South Africa Top 10 Universities

top 10 universities in south africa

Here are the top 10 universities in South Africa for students that want to consider studying at a top university. After a series of research, we have come up with the top universities in South Africa.

It has become a tradition for universities to be ranked by University ranking bodies like QS BRICS University Ranking, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University ranking and the Academic Ranking of World Universities. The South African University ranking is done every year based on the performance of each university.

Universities are ranked based on criteria like alumni employment, quality of faculty, citation, influence and many others. There have been many rankings of the best universities in South Africa. Here is our list of top 10 universities in South Africa 2020.

top 10 universities in south africa

Best Universities in South Africa

Below are the top 10 universities in South Africa for students that are considering studying at a top university.

1. University of Cape Town

Toping the list of universities ranking in South Africa is UCT (UCT is the best university in South Africa), the university has maintained the top spot since 2018. The University of Cape Town was established in the year 1829, 1st of October. The university was formally referred to as South African College. It is the highest-ranked University in South Africa according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings. The institution is also the best university in Africa according to the latest ranking.

See also  Best Law Universities in South Africa

UCT currently has a student population of 28,000 across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. UCT is located in Cape Town, Western Cape which it was named after. It has 4 urban campuses and 2 sub-urban campuses.

Ever since it became a full-fledged university, UCT offers courses across six different faculties which include:

  • Commerce
  • Engineering and the Built Environment
  • Health Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Law
  • Science

2. University of Witwatersrand

On our second spot on the top ten universities in South Africa is the University of Witswatersrand which was established in 1896 and is the third-oldest university in South Africa. The University of Witswatersrand is located in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. It became a full-pledge university in 1922 and have over 30,000 students taking undergraduate and postgraduate courses with over 1,000 full time and permanent staff.

Wits University has five academic campuses, East Campus which is the main administrative campus, West Campus which lies across the De Villiers Graaf Motorway and the three other academic campuses are located in Parktown.

The University offer courses at 5 faculties which are

  • Commerce
  • Law and Management,
  • Engineering and the Built Environment
  • Health Sciences
  • Humanities and Science.

The university offers many courses across the five faculties and also have online courses available for students. Some notable alumni of the Wits university are:

  • Aaron Klug
  • Nadine Gordimer
  • Nelson Mandela, he did not graduate from the university, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize
  • Sydney Brenner

3. University of Pretoria

In the year 1908, the University of Pretoria was established in South Africa and it became the fourth oldest university in the country. The University is located in Pretoria, Gauteng province of South Africa, the university which has been running for over a century started with 32 students and now has over 30,000 students taking undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

The University has 7 suburban campuses which include the Hatfield campus and the Hillcrest campus. It offers courses at nine faculties which are:

  • Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
  • Faculty of Education
  • Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology
  • Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Faculty of Law
  • Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
  • Faculty of Theology
  • Faculty of Veterinary Science
  • Gordon Institute of Business Science

4. Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University is a public research university located in Stellenbosch. It is one of the oldest universities in South Africa and is formally referred to as Victoria college. It became a full-pledge university in 1918  thanks to the £100 000 donated by a local benefactor, Mr Jan Marais of Coetzenburg. The University has more than 29,000 students studying undergraduate and postgraduate courses across five campuses.

The university offer courses in 10 faculties and has 150 departments, they are:

  • Arts and Social Sciences
  • Science
  • Education
  • AgriSciences
  • Law
  • Theology
  • Economic and Management Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Military Science
  • Medicine and Health Sciences
  • University of Stellenbosch Business School

5. University of Johannesburg

The University of Johannesburg came into existence on January 1st, 2005. The institution came into existence as a result of the merger of the Rand Afrikaans (RAU), the Technikon Witwatersrand (TWR) and the Soweto and East Rand campuses of Vista University. UJ is a public university located in Johannesburg, South Africa. UJ has eight different faculties and a total number of 35 residences across the four campuses.

The University of Johannesburg has over 50,00 students and about 3,000 academic staff. The university function on four campuses which are; Auckland Park Kingsway, Auckland Park Bunting Road, Doornfontein and Soweto campuses.

6. University of KwaZulu-Natal

The merger of the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville led to the establishment of the University of KwaZulu-Natal on January 1st, 2004. The university is located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It has 40,000 studies across its five campuses which are; the Pietermaritzburg campus, Howard College campus, Westville campus, Nelson Mandela medical school campus, and Edgewood campus. 

The University of KwaZulu-Nata is made up of four colleges:

  • College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science
  • College of Health Sciences
  • College of Humanities
  • College of Law and Management Studies

7. Rhodes University

Rhodes University was established in 1904 as a public university and it is named after Cecil Rhodes. In 1918 it became a constituent college of the University of South Africa and became independent in 1951.  The university is located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa and is one of the four universities in the province of East cape. It is the province’s oldest university and the fifth or sixth oldest South African university that has been running continuously.

Rhodes University has over 7,000 students and over 300 academic staff. It has around 30 departments across its six faculties listed below:

  • Commerce
  • Education
  • Humanities
  • Law
  • Pharmacy
  • Science

8. University of the Western Cape

The University of the Western Cape was established in 1959 as a public university, the institution starts with 166 students but grew to over 22,000 students today. It is located in the Ballville suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. In 2014, the university occupies the 6th position on Webometrics Universities’ ranking in South Africa, the 7th position in Africa and 885th in the world.

The institution has produced many notable personalities like:

  • José Luís Guterres
  • Danny Jordaan
  • Sibongile Ndashe
  • Maurus Nekaro
  • Zoe Wicomb

9. North-West University

The North-West University came into existence on the 1st January 2004 after the merger of Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education and the University of North-West. It has over 60,000 students across its undergraduate and postgraduate courses which makes it one of the largest universities in South Africa. It has three campuses which are located at Potchefstroom, Mahikeng and Vanderbijlpark, South Africa.

The North-West University has over 50 departments across 8 faculties which include:

  • Economic and Management Sciences
  • Education
  • Law
  • Engineering
  • Health Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Natural and Agricultural Sciences
  • Theology

10. University of the Free State

Last on the list of top 10 universities in South Africa is the University of the Free State which is also a  public university in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It was established in 1904 and was formerly known as the University College of the Orange Free State. The university house over 30,000 students and runs its activities around 3 campuses which are the South Campus, Bloemfontein Campus and Qwaqwa campus. Notable alumni of the university include:

  • Bram Fischer
  • P.W. Botha
  • Hansie Cronje
  • Leon Schuster
  • Colin Ingram
  • Susan Vosloo
  • Wayde van Niekerk

That is all on our list of top 10 South African Universities, you can also check our post on the top 100 universities in South Africa. University ranking is done every year and the ranking of a university might change.

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