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Rankings of universities in South Africa

Location of South Africa

Hierarchical lists that rank universities are regularly published by the popular press.[1]These different tables (see below) attempt to fulfill a demand for information and transparency. However, rankings influence students' choices and distort higher education policies.[2] List producers allow well remunerated[3] vice-chancellors to claim a top spot for their university in an educational league. These ranking, the publishers claim, are determined by quantitative indicators. [4]Published research suggests otherwise, rankings are re-shaping public education and harming the academic project. According to an Independent Expert Group (IEG), convened by the United Nations University International Institute for Global Health, [5] Global university rankings are

  • conceptually invalid
  • based on flawed and insufficiently transparent data and methods
  • biased towards research, STEM subjects, and English-speaking scholars
  • are colonial and accentuate global, regional, and national inequalities.


Rankings of universities in South Africa are used to influence how students, parents, policymakers, employers, the wider public and other stakeholders think about higher education. These local league tables are based on international university rankings since there are no South African rankings yet. This absence might be attributed to international criticism of college and university rankings. Its generally agreed that rankings apply questionable criteria and an opaque methodology. The Council for Higher Education (CHE) has recently taken a critical perspective on university rankings, [6]publishing an opinion that argues that rankings are both neocolonial and neoliberal. According to the author, more than 47 publishing companies have used “inappropriate indicators …as a proxy for offering a quality education”.[7]

Higher Education is being re-shaped by private for-profit companies [8]and are part of a billion-dollar profit center for the companies owning them.[9] Ranking companies prey on universities and governments in the global south, and their anxieties to be seen as a “world class” university [10] This has led to number of gaming behaviors in the sector.[11] This is a global problem, and it seems that Higher Education priorities are misplaced, with marketing and communications officials focused on branding their institutions, looking appealing to prospective students, by referring repeatedly to rankings, instead of focusing on the needs of actual students[12] Since 2013, Rhodes University has held this critical position about rankings [13]Rhodes position was given credence by Wits University, when Wits recently re-published an article in “The Conversation”[14]entitled “ University rankings are unscientific and bad for education: experts point out the flaws”.[15] This stance is increasingly supported by notable institutions beyond North America, such as the University of Zurich, Utrecht University, and some of the Indian Institutes of Technology.[16] Recently Nature concurred with this opinion that rankings are methodologically problematic.[7]

Notwithstanding the above information, the numerous international university rankings do seem to agree that South Africa's university system is the strongest on the continent: it is home to 8 of the top 10 highest ranked African universities,[17][18] they just can’t seem to come to a consensus as to which of the big five are academically, after University of Cape Town ,[19] also sit at the top of the league tables. The race for second place, takes place between Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg and University of Kwa Zulu Natal as they each vie for the next highest position, with no consensus on who is ranked below the first position, in the Olympic rankings race.[20]

Top 10 South African University By World Ranking According To Times Higher Education

Context on South African higher educational institutions

A 2010 Centre for Higher Education Transformation report identified three university clusters in South Africa, grouped according to function. The input variables used to group universities were:

  • Percentage of headcount enrolment in science, engineering and technology
  • Masters and doctoral enrolments
  • Student-to-staff ratios
  • Permanent staff with doctoral degrees
  • Private and government income
  • Student fee income

The output variables were:

  • Student success rates
  • Graduation rates
  • Weighted research output units per permanent staff member

The Red cluster constitutes the top research-intensive universities. The Blue cluster consists of institutions focused primarily on technical training, while the Green cluster includes institutions which show characteristics of both missions. The clusters are:[21]

South African University Clusters
Red Cluster Green Cluster Blue Cluster
Top Research-Intensive Universities Technical Training Research-Intensive Universities & Technical Training
University of the Witwatersrand University of the Free State Vaal University of Technology
Stellenbosch University University of KwaZulu-Natal Central University of Technology
University of Cape Town North-West University Durban University of Technology
University of Pretoria University of Fort Hare Mangosuthu University of Technology
Rhodes University University of Limpopo Tshwane University of Technology
University of the Western Cape Cape Peninsula University of Technology
University of Johannesburg University of Venda
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Walter Sisulu University
University of Zululand

Rankings

In part because of the inherent difficulty of ranking complex educational institutions, there are an expanding number of competing international university ranking schemes, each with a different emphasis. Four of the most prominent are the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (most widely accepted), The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), QS World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU, sometimes referred to as the "Shanghai Rankings").

