The University of Cape Town (UCT) has achieved the best ranking for an African higher education institution in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023, released on Wednesday.
UCT jumped 23 places to take rank 160th. Stellenbosch and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) were the next best SA institutions, ranking in the 251–300 band.
UCT vice-chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng said: “We are deeply proud of our academics and the wider UCT community for the hard and excellent work they do that has led to this result.
“UCT competes globally with institutions that have considerably more resources than we do, which makes this result all the more remarkable.”
The University of KwaZulu-Natal was in the 401–500 band, down from between 351–400 last year, as was the Durban University of Technology at 501–600 from 401–500. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) was unchanged at 601–800.
The Northwest University and University of the Western Cape were in the same band as UJ. South African newcomers, the University of the Free State and Rhodes University, entered the rankings in group band 801-1000.Unisa was ranked 1001–1200. Fort Hare, Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Venda are in the 1201–1500 band.
Globally, the UK’s University of Oxford retains the top spot for the seventh consecutive year. Harvard, Cambridge, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Princeton, University of California/Berkeley, Yale and Imperial College London round out the top 10.
In Africa, 97 universities were placed in the 2023 rankings, up from 71, partly as institutions from five nations joined the rankings for the first time: Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In North Africa, Egypt’s total rises to 26 institutions ranked.
Nigeria has 12 universities ranked, double the number it had last year. The University of Lagos (401-500, up from 501-600) climbed into the world top 500.
Tanzanian newcomer Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences went straight into the world top 500 in the group band 401-500, while the University of Zambia achieved a ranking of 501-600. Mozambique’s Universidade Eduardo Mondlane and the University of Namibia were ranked 601-800.
“The data shows Africa’s time is coming — its universities are increasingly prominent on the world stage and increasingly competitive in the global knowledge economy,” said Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer for Times Higher Education.
“The continent now has 97 universities from 17 countries in the rankings, up from 71 last year, with 25 universities ranked for the first time.
“This visibility on the world stage and increasing competitiveness should help to arrest the brain drain from the continent and help ensure international research collaborations around some of the world’s shared grand challenges are placed on a much more equal footing, with institutions from the global north entering into much more truly collaborative partnerships.”
The rankings assessed 13 performance indicators in five areas: citations (30%), research (30%), teaching (30%), international outlook (7.5%) and industry income (2.5%).
UCT’s strongest performance was in citations — or research influence — which measures the number of times a piece of research is cited. In this area, the university ranked 172nd globally.
In research — volume, income and reputation — UCT also ranked in the top 200 globally. The university’s performance improved for two indicators: the research reputation survey and the ratio of papers to academic staff.
UCT’s scores increased in four of the five indicators for teaching (the learning environment): the teaching reputation survey, the ratio for doctorate degrees awarded to academic staff, the ratio of students to academic staff and the ratio of institutional income to academic staff. UCT’s score in the fifth indicator — ratio of doctorates to bachelor’s degrees awarded — dropped only slightly, by 0.1 points.
Despite a drop in the position of the other two categories — industry income and international outlook (international staff, students and research collaborations) — UCT said its score for co-authorship improved slightly, “evidence that UCT’s collaboration with international partners continues to grow”.
In all five major international university rankings, UCT is ranked best in Africa. UCT is also Africa’s top university in the US News & World Report Best Global Universities Rankings, the most recent of which was issued in 2021. A new release is expected later this month.