The best universities in South Africa have well sought after. These universities boast excellent academic records and world-class education. Students from across the country all strive to study at these institutes. Furthermore, the following universities are amongst the best on the continent.

In this article, we take a look at the best universities in South Africa. In addition, we discuss why these universities are great options.

Best Universities in South Africa

Best Universities in South Africa: Overview

  • Universities are ranked according to various determining factors
  • There are three global university ranking systems
  • Times Higher Education World University Rankings
  • QS World ranking universities

1. University of Cape Town (UCT)

The University of Cape Town is ranked as the best university in South Africa. The multi-cultural institute employs over 5000 academic, administrative, and service staff. Furthermore, UCT has over 28, 000 students from over 100 countries. Approximately 7200 students graduate annually from this institute. Furthermore, there is over 100 societies and over 40 sports clubs on campus.

The university also offers degrees in six different faculties. This also includes Commerce, Engineering & the Built Environment, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, and Science. All faculty members are fully committed and experts in their field. Therefore, students can experience a steep learning curve.

In addition, UCT students are often encouraged to participate in volunteer projects. These projects help build leadership and service skills. Furthermore, assisting to combat socio-economic issues such as:

  • High levels of inequality
  • Unequal access to justice
  • Substance abuse
  • Housing shortages
  • Illiteracy and innumeracy

In addition, UCT has produced a number of highly qualified leaders. Therefore, they maintain a strong record for academic excellence and research.

Additional information

  • UCT is at highest position university in South Africa
  • Students have access to free internet on campus
  • English is the medium language
  • Excellent education in a world-renowned city
  • Ranked #1 in Africa
  • Ranked #183rd in the world according to Times Higher Education
  • At position 109th in U.S. News & World Report Best Global Universities Rankings

For more information visit: https://www.uct.ac.za/

2. University of the Witwatersrand

Wits (University of the Witwatersrand) is one of the first universities to embrace non-discrimination. However, this led to plenty of conflicts during the apartheid era. So, the university experienced plenty of challenges. Yet, continued to thrive.

In addition, the University of Witwatersrand is at number 2 in the country. Therefore making it one of the best universities in South Africa Wits offer degrees in five key faculties. This includes Commerce Law and Management, Engineering and the Built Environment, Health Sciences, Humanities, and Science. Furthermore, the faculty of Humanities is at position number 1 in Africa.

In addition, Wits has two campuses that contain over 400 acres of land. There are also 11 libraries and17 residences.

Wits also boast of producing 4 Nobel Laureates, 91 Rhodes Scholars, and 4 National planning commissioners. In addition, there are currently 40, 000 students enrolled at the university and over 6, 000 employees.

Additional information

  • Wits has a total of 27 A-rated researchers
  • 9% of students are from overseas
  • US News (Best Global Universities Rankings) rated Wits as 192 in the world
  • 93% of students are employed within 6 months of graduation
  • Wits has 2 campuses; one in Braamfontein and one in Park Town
  • Voted as one of the best universities in South Africa
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3. University of Johannesburg

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is an Afropolitan international university with a diverse student body, one that is changing lives and expanding vocations. A distinctly South African university situated in Johannesburg’s lively and cosmopolitan city, reflecting the city’s vibrancy while equally embracing its variety.” The Future Reimagined” is more than a catchphrase at the University of Johannesburg. Furthermore, the institution is pioneering 4th Industrial Revolution thinking in Africa, reinventing the future across all disciplines.

In addition, it is an institution anchored in Africa and dynamically forging the future that reflects the key ideas of critical thinking and meaningful collaboration. They provide their students the competitive advantage they need to succeed on the global stage through these principles, but they also draw the brightest minds from around the world to collaborate with these leaders in reinventing the future. Not only in South Africa, but also across the African continent and around the world, UJ students, mentors, professors, and thought leaders are making a difference.

Additional information:

  • The University of Johannesburg is also one of South Africa’s most prestigious public universities.
  • In the QS Global World Rankings 2022, it is at number #434.
  • The research output is very high.

