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South africa best universities


5.0.2The University of Cape Town has again been ranked as South Africa’s best university in the inaugural Best Global Universities (BGU) ranking by usnews.com.

This brings the total number of global university rankings that feature South African institutes to five, with UCT now topping four of the local listings.

In this latest ranking, Harvard University claims the No. 1 spot overall, on a list featuring 500 institutions, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at No. 2 and the University of California – Berkeley at No. 3.

Of the 500 institutions, 134 are in the US, followed by Germany with 42 schools, and the United Kingdom with 38 schools. China makes a strong showing, with 27 schools in the top 500.

In South Africa, UCT was the only local university to crack the top 200 at 151st, with Wits ranked 270th, overall, and Stellenbosch at 371st.

The BGU ranking also looks at specific subjects, and notes that both UCT’s and Wits’ best departments are in immunology (ranked 40th, and 84th on a global level, respectively).

UCT’s other strong faculties are Social Sciences and Public Health, where it tied with Wits (72nd); and the Plant and Animal Science (92nd) department, though it ranked under UP (76th).

UCT’s Microbiology (98th) and Environment/Ecology (99th) are also listed.

Top SA universities

University Score
151 University of Cape Town 50.8
270 University of the Witwatersrand 41.4
371 Stellenbosch University 34.2
417 University of KwaZulu-Natal 31.7
University of Pretoria

The usnews.com ranking is the fifth ranking released this year.

It joins the Times Higher Education (THE) ranking, released in September; the QS World University Rankings (QSWUR); the 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 THE focuses on teaching and research; 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.

The BGU ranking is based on data and metrics provided by Thomson Reuters InCites research analytics, and places a large focus on an institute’s research and published papers as well as cited works – all of which account for 80% of the total score.

The number of Phds (5%) and Phds per staff member (5%) – as well as international collaborations (10%) make up the remainder:

  • Global research reputation – 12.5%
  • Regional research reputation – 12.5%
  • Publications – 12.5%
  • Normalized citation impact – 10%
  • Total citations – 10%
  • Number of highly cited papers – 12.5%
  • Percentage of highly cited papers – 10%
  • International collaboration – 10%
  • Number of Ph.D.s awarded – 5%
  • Number of Ph.D.s awarded per academic staff member – 5%

Looking at the results of all five 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.

South Africa in global university rankings

THE SA rank ARWU SA rank CWUR SA rank QSWUR SA rank BGU SA rank
1st 2nd
University of Witwatersrand
3rd 4th
University of Kwa-Zulu Natal 5th
Rhodes University 6th
University of Johannesburg 7th


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