UCT still ranked best African university – but its score keeps dropping while UJ climbs

Business Insider SA
The University of Cape Town (UCT) (Getty Images)
The University of Cape Town (UCT) (Getty Images)
  • The University of Cape Town (UCT) is still the best university in Africa, according to the latest QS World University Rankings.
  • UCT ranks 237 globally among more than 1,000 institutions ranked by QS.
  • This is a far cry from its peak in 2015 when UCT was ranked 141.
  • And while UCT's overall rank is declining, the University of Johannesburg's (UJ) is soaring.
  • UJ is now regarded as the second-best university on the continent, overtaking the University of the Witwatersrand.
  • For more stories go to

The University of Cape Town is still ranked as the best in Africa, according to the latest QS World University Rankings, but its overall score continues to decline while the University of Johannesburg makes gains.

The annual QS World University Rankings – regarded as one of the three top university ranking systems in the world – recently published its latest tally for 2023.

The ranking features more than 1,400 universities from around the world. It looks at six main indicators – academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-to-student ratio, citations per faculty, and international student ratio – to determine overall scores.

UCT has held the top spot in Africa for more than a decade. At its peak, the university, situated on the slopes of Table Mountain, ranked 141 on the global tally. That was in 2015, and since then, its standing among global institutions has continued to decline.

Although it's still regarded by QS as the best in Africa, UCT's rank has fallen to 237, with an overall score of 39.4. The university's overall score in 2020 was 44.1. The biggest year-on-year drop of almost 13% relates to UCT's citations per faculty, indicating a decline in research quality.

UJ is now ranked as the second-best university in Africa, according to QS, overtaking the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). In 2020, UJ was ranked fifth on the continent, behind Wits, Stellenbosch, UCT, and the American University in Cairo.

And while UJ's rise in recent years is significant, it's still far behind UCT in the global standings, with a rank of 412 and an overall score of 27.7. Despite this gap, UJ has consistently climbed the rankings since 2018, opposite to the trend displayed by UCT.

"This is a tremendous achievement and recognition for UJ, considering that 2,462 institutions were analysed, and 1,422 institutions were ranked in the 2023 edition of the QS World University Rankings," said UJ's Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, on Thursday.

"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."

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