There are so many universities in South Africa, and it might interest you to find out the top-ranking universities in the South Africa region.
According to data obtained from the Times Higher Education 2024 ranking, we’ll show you the 10 best universities in South Africa.
The ranking rates university performance using 13 different indicators measuring teaching, research, research impact, innovation and international outlook. In case you’re contemplating enrolling in a university in South Africa, here are the top-ranked universities you should consider.
Top Ranking Universities In South Africa
Below is the list of the top 10 best ranking universities in South Africa.
1. University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town (UCT) is the best university in South Africa and Africa at large. UCT was founded in 1829, making it the oldest university in the country and the second oldest in Africa, behind the University of Sierra Leone, which was established two years earlier.
The University of Cape Town’s campus is located at the foot of Table Mountain, offering spectacular views of Devil’s Peak and across the city.
The main campus contains many teaching faculties, the main library and some halls of residence. The middle and lower campuses are home to most of the student residences, sports facilities and some academic departments.
Academic departments are grouped into six faculties: the built environment, health sciences, commerce, engineering, humanities, science and law. In addition, the university’s graduate business school runs independently from the commerce faculty.
2. University of the Witwatersrand
The University of the Witswatersrand – or Wits University, as it is commonly known is the second top-ranking university in South Africa. WITS is a public research university based in Johannesburg.
It was founded as a school of mining – the region is the most abundant with gold of any location worldwide. The University has five campuses, with two joined by a walkway. The campuses are home to student residences, including female-only dorms, and academic departments.
Academic research and teaching are spread across five faculties: commerce, engineering and the built environment, health sciences, law and management, science and humanities.
3. Stellenbosch University
Stellenbosch University is one of the best universities in South Africa. The University is located in South Africa’s Western Cape, not far from Cape Town.
The university town maintains Dutch colonial architecture, and its streets host an array of cafes, boutiques and galleries. Among the university’s many achievements, it designed Africa’s first microsatellite in 1999.
Teaching at the university is split between four campuses, with the main one in Stellenbosch and the others nearby.
Students can complete assignments and exams in both English and Afrikaans, even though the main language of instruction is Afrikaans. For postgraduate students, the language in classes is determined by the demographics of the class and is usually English.
There are about 150 academic departments within 10 faculties, and many other research centres. In addition to an extensive library system, the university has a conservatory with two concert halls, home of the Stellenbosch University Choir – the oldest South African choir.
4. University of KwaZulu-Natal
The University of KwaZulu-Natal is one of the largest, oldest and most transformed universities in sub-Saharan Africa – the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), a teaching and research-led university.
The University has innovative curricula, dynamic teaching and learning, state-of-the-art laboratories and accredited professional degree. UKZN is a top-ranked state-funded university in South Africa for research productivity. Research activities span the natural, biomedical, humanities and social sciences.
The University’s international partnerships in 46 countries provide an opportunity for direct interface and global academic exchange that enhances scholarship and the student experience.
UKZN is a multi-campus residential university located in two cities, Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The University is structured on a College model with four Colleges, including the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, College of Health Sciences, College of Humanities and the College of Law and Management Studies.
5. North-West University
North-West University is the 5th best university in South Africa. The University was formed in 2004 by the merger of the historically black university of the North-West, the Sebokeng Campus of the historically black Vista University and the historically white Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education.
The University has three campuses in Potchefstroom, the Vaal Triangle and Mafikeng. In 2018 it was the second-largest university in South Africa, behind only the University of South Africa, with 68,000 students of whom two-thirds are women and two-thirds African.
Among the eight faculties – economics and management, education, engineering, law, health sciences, theology, humanities and natural and agricultural science.
6. University of Johannesburg
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is one of the best and top-ranking university in South Africa. UJ is an Afropolitan international university with an identity of inclusion, a university that is transforming lives and diversifying professions.
The University of Johannesburg offers both vocational and traditional academic programmes to professionals and postgraduates. The University also has four campuses which offer courses in eight faculties: Art, Design and Architecture; Education; Engineering and the Built Environment; Health Sciences; Humanities; Law; and Science, as well as in the College of Business and Economics.
7. University of Pretoria
The University of Pretoria (UP) is one of the best universities in South Africa. UP stands among the top universities in South Africa for research output and impact and produces the highest number of graduates in South Africa annually.
The university has campuses in Pretoria and Johannesburg. The University has nine faculties and a business school, namely Economic and Management Sciences, Education, Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, Natural and Agricultural Sciences, Theology and Religion, Veterinary Science (presently the only faculty in this discipline in South Africa) and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).
8. University of the Western Cape
The University of Western Cape (UWC) is a public university founded in 1959 as a college for black students. The university is just is located just outside Cape Town.
UWC has seven faculties: arts, community and health sciences, dentistry, economic and management sciences, education, law and natural science. The Faculty of Dentistry is South Africa’s leading dental school.
9. Tshwane University of Technology
Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) is among the best universities in South Africa. The university was established on January 1 2004, when the former Technikon Northern Gauteng, Technikon North-West and Technikon Pretoria merged.
TUT is widely regarded as a “mega university” and is the largest residential higher education institution in South Africa, with an annual enrollment figure of 60,000. The University has presence in four of South Africa’s nine provinces: Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Northwest Province, with campuses in Tshwane (Arcadia Campus, Arts Campus, Pretoria Campus, Ga-Rankuwa Campus and the North and South Campuses in Soshanguve), Mbombela, eMalahleni (previously called Witbank) and Polokwane (previously called Pietersburg).
There are also service points in Durban and Cape Town. The faculty of science and the faculty of the arts have dedicated campuses in Pretoria city centre.
The department of performing arts owns the Breytenbach Theatre and uses it for training and productions for its students, with many performances open to the public.
10. University of South Africa
Occupying the 10th position is the University of South Africa (UNISA). The University of South Africa is considered a mega university because of its student intake. UNISA also has the largest open distance learning institution in Africa and the oldest dedicated distance education university in the world.
UNISA officially became a distance university in 1946. The University of South Africa has seven regional centres across South Africa, in Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo Province, Midlands, Mpumalanga, and Western Cape.
The university also has an additional eight colleges in Accounting Sciences, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Education, Economic and Management Sciences, Graduate Studies, Human Sciences, Law, Science, Engineering and Technology, and its Graduate School of Business Leadership.