Times Higher Education World University rankings

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked the top South African universities as follows:[22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

Times Higher Education 2011 to 2024 South Africa Rank
SA Rank University World Rank
2024 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
1 University of Cape Town 167 160 183 155 136 136 171 148 120 124 126 126 103 107
=2 Stellenbosch University 301–350 251–300 251–300 251–300 251–300 251–300 351–400 401-500 301-350 276-300 301-350 301-350 251-275 -
=2 University of the Witwatersrand 301–350 251–300 251–300 201–250 194 194 251–300 182 201-250 251-275 226-250 226-250 251-275 -
4 University of Johannesburg 401–500 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601-800 - - - - - -
=5 University of KwaZulu-Natal 501–600 401–500 351–400 351–400 401–500 401–500 401–500 501-600 401-500 - - - - -
=5 University of Pretoria 501–600 801–1000 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601-800 501-600 - - - - -
=7 North-West University 601–800 601–800 501–600 501–600 501–600 501–600 - - - - - - - -
=7 University of the Western Cape 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601–800 601-800 - - - - - -
=9 University of the Free State 801–1000 801–1000 - - - - - - - - - - - -
=9 Rhodes University - 801–1000 - - - - - - - - - - - -
=11 Durban University of Technology 1001–1200 501–600 401–500 401–500 - - - - - - - - - -
=11 University of South Africa 1001–1200 1001–1200 801–1000 1001+ 1001+ 1001+ 801–1000 801+ 601-800 - - - - -
=13 University of Venda 1201–1500 - - - - - - - - - - - - -
=13 Tshwane University of Technology 1201–1500 - 1001–1200 1001+ 801–1000 801–1000 - - - - - - - -
=13 University of Venda 1201–1500 - - - - - - - - - - - - -
=13 University of Fort Hare - 1201–1500 - - - - - - - - - - - -

QS World University rankings

QS World University Rankings ranked the top South African universities as follows (before 2010 the ranking was known as the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings):[36]

QS World University 2006 to 2024 South Africa Rank
SA Rank University World Rank
2024 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2012 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
1 University of Cape Town 173 237 226 220 198 200 191 191 171 141 145 154 161 146 176 200 257
2 University of Witwatersrand 264 428 424 403 400 381 364 359 331 318 313 363 360 321 319 282 322
3 Stellenbosch University 283 454 482 456 427 405 361 395 401-410 390 387 401- 450 - - - - -
4 University of Johannesburg 306 412 434 439 501-510 551-560 601-650 601-650 601-650 601-650 601-650 - - - - - -
5 University of Pretoria 323 591-600 601-650 561-570 551-560 561-570 501-550 551-600 501-550 471-480 471-480 501-550 451–500 401–500 501–600 469 509
6 University of Kwazulu-Natal 621-630 801-1000 801-1000 801-1000 801-1000 751-800 701-750 651-700 551-600 501-550 501-550 551-600 501–550 501–600 401–500 487 484
7 North-West University 801-850 1001-1200 1001-1200 1001+ 1001+ 801-1000 801-1000 701+ 701+ - - - - - - - -
8 University of South Africa 851-900 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
9 Rhodes University 901-950 801-1000 801-1000 801-1000 801-1000 801-1000 701-750 551-600 501-550 601-650 551-600 - - - - - -
10 University of the Western Cape 951-1000 1001-1200 1001-1200 1001+ 801-1000 801-1000 801-1000 701+ 701+ - - - - - - - -
11 University of the Free State 1001-1200 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ARWU/Shanghai

The Academic Ranking of World Universities has ranked the top South African universities as follows:

SA rank University 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014[37] 2013[38] 2012[39] 2010[40] 2009[41] 2008[42] 2007[43] 2006[44] 2005[45] 2004[46] 2003[47]
1 University of Cape Town 201-300 201-300 301-400 201-300 201-300 201–300 201–300 201–300 201–300 201–302 201–302 203–304 201–300 203–300 202–301 251–300
2 University of the Witwatersrand 201-300 301-400 201-300 201-300 201-300 201–300 301–400 301–400 301–400 303–401 303–401 305–402 301–400 301–400 302–403 451–500
3 Stellenbosch University 401-500 401-500 401-500 401-500 401-500 401–500 401–500 401–500 401–500 402–501 402–503 403–510 401–500 401–500 404–502 451–500
4 University of KwaZulu-Natal 401-500 401-500 401-500 401-500 401–500
5 University of Pretoria 401-500 401-500
6 University of Johannesburg 401-500

Note: These are the only ranked South African universities.

Center for World University Rankings (CWUR)

The CWUR ranked the top South African Universities as follows:[48][49]

2018-19 SA Rank University 2018-19 2015
1 University of Cape Town 223 248
2 University of the Witwatersrand 230 149
3 University of KwaZulu-Natal 402 401
4 University of Pretoria 438 678
5 Stellenbosch University 448 500
6 University of Johannesburg 790 -
7 North-West University 964 -

International Rankings for Additional Context

University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP)

URAP, which is a newer ranking scheme based solely on quantitative measures of academic productivity, includes data for a larger number of global universities, and thus gives an alternative view of the relative standing of more South African institutions. The 2020-2021 edition of URAP ranked the top South African Universities as follows:[50]

SA Rank World Rank University
1 237 University of Cape Town
2 335 University of the Witwatersrand
3 362 University of KwaZulu-Natal
4 388 Stellenbosch University
5 458 University of Pretoria
6 603 University of Johannesburg
7 653 North-West University
8 883 University of the Western Cape
9 937 University of the Free State
10 1007 Rhodes University
11 1086 University of South Africa
12 1379 Tshwane University of Technology
13 1420 Durban University of Technology
14 1446 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
15 2131 University of Limpopo
16 2132 Cape Peninsula University of Technology
17 2362 University of Fort Hare
18 2397 University of Venda
19 2591 Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University
20 2764 University of Zululand
21 2911 Vaal University of Technology

Business-oriented rankings

Several international ranking schemes focus on the placement of graduates in business settings.