4.      Stellenbosch University

In addition, Stellenbosch University is one of South Africa’s oldest universities, dating back to 1866. The University has earned a reputation as one of Africa’s best academic institutions thanks to a century of high-quality teaching and research. Semester in Stellenbosch programs a Summer School, Postgraduate and Ph.D. programs in English are also available at the university. Stellenbosch University is also a traditional university with ten faculties, including a great teaching college:

  • Arts
  • Education,
  • Science
  • Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
  • Health Sciences
  • Military Science
  • Law, Theology
  • And Engineering

It has about 22,000 students, with more than a third of them being postgraduate students. Since 1993, the number of international students has expanded dramatically. With over 1900 students from more than 70 countries presently enrolled. Stellenbosch University is also a research-intensive university with a long history of pure and applied research in a wide range of disciplines. Furthermore, it is at the forefront of basic and applied research and has established itself as a benchmark for research excellence through collaboration with industry and government.

Additional information:

  • The institution also boasts an open-air amphitheater and a 430-seat theatre known as the HB Thom Theatre.
  • Stellenbosch University was at in the world’s top 251-275 universities, and third in Africa.
  • Assignments and examinations may be written in either English or Afrikaans by students.

5. University of Pretoria:

The University of Pretoria (UP) is a research-intensive, a multi-faculty university. That consistently ranks among South Africa’s top universities in terms of research output and impact, as well as graduating the most students each year. With campuses in Pretoria and its environs, as well as Johannesburg, the country’s commercial center, UP is conveniently located near government institutions, diplomatic missions, and significant research institutes.

There are nine faculties of the Gordon Institute of Business Science in following

  • Economic and Management Sciences
  • Education, Engineering
  • Built Environment and Information Technology,
  • Health Sciences
  • Humanities,
  • Law
  • Natural and Agricultural Sciences
  • Theology and Religion, Veterinary Science, and business school at the university (GIBS).

There are 140 academic departments and 85 research centers, institutes, and divisions that offer academic programs. The university’s vision is to be Africa’s foremost research-intensive institution. It is popular for its quality, relevance, and impact, as well as for developing people, producing knowledge, and making a difference locally and globally. UP creates human capital and generates the knowledge and skills required to tackle the numerous challenges of the world at large, within the context of a developing nation, based on over a century of expertise and well-established facilities. So, the University of Pretoria has produced about 250 000 alumni in its 105-year history. Furthermore, there are currently around 50 000 contact students at the university. Over 13 000 of these are postgraduate students, and 4 500 are overseas students, with 67 percent coming from SADC nations.

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Additional Information:

  • Over 250 000 graduates have graduated from the university throughout its more than a century of academic service.
  • The medical school of the institution has been recognized among the top five in the country.

6. Rhodes University

Rhodes Institution, located in Grahamstown, South Africa’s Eastern Cape region, is a tiny university with one of the best undergraduate pass and graduation rates in the country, great postgraduate success, and the top research output in academic staff members. So, this is a reflection of the type of students Rhodes attracts, the educational offerings, and the Rhodes staff’s commitment to student achievement and development. Furthermore, Rhodes is a dynamic and multicultural knowledge institution with over 7,000 students, 26 percent of whom are postgraduates and 20% of whom are international students from 40 countries throughout the world.

Additional information:

  • In Grahamstown, South Africa, Rhodes University is one of the best public universities.
  • In the QS Global World Rankings is #801-1000.

7. University of KwaZulu-Natal

The new University of KwaZulu-Natal combines the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville, two of the province’s hugest educational institutions. The University of KwaZulu-Natal aspires to be a truly South African university that reflects the society in which it operates not only in terms of race, gender, and class but also in terms of how it constructs its values and priorities and reacts to societal demands. Furthermore, it is dedicated to academic quality, scientific innovation, and critical engagement with society as a higher education institution.

Additional information

  • The Times Higher Education rated UKZN fourth among South African universities.
  • The institution is published into four colleges, each of which has its own set of schools.

8. North-West University

The NWU is a multi-campus university in South Africa that spans two provinces. The North-West Province is home to the Mafikeng and Potchefstroom campuses, while Gauteng is home to the Vaal Triangle Campus. The Institutional Office, often known as the Head Office, is located in Potchefstroom, close to the Potchefstroom Campus. Furthermore, the African continent used to be at the forefront of educational resource generation, preservation, and distribution. Scribes borrowed books from all across the known globe, copied them, and returned them to the magnificent Ancient Library of Alexandria. In addition, open educational resources, or “OER,” are available to the world’s most prominent philosophers who went to Alexandria to study.

