Africa is home to some of the world’s most diverse landscapes, from towering mountains to sweeping plains to lush forests, and some of these stunning features end up being part of a university campus.
At Times Higher Education Student, we’ve looked through lots of pictures of African universities to whittle them down to the ones that are the most aesthetically pleasing – those with interesting architecture or that use the lay of the land as a prominent feature. The most beautiful universities in Africa can be found across the continent in South Africa, Uganda and Senegal.
We know that you shouldn’t really pick a university based on how pretty it is, but it is also important that you find a university environment that aligns with the type of experience you want to have. Whether it’s out in the mountains or in the middle of a city, a university’s setting can play a huge part in your experience as a student.
1. The University of Cape Town, South Africa
Founded in 1829 as a high school for boys, the University of Cape Town is the oldest university in South Africa. It moved the majority of its facilities to Groote Schuur on the slopes of Devil’s Peak in 1928, on land bequeathed to the nation by Cecil John Roades. Many of the buildings on Groote Schuur are made of red-roofed stone in classical revival style, providing a stunning contrast to the magnificent craggy peaks of Cape Town’s mountain range. It’s no wonder that the University of Cape Town often tops the list of the world’s most beautiful universities.
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2. Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Although it began life as the Stellenbosch Gymnasium in 1866, it is hard to believe that the Stellenbosch University campus was used for anything but studying and learning, with its breathtaking mountain view. Located on the banks of the Eerste River, the university is in the heart of South Africa’s wine country and is a mere 50km from Cape Town.
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3. The University of Pretoria, South Africa
The University of Pretoria began its journey in 1908 as an English-language institution based in a four-bedroom house in the centre of Pretoria, and it is now considered one of South Africa’s “heavies” on the higher education front. It has six huge campuses, with its main one in Pretoria, the capital of Gauteng province. The city is known for its beautiful lilac jacaranda trees, which blossom over the campus. Perhaps the most picturesque location is the Old Arts building on the Hatfield campus, which was built in 1910 and was declared a national monument in 1968. The sandstone beauty boasts a clock tower, Oregon pine floors and slate staircases, as well as a stunning view over the sprawling, immaculate lawns.
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4. Gaston Berger University, Senegal
Spread over 240 hectares, Gaston Berger University is 13km from the Senegalese city of Saint-Louis, home of the world-famous annual jazz festival. The campuses are spread over two towns on the northern tip of Senegal, Sanar Peulh and Sanar Wolof. Although the towns are dotted with colourful French colonial-era architecture, the buildings on campus are more modern; the central point is the library’s tower, which can be seen from the national road running from Richard-Toll to the Mauritanian border. The campus is packed with shady courtyards, so students are spoilt for choice of tranquil study spots at Gaston Berger.
5. University of Ghana, Ghana
Originally an affiliate college of the University of London, the University of Ghana was founded in 1948 and sits on a huge area of land just 12km from Accra. Its architecture is a real strong point – the beaming white walls and red roofs pair well with the plants, trees and flowers growing on campus. The Balme Library is the nucleus of the campus and is regarded as one of the best libraries in West Africa, complete with a freshwater pond. The university has been featured as a backdrop in many films and TV programmes, including the Ghanaian hit series Sun City.
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6. Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
Founded in 1961 as the University of Ife, it was renamed the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in 1987. Located on 53km2 of land in Ife-Ife, an ancient Yoruba city in Osun State, south-west of Nigeria, the university comprises both natural and architectural wonders. There are sculptured busts of famous Nigerians dotted all over the campus and many buildings are characterised by a modern slanting style, especially the Spider building, which – according to students – looks as if it might be slowly seeping into the ground.
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7. The University of Lagos, Nigeria
In terms of flora and fauna, the University of Lagos ticks all the boxes. It boasts an entrance way lined with palm trees, shady courtyards, parks, a “love garden”, a botanical garden and even a zoo, and students will soon become accustomed to the chatter of monkeys, tweeting birds and bugs. A breezy grove looks out on the crab-filled Lagos Lagoon, as well as the third Mainland Bridge – the second-longest bridge in Africa.
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8. Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria
Founded in 1962, the Ahmadu Bello University was named after the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first premier of northern Nigeria. It is spread over the Samuru main campus and Kongo campus in Zaria, Kano State, and students can expect modern structures, water features, topiary and plenty of green space to kick back in.
9. Uganda Christian University, Uganda
The Uganda Christian University is in a suburban area of the town of Mukono, on the former location of Bishop Tucker Theological College, one of Uganda’s oldest colleges. There are extensive sports grounds dotted with plants, grasses and trees, as well as the lush green Agape Square areas. The recent addition of the Hamu Mukasa Library has wowed students, particularly when it is lit up at night.
10. Covenant University, Nigeria
While some sub-Saharan universities are all old glory and history, Covenant University is more of a modern wonder. Located in Ota, Ogun State in Nigeria, it is complete with a swimming pool, a football pitch, and basketball and volleyball courts. Expect plenty of green space and some stunning cherry trees.
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Read more: The 10 most beautiful universities in Europe