South Africa’s university system is the strongest on the continent. It is home to five out of the six best universities in Africa, including the two campuses constantly graded as academically strongest in Africa, University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand which are located in South Africa’s two most leading cities (Cape Town and Johannesburg, respectively). It is important to note that rankings of universities in South Africa are hugely built on international university rankings, because there are no South African rankings as of yet. Additionally, partly because of the implicit difficulty of ranking complex educational institutions, there is an increasing number of competing international university ranking schemes, each with a distinct emphasis. Three of the most prominent ones are the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU, often called the “Shanghai Rankings”).
Based on the 2014–2015 edition of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings ranked the top South African universities as follows:
1. University of Cape Town (World rank: 124):
The University of Cape Town (UCT) is a public research university situated in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. University of Cape Town was founded in 1829 as the South African College, and is the oldest university in South Africa and the second oldest extant university in Africa. The language of instruction is English.
2. University of the Witwatersrand (World Rank: 251–275):
A multi-campus South African public research university located in the northern areas of central Johannesburg. It is usually referred to as Wits University. The university has its roots in the mining industry, as do Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand in general. It was founded in 1896 as the South African School of Mines in Kimberley. University of Wits is the third oldest South African university in continuous operation, after the University of Cape Town (founded in 1829), and Stellenbosch University (founded in 1866).
3. Stellenbosch University (World Rank: 276–300):
A leading public research university located in the town of Stellenbosch, South Africa. SU invented Africa’s first microsatellite, SUNSAT, which was introduced to the public in 1991 for the first time. It was the first Africa university to sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. Formerly a college, it became a university on 2 April 1918 and was renamed Stellenbosch University. The students of SU are called “Maties”
In the same vein, based on the 2014-15 version of the QS World University Rankings, top South African universities are ranked almost the same way as the one above with a more detailed analysis:
– University of Cape Town is number one in SA, the 141st university in the whole world, the 108th university in the faculty of Arts and Humanities, the 294th university in the faculty of Engineering and IT, the 100th university in the faculty of Life Science and Medicine, the 220th university in the faculty of Natural Science, and the 116th university in the faculty of Social Science.
– University of the Witwatersrand was ranked second best university in South Africa, the 318th university in the world, the 148th in the faculty of Arts and Humanities ranking, 249 in the faculty of Engineering ranking, the 204th university in the faculty of Life Science and Medicine ranking, the 280th in the faculty of Natural Science ranking, and finally the 209th university in the faculty of Social Science ranking.
– Stellenbosch University came 3rd best university in South Africa, the 390th best university in the world, the 237th best university in faculty of Arts and Humanities ranking, the 268th best university in the faculty of LIfe Science and Medicine ranking, the 356th university in the faculty of Natural Science ranking and finally the 283rd university in the faculty of Social Science ranking.
– University of Pretoria, a multi campus public research university that founded in 1908 was ranked the 4th best university in South Africa, the 283rd university in faculty of Arts and Humanities ranking, the 349 the in faculty of Life Science and Medicine ranking, the 241st university in faculty of Social Science ranking and falls within the ranges of 417th –480th in the world ranking. University of Pretoria is the fourth South African institution in continuous operation to be awarded university status.
– University of KwaZulu-Natal is ranked as the 5th best university in South Africa and falls within the range of 501 and 550 in the world ranking. It is a university with five campuses all situated in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It was established on 1 January 2004 after the unification between the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville.
See the latest ranking according to a newer ranking scheme, University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) on the next page.