Top 10 Best Universities in South Africa (2020 Latest Ranking) – Webometrics

Where can you find the best schools in Africa? Well, pretty much anywhere including South Africa. The South African education system is one of the best in the continent with most of the universities ranking very high in the latest release of the top-ranking universities in Africa. Interestingly, 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 African universities struggled to come within the first 300 on a US-dominated list, it is still something to be encouraged about as most universities in South Africa attract foreign students because of high standards of learning.

This ranking of 10 best universities in South Africa is basically based on web metrics that use certain parameters, including excellence, impact, online presence, openness, and other factors in their selection criteria to rank these institutions. The aim is to provide a non-academic League Table of the top South African universities based on valid, and impartial web metrics provided by independent web intelligence sources rather than data effected by the listed universities.

10. Rhodes University

University Rhodes

Rhodes University is over 100 years old and as such is one of the oldest schools in the country, having been founded as far back as 1904. The coeducational institution is a respectable South African university with a well-established good name for academic excellence.

Located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, Rhodes is a not-so-big university that caters to 7,000 students and enjoys the distinction of having some of 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 the commitment of Rhodes staff to student development and success.

Following the January 2020 webometrics information, Rhodes University made it to the list of best universities in Africa at number 10 and number 1129 on the world list.

9. North-West University (NWU)


The North-West University is a multi-campus university that covers two major South African provinces (Gauteng and North West Province).

Northwest University was established on the 1st of January in 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 backgrounds and cultures.

NWU is among the most diverse, best-managed, and most innovative universities in South Africa, catering to over 70, 000 students.

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The Northwest 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 1099 in the world.

8. 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 to participate fully in the life of the nation.

This reputable school is currently 944th in the world.

 7. University of South Africa

University of South Africa

The University of South Africa (UNISA) ranks number 937 in the world and seventh in South Africa. It is the largest university in Africa, attracting one one-third of all higher education students in the entirety of South Africa with a student headcount of over 400,000, including African and international students from 130 countries worldwide. This makes it one of the world’s mega universities.

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.

6. University of Johannesburg


The University of Johannesburg is surely one of the best universities in Africa, currently occupying the 6th position in South Africa. The University of Johannesburg (UJ), one of the largest, multi-campus, residential universities in South Africa, 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 822, provides the ideal ground for interdisciplinary research and 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.

Read More: Top 10 Best Universities in Uganda (Latest Ranking)

5. University of Kwazulu Natal

Kwazulu-Natal University

The University of KwaZulu Natal University ranks number 621 in the world and 5 in both Africa and South Africa, making it one of the top universities in South Africa.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal was formed on 1st January in 2004 as a result of the merger between the University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal. The new college brings together the rich histories of the former colleges. 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 centre of Pretoria. The University of Pretoria became a full-fledged university in 1930. The name Tuks, for the University of Pretoria, derives from the acronym for the college, including 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. Today, it caters to over a hundred thousand students.

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 448 position.

3. University of the Witwatersrand

University of the Witwatersrand

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 in and present solutions.

The University of Witwatersrand is one of Africa’s premier research universities that strive 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. Catering to over 40,000 students, it is currently the 3rd best in Africa and 433 in the world.

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2. Stellenbosch University

University of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch University is currently the number 2 university in South Africa and number 425 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 second-best in South Africa.

1. University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town is ranked number 276 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 the 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, the University of Cape Town is committed, through innovative research and scholarship, to grapple with the key issues of our natural and social worlds.

Emeka Chigozie
Emeka has a keen interest in tech, entertainment, and politics. He likes to stay up to date with global news when he is not thinking about future trends in tech.


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