The South African education system is one of the best in Africa with most of the South African universities ranking very high in the latest release of the top ranking universities in Africa. Some of the best universities in South Africa are well within the first 1000 universities in the world with the first being among the top 300. In as much as it may not sound so encouraging that the first ranking African University struggled to come within the first 300 in a US-dominated list, it is still something to be encouraged about as most universities in South Africa attract foreign students because of higher standards of learning.

This ranking is purely based on Web metrics (Not Academic) which uses certain parameters including online presence and authority, availability of research online to rank the best universities in Africa and across the world. It is normal for some academically sound universities to lag behind using this parameter however, the aim is to facilitate the web presence, research, and publishing of universities overall.

Answers Africa brings you the 2018 ranking of the top 10 universities in South Africa based on their web metrics.

 10. University of South Africa 

University of South Africa

The University of South Africa (UNISA) ranks number 1323 in the world and 10 in Africa. It is the largest university in Africa attracting one one-third all higher education students in the entirety of South Africa with a student headcount of over 300,000 students, including African and international students in 130 countries worldwide, making it one of the world’s mega universities. Africa’s leading distance learning institution nurturing inspiring leaders of tomorrow. UNISA is a reputable, comprehensive, flexible and accessible open distance learning institution that is motivating a future generation and offers internationally accredited qualifications with world-class resources.

9. North-West University (NWU) 


The North-West University is a multi-campus university that covers two major South African provinces. The North West University was established on the 1st of January 2004 after the merger of Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education and the University of the North-West which are two universities with very different historical background and cultures. NWU is among the most diverse, best-managed and most innovative universities in South Africa.

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The North West University offers students an exceptionally rich range of study choices at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels which span the spectrum of academic disciplines, from agriculture and the arts through to commerce, engineering, education, health, law, the natural sciences, and theology.

In the latest ranking, NWU took the 9th position in Africa and in the world, 1188.

8. Rhodes University 

University Rhodes

Rhodes University is a 104-year old South African institution with a well-established reputation for academic excellence. Located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, Rhodes is a small university which enjoys the distinction of having among the best undergraduate pass and graduation rates in South Africa, outstanding postgraduate success rates, and the best research output per academic staff member. This is a testimony to the quality of students that Rhodes attracts and of academic provision, and to the commitment of Rhodes staff to student development and success.

Following the January 2018 webometrics information, Rhodes University made it to the list of best Universities in Africa at number 8 and number 1122 in the world list.

7. University of the Western Cape 

University of the Western Cape

Located in the Bellville suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. The University of the Western Cape was established in 1960 by the South African government as a university for Coloured people only. Among academic higher institutions, it has been in the vanguard of South Africa’s historic change, playing a distinctive academic role in helping to build an equitable and dynamic nation. University of the Western Cape’s key concerns with access, equity and quality in higher education arise from extensive practical engagement in helping the historically marginalized participate fully in the life of the nation.

This reputable school is currently the 7th best in Africa and 938 in the world.

6. University of Johannesburg 


The University of Johannesburg is surely one of the best universities in Africa, currently occupying the 6th positionThe University of Johannesburg (UJ), one of the largest, multi-campus, residential universities in South Africa and seeks to achieve the highest distinction in scholarship and research within the higher education context. The university, among the first 1000 in the world at number 919, provides the ideal ground for interdisciplinary research and the university has more than 90 rated researchers. The University fosters ideas that are rooted in African epistemology, but also addresses the needs of South African society and the African continent as it is committed to contributing to sustainable growth and development.

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5. University of Kwazulu Natal 

Kwazulu-Natal University

The University of KwaZulu Natal university ranks number 641 in the world and 5 in Africa, making it one of the top universities in South Africa. The University of KwaZulu-Natal was formed on 1 January 2004 as a result of the merger between the University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal. The new university brings together the rich histories of both the former Universities. The two KwaZulu-Natal universities were among the first batch of South African institutions to merge in 2004 in accordance with the government’s higher educational restructuring plans that will eventually see the number of higher educational institutions in South Africa reduced from 36 to 21.

4. University of Pretoria 

University of pretoria

The University of Pretoria started its activities in 1908 with a staff of only four professors and three lecturers. Thirty-two students enrolled for courses at the first campus, Kya Rosa, a house in the center of the Pretoria. The University of Pretoria became a fully fledged university in 1930. The name Tuks, for the University of Pretoria, derives from the acronym for the College, namely TUC and the Pretoria branch of the Transvaal University College (TUC) was the forerunner of the University of Pretoria.The institution has proven its worth over the years by maintaining a high standard and world-class talents.

This long-standing institution of higher learning is one of the best in Africa, occupying the 4th position and among the top Universities in the world at the 516 position.

3. Stellenbosch University 

University of Stellenbosch

The Stellenbosch University is currently the number 3 university in South Africa and occupies the 480 position in the world in academic excellence, research, innovation and study environment. It takes pride in the fact that it has one of the country’s highest proportions of postgraduate students of which almost ten percent are international students. The University lies in the picturesque Jonkershoek Valley in the heart of the Western Cape Winelands. The earliest roots of the University can be traced back to the 17th century when a beginning was made with regular school instruction.

This reputable academic institution is the 3rs best in Africa.

2. University of the Witwatersrand 

University of the Witwatersrand

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The University of the Witwatersrand has a reputation built on research and academic excellence. Wits, as it is called, is one of only two universities in Africa ranked in two separate international rankings as a leading institution in the world and is the only university in the country that features in the top 1% in the world in seven defined fields of research according to the 2007 ISI international rankings. The University of Witwatersrand is located in Johannesburg, a world-class city, with countless opportunities for students and staff to engage with and present solutions.

The University of the Witwatersrand is one of Africa’s premier research universities strives to be innovative, where boundaries of knowledge are pushed and where the focus is on sustaining globally competitive standards of excellence in learning, teaching, and research.

It is currently the 2nd best in Africa and 455 in the world.

1. University of Cape Town 

University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town is ranked number 290 among the best universities in the world and number 1 in the whole of the African continent. UCT was founded in 1829 and has a proud tradition of academic excellence and effecting social change and development through its pioneering scholarship, faculty, and students. It is also renowned for its striking beauty, with its campus located at the foot of Table Mountain’s Devil’s Peak, with panoramic views of much of Cape Town. UCT aspires to become a premier academic meeting point between South Africa, the rest of Africa and the world. Taking advantage of expanding global networks and a distinct vantage point in Africa, University of Cape Town is committed, through innovative research and scholarship, to grapple with the key issues of our natural and social worlds.

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