UCT best in Africa
UCT campus (Getty Images)
  • The University of Cape Town has been rated as Africa’s top university in the 2021 Academic Ranking of World Universities.
  • It’s shared the top spot with the University of the Witwatersrand in 2019 and 2020 and last held pole position exclusively in 2013.
  • UCT has also been ranked as the best university in Africa by four other recent studies.
  • It’s standing on the subject of environmental science and engineering recently climbed to claim a top-50 spot thanks to the work of alumnus and retired staffer Dr Jackie King.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has claimed top spot in Africa in the latest Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), after tying for first place with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) for the past two years.

UCT is the best university in Africa, according to the ARWU 2021, and ranks in the 201 to 300 band out of 1,000 institutions detailed by the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy. The study, which has been ranking the world’s top universities since 2003, measures several academic and research performance indicators.

Universities score points for producing award-wining alumni, highly cited researchers, papers published in Nature and Science, and papers indexed in major citation indices. The per capita academic performance of an institution also forms parts of the university’s overall score.

UCT and Wits have been battling it out for the top spot as South Africa’s best university for more than a decade on the ARWU. UCT last held the title – as the best in South Africa and the continent –exclusively in 2013. Wits took top honours in 2017 and 2018. The last two annual ARWU studies have seen UCT and Wits tying for first place in the 201 to 300 band.

UCT ended the deadlock this year as Wits slipped to the 301 to 400 band. Stellenbosch University and the University of Pretoria tied at third place, according to the latest ARWU published on 15 August.

UCT scored well in the highly cited researchers’ indicator – which contributes 20% of the total weighting – with Emeritus Professor William Bond and Professor Dan Stein again being featured. Professor Vicki Lambert, who has a Phd in Physiology, was included in the Highly Cited Researchers (HCR) list for the first time in late-2020, with her contribution noted in the 2021 ARWU.

The latest accolade adds to UCTs regional dominance. The Times Higher Education (THE), Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Centre for World University Rankings (CWUR), US News & World Report Best Global Universities all rank UCT as the best on the continent.

“We are grateful and proud to be in such a strong position; one we are working to harness for potential impact on the continent and beyond,” said UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng in reaction to the recent rankings.

Harvard University in the United States (US) has retained pole position in the latest ARWU; a spot it’s held since the ranking system was first launched almost two decades ago. Eight of the world’s top-ten universities are in the US, while the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom (UK), place at fourth and tenth, respectively.

The latest ARWU follows ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects published in May 2021.

UCT placed among the top 100 universities for five subject areas, performing best in environmental science and engineering with a global rank of 23. UCT ranked in the 301 to 400 band for this subject in 2021. This massive boost has been attributed to the work of Dr Jackie King, a UCT alumnus and retired staff member, who recently won the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize.

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Oceanography retained its top-50 position, ranked at 48. UCT’s mining and mineral engineering, and public health were both ranked in the 51 to 75 band. Clinical medicine placed between 76 and 100.

Wits has two subjects in the top-100 – both in the 76 to 100 band – mining and mineral engineering and public health.

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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