Furthermore, Families in Timbuktu created scrolls to preserve facts and knowledge in the arts, philosophy, and science. These manuscript collections (from the 13th to the 20th century) were passed down down the generations, resulting in a resource with an estimated 700,000 works to share with the world. With its roots in Africa, the North-West University sees involvement in the OERu network as the right opportunity for Africa to once again be a significant player in the provision of meaningful study opportunities to the world’s “renowned thinkers.”

Additional information

  • North-West University is one of South Africa’s best public universities, located in Potchefstroom.
  • In the QS Global World Rankings is #1001-1200.

9. University of the Western Cape

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) is a unique institution in South African higher education, having been organized in 1960. It is a vibrant institution for excellence in learning, teaching, research, and innovation in a globally competitive environment while keeping true to the values and ethos that have defined its public university status.

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In addition, UWC has around 23 000 students enrolled in undergraduate and postgraduate programs across seven faculties, including:

  • Arts and Humanities Faculty
  • Community Health Sciences Faculty
  • Department of Dentistry
  • Economic and Management Sciences Faculty
  • Faculty of Education
  • Faculty of Law
  • Natural Sciences

There are 2400 academics, professionals, and support staff working at the University.

Additional information:

  • In the list of Best Global Universities, the University of the Western Cape is at #729th position.
  • Under the authority of the University of South Africa, UWC began as a “bush college,” a university college with little autonomy.

How are universities ranked?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that every university is ranked accordingly. There are a number of contributing factors that help determine this. Furthermore, there are three major global university ranking systems. Each of these ranking systems assesses various factors.

In this post, we will look at the two most popular ranking avenues.

Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE) uses 13 performance indicators.  These performance indicators are then grouped into 5 areas.

The following measures are looked into

  • Staff to student ratio
  • Institutional income
  • Doctorate-to-bachelor’s ratio
  • Doctorates awarded to staff
  • Reputation survey
  • Research- 30%

The following measures are looked into

  • Research income
  • Reputation survey
  • Research productivity
  • International Outlook- 7.5%

The following measures are looked into

  • International collaborations
  • Amount of international staff and students
  • Research Citations – 30%
  • Industry income- 2.5%

The following measures are looked into

  • Amount of research income a university earns

QS World ranking universities

University 2022 QS ranking 2021 QS ranking
University of Cape Town 226 220
University of the Witwatersrand 424 403
University of Johannesburg 434 439
Stellenbosch University 482 456
University of Pretoria 601-650 561-570
Rhodes University 801-1000 801-1000
University of KwaZulu-Natal 801-1000 801-1000
North-West University 1001-1200 1001+
University of the Western Cape 1001-1200 1001+

The QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World Ranking of Universities uses six performance indicators. Furthermore, they survey a number of academic experts. These experts help measure the quality of each institute.

Universities are ranked by QS via a global survey of more than 94, 000 academics.

  • Citations per faculty- 20%

Research being cited within other research

  • Student to faculty ratio – 20%

The number of students enrolled to the number of lecturers employed

  • Employer reputation- 10%
  • International faculty ratio (5%)
  • International student ratio (5%)

Times Higher Education Rankings

University 2022 THE ranking 2021 THE ranking
University of Cape Town 183 155
University of the Witwatersrand 251-300 201-250
Stellenbosch University 251-300 251-300
University of KwaZulu-Natal 351-400 351-400
Durban University of Technology 401-500 401-500
North-West University 501-600 501-600
University of Johannesburg 601-800 601-800
University of Pretoria 601-800 601-800
University of the Western Cape 601-800 601-800
University of South Africa 801-1000 1001+
Tshwane University of Technology 1001-1200 1001+

University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) Rankings

University 2022 URAP ranking 2021 URAP ranking
University of Cape Town 240 237
University of the Witwatersrand 323 335
University of KwaZulu Natal 358 362
Stellenbosch University 377 388
University of Pretoria 474 458
University of Johannesburg 592 603
North-West University 611 653
University of the Western Cape 886 883
University of the Free State 927 937
University of South Africa (Unisa) 948 1086
Rhodes University 1130 1007
Durban University of Technology 1256 1420
Tshwane University of Technology 1367 1379
Nelson Mandela University 1474 1446
Cape Peninsula University of Technology 2053 2132
University of Limpopo 2068 2131
University of Fort Hare 2292 2362
University of Venda 2340 2397
Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University 2445 2591
University of Zululand 2738 2764
Vaal University of Technology 2947 2911


(This Bursary/Scholarship Listing Last Updated on May 1, 2022)


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