Times Higher Education Alma Mater Index

This is another THE ranking, which aims to measure the real-world success of a university's alumni by ranking Universities according to the number of their graduates that are currently CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies. The global number one for 2017 is, by a considerable margin, Harvard University. The only African University that appears on the Global Top 100 is the University of the Witwatersrand. The 2017 South African rankings are as follows:[51]

SA Rank World Rank University
2 54 University of the Witwatersrand

Tredence-Emerging Global Employability University Ranking

This is a global ranking of universities based on the perceived quality of their graduates by top employers worldwide. The only African university in the top 150 is the University of the Witwatersrand. The 2013 ranking is as follows:[52]

SA Rank World Rank University
1 139 University of the Witwatersrand

Bloomberg Billionaire Ranking

This ranks universities according to their popularity among US-based billionaires. The only ranked South African university is the University of the Witwatersrand. The 2014 ranking is as follows:[53]

SA Rank World Rank University
1 8 University of the Witwatersrand

References

  1. ^ https://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:9299/Statement-on-Global-University-Rankings.pdf
  2. ^ https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10734-022-00942-5#
  3. ^ https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20240227141740239
  4. ^ Rankings and the Reshaping of Higher Education. doi:10.1057/9780230306394.
  5. ^ https://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:9299/Statement-on-Global-University-Rankings.pdf
  6. ^ McKenna, Sioux (2024). "Critical Look at the University Ranking Industry".
  7. ^ a b Gadd, Elizabeth (26 November 2020). "University rankings need a rethink". Nature. 587 (7835): 523. Bibcode:2020Natur.587..523G. doi:10.1038/d41586-020-03312-2. PMID 33235367.
  8. ^ https://theconversation.com/university-rankings-are-unscientific-and-bad-for-education-experts-point-out-the-flaws-223033
  9. ^ https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20240523152105824
  10. ^ https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20240523152105824
  11. ^ Independent Expert Group (IEG) (2023). Statement on Global University Rankings (PDF) (Report). United Nations University - International Institute for Global Health. doi:10.37941/pb/2023/2.
  12. ^ https://www.hepi.ac.uk/2024/05/11/weekend-reading-dismantling-the-marketisation-of-higher-education/
  13. ^ "A decade later Rhodes University says 'we told you so' on rankings obsession". www.ru.ac.za. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 11 May 2024.
  14. ^ Sharon, Finn (2024). "University rankings are unscientific and bad for education: experts point out the flaws".
  15. ^ "University rankings are unscientific and bad for education: Experts point out the flaws". 12 February 2024.
  16. ^ https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-mobile.php?story=20240423081048420
  17. ^ "URAP – University Ranking by Academic Performance". urapcenter.org. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014.
  18. ^ "Best universities in Africa 2024". 2024.
  19. ^ "World Rankings – Africa 2013-14". University Rankings. Times Higher Education. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  20. ^ https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11125-015-9365-y
  21. ^ McGregor, Karen (23 May 2010). "SOUTH AFRICA: New university clusters emerge". University World News. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  22. ^ "World University Rankings 2024 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2024. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  23. ^ "World University Rankings 2023 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2023. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  24. ^ "World University Rankings 2022 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2022. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  25. ^ "World University Rankings 2021 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2021. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  26. ^ "World University Rankings 2020 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2020. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  27. ^ "World University Rankings 2019 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2019. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  28. ^ "World University Rankings 2018 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2018. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  29. ^ "World University Rankings 2017 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  30. ^ "World University Rankings 2016 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  31. ^ "World University Rankings 2015 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  32. ^ "World University Rankings 2014 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  33. ^ "World University Rankings 2013 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  34. ^ "World University Rankings 2012 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  35. ^ "World University Rankings 2011 (South Africa)". Times Higher Education (THE). 20 October 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  36. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2024". Top Universities. Retrieved 29 February 2024.
  37. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2014". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  38. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2013". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  39. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2010". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Archived from the original on 17 August 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  40. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2010". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  41. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2009". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  42. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2008". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  43. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2007". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  44. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2006". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  45. ^ "South Africa Universities in Top 500 – 2005". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  46. ^ "ARWU 2004". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  47. ^ "ARWU 2003". Academic Ranking of World Universities. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  48. ^ "CWUR 2018-2019 Top Universities in the World". cwur.org. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  49. ^ "CWUR 2015 Top Universities in the World". cwur.org. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  50. ^ "URAP – University Ranking by Academic Performance". Top Universities. Informatics Institute of Middle East Technical University. Archived from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  51. ^ "THE Alma Mater Index:Global Executives 2013". University Rankings. Times Higher Education. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  52. ^ "Global Employability University Ranking 2013". University Ranings. Emerging. Archived from the original on 17 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  53. ^ "Bloomberg Best (and Worst)". University Rankings. Bloomberg. Retrieved 23 December 2014.

https://web.archive.org/web/20160417014732/http://www.4icu.org/topAfrica/

See also

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Rankings of universities in South Africa
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