10 Best Universities In South Africa

10 Best Universities In South Africa


Lofty Scholars has attempted to answer the question of what are the most popular or best universities in South Africa by publishing a list of top-ranked universities. The universities were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • They must be chartered, licensed or accredited by the appropriate South African higher education-related organization.
  • They should offer at least four-year undergraduate degrees (bachelor’s degrees) or postgraduate degrees (master’s or doctoral degrees).
  • They should predominantly deliver courses in a traditional, face-to-face, non-distance education format.

What are the Best Universities In South Africa

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is South Africa’s oldest university and holds the top position among the best universities in the country. It is also one of Africa’s most prestigious teaching and research institutions.

Originally established in 1829 as the South African College for boys, UCT expanded its tertiary-education facility substantially after 1880, thanks to the financial boost provided by the discovery of gold and diamonds in the north and the resulting demand for mining-related skills.

The university comprises six faculties: Commerce, Engineering & the Built Environment, Law, Health Sciences, Humanities, and Science. These faculties receive support from the Centre for Higher Education Development, which addresses the teaching and learning needs of students.

UCT also houses over 80 specialized research units that supervise postgraduate work and is home to more than a third of South Africa’s A-rated researchers—academics who are considered world leaders in their respective fields.

The University of Pretoria (UP), ranked second among the best universities in South Africa, is a public university with seven campuses. Its largest campus is located in Hatfield, which is known for being the picturesque diplomatic hub of South Africa’s capital city.

UP takes pride in being one of the world’s leading research universities, with its campus nestled among the iconic jacaranda trees of Pretoria. The university offers high-quality teaching, learning, and research expertise across all nine faculties, including the only Faculty of Veterinary Science in South Africa, as well as Africa’s top Faculty of Law and Business School.

The university firmly believes that its success should be measured not only by its achievements, but also by the impact of its actions on the future of the continent as a whole.

Wits University, located in Johannesburg, South Africa, is ranked third on the list of the best universities in the country. The university has a rich history intertwined with mining, academic excellence, political activism, and civic engagement.

Its origins can be traced back to the establishment of the South African School of Mines in Kimberley in 1896. In 1904, the institution was moved to Johannesburg and became known as the Transvaal Technical Institute.

It was later renamed the Transvaal University College in 1906, and then changed its name to the South African School of Mines and Technology four years later. Today, Wits University continues to be a leading institution of higher learning in Africa, attracting students and scholars from all over the world.

Stellenbosch University (SU), ranked fourth among the best universities in South Africa, has an academic community of 29,000 students, including 4,000 foreign students from 100 countries, and 3,000 permanent staff members, including 1,000 academics, on five campuses. The university town, situated among the Boland Mountains in the winelands of the Western Cape, is home to a historic oak-lined campus that creates a unique atmosphere, attracting both local and foreign students.

On the main campus, there are paved walkways that wind between campus buildings, some dating back to previous centuries, while others are just a few years old. The architecture from various eras attests to the sound academic foundation and establishment of an institution of excellence. This, combined with the scenic beauty of the area, state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly facilities and technology, as well as visionary thinking about creating a sustainable 21st-century institution, makes Stellenbosch University’s character unique.

SU has ten faculties, namely: Agric Sciences, Economic and Management Sciences, Medicine and Health Sciences, Engineering, Military Sciences, Arts and Social Sciences, Science, Education, Law, and Theology.

Ranked fifth among the best universities in South Africa, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) is a vibrant, multicultural, and dynamic institution that shares the pace and energy of cosmopolitan Johannesburg, the city after which it is named. UJ is proudly South African, with deep African roots, and is well-prepared to contribute to the development of the continent through higher education.

UJ has evolved into a diverse, inclusive, transformational, and collegial institution, with over 50,000 students, including more than 3,000 international students from 80 countries. It is one of the largest contact universities in South Africa among the 26 public universities that make up the higher education system.

The university consists of 7 faculties and a college, namely: Education, Law, Humanities, Art, Design and Architecture, Health Sciences, Science, Engineering and the Built Environment, as well as the College of Business and Economics, which houses the newly established Johannesburg Business School.

UJ has four campuses, namely the Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus, the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, the Doornfontein Campus, and the Soweto Campus.

Ranked as one of the best universities in South Africa, the North-West University (NWU) is committed to functioning as a unitary, integrated, multi-campus institution that enables equity, redress, and globally competitive teaching and research across all three of its campuses. The university’s core activities, teaching-learning, and research are intertwined with community engagement and innovation in its eight faculties, most of which serve both distance and contact students.

NWU offers more than just an education; it provides people with a place in the world. Students benefit from great choice and flexibility, enabling them to fulfill their potential and prepare for their careers. Additionally, NWU is part of the global higher education community through collaborations with other universities and institutions internationally. Its internationalization activities include student and staff exchange and cooperation in academic, research, cultural, and sports matters.

Ranked as one of the best universities in South Africa, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) unites two major educational institutions in KwaZulu-Natal: the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville. UKZN aims to be a truly South African university that reflects the society in which it is situated, not only in terms of race, gender, and class, but also in how it structures its values and priorities and how it responds to social needs.

As an institution of higher learning, UKZN is committed to academic excellence, innovation in research, and critical engagement with society. With its vision to be the Premier University of African Scholarship, UKZN draws inspiration from an African identity and takes seriously its responsibilities to the development of the African continent.

Rhodes University, located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, is also listed among the best universities in the country. Despite being a small university, Rhodes has one 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 due to the quality of students that Rhodes attracts, the commitment of its staff to student development and success, and the excellent academic provision. Of the university’s more than 7,000 students, 26% are postgraduates and 20% are international students from 40 countries around the world, making Rhodes a dynamic and cosmopolitan knowledge institution.

Rhodes offers an extensive range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the faculties of Humanities, Science, Commerce, Pharmacy, Law and Education. With the most favourable academic staff to student ratio among South African universities, Rhodes students are guaranteed easy access to academics and close supervision.

The University takes pride in its motto, “Where Leaders Learn,” and produces graduates who are knowledgeable intellectuals, skilled professionals, and critical, caring and compassionate citizens. These graduates can contribute to economic and social development and to building an equitable, just and democratic society.

The University of the Western Cape, located in the Bellville suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, is ranked ninth among the best universities in the country. It is a public university that has a rich history of fighting against oppression, discrimination, and disadvantage with creativity.

UWC has played a significant role in South Africa’s historic change by being at the forefront of academic institutions, contributing to the development of an equitable and dynamic nation.

The university has been extensively involved in practical engagement to address concerns related to access, equity, and quality in higher education, enabling historically marginalized individuals to fully participate in the life of the nation.

The University of the Free State, located in Bloemfontein, which is considered as the heart of South Africa, is the capital of the Free State Province and the Judicial Capital of South Africa. It is also known as the ‘City of Roses’ due to the numerous roses that bloom all over the city in summer.

Since 1904, UFS has been consistently growing as a recognized university with scholars who have a global impact. The university now has several international partnerships that contribute to a rich body of knowledge and skills. UFS is a research-led, student-centered, and regionally engaged university that comprises seven faculties. It contributes to development and social justice through the production of globally competitive graduates and knowledge.

Enrolling in a postgraduate degree program with UFS will enhance your competitiveness in a complex and demanding job market. You will deepen your knowledge and skills in a specific field, learn to conduct research that will enable you to access, understand, and apply new knowledge, and enhance your adaptability and resilience in a fast-paced and challenging global workplace.

The Postgraduate School supports postgraduate students in achieving their academic goals by creating an enabling environment for research capacity building and providing funding assistance for research Masters and PhD studies.

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