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Top SA universities ranked: Wits is no longer number one.

Top SA universities ranked: Wits is no longer number one.

The University of Witswatersrand (referred to as Wits) has lost its status as Africa’s top university, as chosen by the latest Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). The facility won’t be too pleased to learn who has replaced them at the summit of the log, either.


The University of Cape Town (UCT) is now, according to the index, the best university in South Africa – AND on the whole continent. Wits must settle for second place in both stakes, after dominating pole position for the past few years.

UCT is believed to be one of the best tertiary education facilities in the world, placing somewhere near the top 200 list. The same cannot be said for Wits, which has seen its usually favourable ranking decline in the past 12 months.


If we arrow in on the domestic angle, nine universities feature in the global ranking list. All of these facilities make the top 1 000 institutions worldwide, but there are some significant differences between the top universities the others.

UCT and Wits are clear in their respective first and second positions, but there’s hardly any separating Stellenbosch and Pretoria – their universities are believed to be the third and fourth-best in South Africa.

The Uni of Johannesburg, UKZN, and Unisa are all grouped together in mid-table, whereas the University of The Free State props up the rest in ninth position – a fair distance away from the chasing pack.

Estimated global rank University Estimated SA rank Alumni score
201-300 University of Cape Town 1 16.9
301-400 University of the Witwatersrand 2 16.9
401-500 Stellenbosch University 3-4 N/A
401-500 University of Pretoria 3-4 N/A
601-700 North-West University 5-8 10.7
601-700 University of Johannesburg 5-8 N/A
601-700 University of KwaZulu-Natal 5-8 N/A
601-700 University of South Africa 5-8 14.1
901-1000 University of The Free State 9 N/A


For reference, the top university in the world – according to ARWU – is Harvard. Stanford comes in second, with MIT and Berkeley also placing in the top five.

The long-standing British institution of Cambridge is the only non-US representative in that cohort, placing in third – and securing bragging rights over rivals Oxford, who came seventh. Save that one for the Boat Race, guys.




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