Africa’s best university UCT drops in world rankings, but UJ rises

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THE University of Cape Town (UCT) remains the continent’s best institute of higher learning, according to the latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2023 released on Wednesday.

However, the Table Mountain-located university’s global ranking continues dropping as it now sits at 237 globally, far down the ladder considering that its peak ranking in 2015 was 141. It has been falling for the third consecutive year now.

UCT’s drop in rankings explained

According to the QS World University Rankings metrics, the decline in the position of UCT has been attributed to the declining quality of its research projects.

Second on the African continent is another South African institution, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) which was third in the 2022 edition of the rankings.

University of Johannesburg storms into 2nd spot

UJ has overtaken the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) which slid down to third in South Africa, while also falling on the global rankings from 424 to 428 position.

However, on the global stage, UJ falls far behind UCT’s 237th position, as it sits on 412. This, though, is its all-time high, climbing 22 places from position 434 in the world in last year’s 2022 edition.

This year marks the third consecutive time UJ has climbed up the rankings, a development which elated UJ’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala.

“The latest global rankings reaffirm the fact that our academic programmes remain on par with international standards, as we continue with our mission to position UJ as the international university of choice, anchored in Africa and dynamically shaping the future,” Professor Marwala reacted Thursday.

He added that the improving rankings were due in large part to the exceptional work ethic of the University’s staff and students who shall continue to forge ahead and scale new heights.

The top 10 universities in South Africa

The top 10 universities in South Africa are as follows:

Top 9 universities in South Africa as per QS World University Rankings 2023

Considering the continent’s performance, Egypt contributed the most number of universities at 14, while 9 South African universities made the list. Egypt’s American University in Cairo improved by 29 positions to rank 416th globally, third in Africa behind UJ.

Outside of South Africa and Egypt, Kenya’s University of Nairobi is another high performer, but it falls far below the 1,000th spot.

U.S. and British universities dominate top 10 spots

Globally, there are no new entrants into the top ten universities, which is has always been dominated by U.S. and British universities. For the 2023 rankings, the top 10 sits as follows:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (US),
  2. University of Cambridge (United Kingdom),
  3. Stanford University (US),
  4. University of Oxford (UK),
  5. Harvard University (US),
  6. California Institute of Technology (US),
  7. Imperial College London(UK),
  8. University College of London (UK)
  9. ETH Zurich (Switzerland), and
  10. University of Chicago (US)

The University of Oxford dropped two places to 4th while the University of Cambridge bumped up a single slot to take second position.

Metrics used in QS World University Rankings

The QS World University Rankings give a check of how the world’s top universities are performing against each other, and the 2023 rankings provide a list of the world’s best 1,422 universities.

The QS World University Rankings are arrived at using six key metrics – academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-to-student ratio, citations per faculty, and international student ratio. They are among the three best university rankings used in the world.


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