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Best Global Universities in South Africa

Best Global Universities in South Africa

Universities all over the world are ranked annually based on their performance in research and the ratings given to them by members of the academic community locally and internationally. The same goes for South African universities.

There are 26 public universities in South Africa, including 12 traditional universities, 6 comprehensive universities, and 8 technology-focused universities. 

Find out which ones made it to the top of the list.

What are the best global universities in South Africa?

According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings of 2023, the best global universities in South Africa are:

  1. University of Cape Town (UCT)
  2. Stellenbosch University
  3. The University of the Witwatersrand
  4. University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
  5. University of Johannesburg
  6. University of Pretoria 

These universities were deemed the best in the nation based on the following factors:

  • teaching
  • research 
  • knowledge transfer
  • international outlook

These areas were assessed by the Times Higher Education using 13 meticulously calibrated performance indicators.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which is the largest and most diversified university rankings to date, including 1,799 universities from 104 nations and regions.

Read on to learn more about these universities.

The 6 Best Universities in South Africa

Each of the leading universities in the rainbow nation has its own strengths and offers a broad range of programmes in different fields. 

However, some of the most sought-after programmes in South Africa include Development Studies, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences. 

1. University of Cape Town (UCT)


Address: Rondebosch, Cape Town, 7700, South Africa

Contact Details: +27 21 650 9111

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is currently ranked as the best university in Africa and is among the top institutions in the world. It has a rich history of academic distinction.

They’re a diverse, global community made up of about 29,000 students from over 100 different countries, as well as about 5 000 academic and professional staff, administrative support personnel, and service staff.

Every year, about 7 200 people graduate from UCT, which grants degrees in six faculties: law, engineering, health sciences, humanities, and science.

The vision of UCT is to be an open, research-focused African university that uses cutting-edge facilities, teaching, and research to tackle today’s problems.

UCT ranks 160th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings of 2023.

2. Stellenbosch University


Address: Stellenbosch Central, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Contact Details: +27 21 808 9111

Stellenbosch University ranks 251–300th on the list. They’re a leading African educational institution dedicated to meeting and addressing social issues and finding answers that influence and impact the world. 

Their mission is to become Africa’s most diverse and innovative research-intensive university. 

One of the most notable features of this university is they have more Centers of Excellence than any other in South Africa, and our research output has increased over the last ten years. 

The university was founded in 1918 in the town of Stellenbosch with four founding faculties: arts, science, education, and agriculture. They also just started out with just 503 students and 40 lecturers.

However, through the years, they were able to expand to a dynamic university with over 32,000 students, and 3,400 academic and professional staff, spread across five campuses, and ten faculties.

3. University of Witwatersrand (Wits University)


Address: 1 Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa

Contact Details: +27 11 717 1000

The University of Witwatersrand (Wits University) also falls 251–300th on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings of 2023.

The South African School of Mines, founded in Kimberley in 1896, served as the foundation for the University of the Witwatersrand, also referred to as “Wits.” 

The organisation relocated to Johannesburg in 1904, and full university status was granted to it in 1922. 

Wits University has adopted a non-discrimination on the basis of race policy from the beginning, which resulted in a considerable dispute with the government during the apartheid era, involving police raids and the arrest of both teachers and students.

They are actually one of the founding members of the African Research Universities Alliance and currently have an ongoing program of international partnerships both within and outside of Africa. 

Wits University is highly research-intensive and has contributed significantly to different fields like healthcare, physics and other disciplines in fundamental science.

Nelson Mandela, who attended the university to study law and later became the president of South Africa and the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is its most well-known graduate. 

4. University of Kwa-Zulu Natal


Address: 238 Mazisi Kunene Rd, Glenwood, Durban, 4041, South Africa

Contact Details: +27 31 260 1111

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), a teaching and research-led institution is one of the largest, oldest, and most significantly transformed institutions in sub-Saharan Africa.

UKZN has established a reputation as a top institution of higher learning on the African continent thanks to its innovative curricula, engaging teaching and learning environment, cutting-edge laboratories, and validated professional degrees. 

In terms of research production, the university is the top-ranked public university in South Africa. The natural, biological, humanities and social sciences are some of the most explored topics in research.

They currently rank 401–500th on the list of top universities as identified by the Times Higher Education. UKZN is the last South African university that made it into the top 500.

5. University of Johannesburg


Address: Cnr Empire Road &, Barry Hertzog Ave, Johannesburg, 2092, South Africa

Contact Details: +27 11 559 4555

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) ranks 601-800 on the list. They’re quite known for pioneering the 4th Industrial Revolution thinking in Africa by envisioning the future across all fields of study. 

The university is guiding the new school of thinking by taking a multidisciplinary approach to finding sustainable solutions. 

More than 50 nations, mostly in Africa, send students to this university. Students are mentored through experiential programs and have access to a world-class environment for athletics, art, and culture.

They have four campuses that provide students with a selection of study programmes in eight faculties, focusing on business and economics, engineering environment, education, health sciences, humanities, and law.

6. University of Pretoria


Address: Lynnwood Rd, Hatfield, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa

Contact Details: +27 12 420 4111

The University of Pretoria (UP) is the last South African university that made it to Times Higher Education’s top 1000, ranking 801-1000. 

They’re a multi-faculty institution with a strong focus on research. They’re among the best in South Africa for both research output and impact.

They’re also the country’s top producer of graduates each year. The University comprises nine faculties, including a business school: 

  • Economic and Management Sciences
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Built Environment and Information Technology
  • Health Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Law
  • Natural and Agricultural Sciences
  • Theology and Religion
  • Veterinary Science

UP is also the only faculty in South Africa that offers a Veterinary Science programme.

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