The annual global university ranking compiled by the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) has again ranked the University of the Witwatersrand as the top tertiary institute in South Africa.

Aside from two UK-based universities – Cambridge (4th) and Oxford (5th) – and two Japanese universities – Tokyo (13th) and Kyoto (17th) – US based institutes dominate the top 20 positions.

The CWUR ranked Harvard University as the best university in the world, followed by Standford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For the second year running, Wits scored the highest in South Africa based on the ranking’s leading criteria.

The CWUR determines its list by looking at how many university alumni and faculty members have won international awards, and who currently hold top executive jobs.

The Joburg university ranked within the top 100 universities in the world for its quality of education (61st) and the employment of alumni in top executive positions (32nd).

The institute was also on par with the University of Cape Town – seen as South Africa’s best university – regarding its influence and patent power.

However, Wits has slipped down the rankings compared to 2014, while the cape based UCT has climbed.

Other South African institutions which made it into the top 1000 universities include Stellenbosch University (306th), the University of KwaZulu Natal (478th), and the University of Pretoria (678th).

Despite the various ups and downs in global positioning, all of South Africa’s universities dropped in score from 2014.

Here are South Africa’s highest-ranked universities:

2015 Rank 2014 Rank University Score
149 114 University of the Witwatersrand 48.75
248 267 University of Cape Town 46.58
306 311 Stellenbosch University 45.92
478 459 University of Kwa-Zulu Natal 44.85
678 609 University of Pretoria 44.39

How the universities were ranked

University rankings often draw heated debate, as each ranking places higher value on different indicators.

The CWUR claims to be the only global university ranking that measures the quality of education and training of students, as well as the prestige of the faculty members and the quality of their research, without relying on surveys and university data submissions.

Here is the full breakdown of its indicators:

  • Quality of Education – [25%] – the number of a university’s alumni who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals relative to the university’s size
  • Alumni Employment – [25%] – the number of a university’s alumni who currently hold CEO positions at the world’s top companies relative to the university’s size
  • Quality of Faculty – [25%] – the number of academics who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals
  • Publications – [5%] – the number of research papers appearing in reputable journals
  • Influence – [5%] – the number of research papers appearing in highly-influential journals
  • Citations – [5%] – the number of highly-cited research papers
  • Broad Impact – [5%] – the university’s h-Index
  • Patents – [5%] – the number of international patent filings

Other global rankings, such as the QS World University Rankings (QSWUR) look at indicators such as university “reputation”, or at performance in a specific field – the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) singles out citations and research done in the sciences as a headline indicator.

The Times Higher Education (THE) ranking is the only global published listing of universities that gives equal sway to teaching, research and citations – downplaying reputation and alumni industry activity.

The 2015 rankings for these groups is yet to be released, but in 2014 the University of Cape Town took a clean sweep for top spot in all lists except the CWUR ranking.

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Best university in South Africa rankings