Best universities in Africa

Find the best universities in Africa using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

October 3 2017
University of Cape Town campus

More than 25 top universities in Africa feature in the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2018.

The best universities in Africa span 10  countries, from Uganda in the east to Nigeria in the west, Morocco in the north to South Africa in the south of the continent.

One of South Africa’s universities appears in the top 200 of the worldwide rankings; the University of Cape Town is Africa’s top university at position 171.

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Overall, Egypt and South Africa are the two best represented African countries in the ranking, with nine and eight universities respectively.

But South Africa and Uganda are the only two countries with universities in the top 500.

The ranking rates university performance using 13 different indicators measuring teaching, research, research impact, innovation and international outlook. 

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Top 5 universities in Africa 2018

1. University of Cape Town

UCT’s campus is located at the foot of Table Mountain, offering spectacular views of Devil’s Peak and across the city.

The university was founded in 1829, earning its status as the oldest university in the country and the second oldest in Africa, behind the University of Sierra Leone, founded two years earlier.

The main campus contains many teaching faculties, the main library and some halls of residence, and the middle and lower campuses are home to most of the student residences, sports facilities and some academic departments.

Academic departments are grouped into six faculties: the built environment, health sciences, commerce, engineering, humanities, science and law.

In addition, the university’s graduate business school runs independently from the commerce faculty.

UCT commits to social change through its "transformation" projects, which tackle issues like diversity, student opportunity, and behaviour.

About 18 per cent of the student body is international.

2. University of the Witwatersrand

Wits University – as it is commonly known – is a public research university based in Johannesburg.

It was founded as a school of mining – the region is the most abundant in gold of any location worldwide.

The university grew significantly in the late 20th century and the campus expanding with many new buildings.

That time was also a period of protest against apartheid policies, and the university campus was fairly divided. Nonetheless, many prominent black leaders graduated from the university.

There are five campuses, with two joined by a walkway. The campuses are home to student residences, including female-only dorms, and academic departments.

Academic research and teaching is spread across five faculties: commerce, engineering and the built environment, health sciences, law and management, science and humanities.

Through the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, the medical school trains more specialists than any other university in southern Africa.

Wits Disability Unit is a flagship centre ensuring higher education is accessible to disabled students, caregivers and others in need of special provisions.

3. Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University is located in South Africa’s Western Cape, not far from Cape Town.

The university town maintains Dutch colonial architecture and its streets host an array of cafes, boutiques and galleries.

Among the university’s many achievements was designing Africa’s first microsatellite in 1999.

Teaching at the university is split between four campuses, with the main one in Stellenbosch and the others nearby.

Students may write assignments and exams in both English and Afrikaans, even though the main language of instruction is Afrikaans. For postgraduate students, the language in classes is determined by the demographic of the class, and is usually English.

There are about 150 academic departments within 10 faculties, and many other research centres.

In addition to an extensive library system, the university has a conservatory with two concert halls, home of the Stellenbosch University Choir – believed to be South Africa’s oldest choir.

=4. University of KwaZulu-Natal

The youngest university in the top five was formed out of a merger between the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville in 2004.

The university consists of four colleges spread across five campuses in the KwaZulu-Natal region.

The college of agriculture, engineering and science teaches all science subjects except for clinical and health studies, while the college of humanities teaches across arts, social sciences and humanities. The college of health sciences contains the medical school, and the college of law and management studies provides courses in law, business and management.

Notable alumni of the university include a number of public servants, activists, poets and innovators.

Researchers and students regularly engage in international collaborations with partners in other countries, aiming to tackle pressing challenges such as Aids, food security and high-tech developments.

=4. Makerere University

Makerere University is the largest university in Uganda. It was established as a technical school in 1922 and has become one of the most prestigious universities in Africa.

The university is made up of nine colleges and one school, serving about 36,000 undergraduates and 4,000 postgraduates.

Many East African political figures have studied at MUK, including presidents of Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kenya.

The university was also a centre for literary activity and culture that formed a nationalistic identity in independent Uganda.

Academic colleges function as faculties, spanning natural sciences, business and management, health sciences, education and engineering.

Halls of residence are generally split by gender, with one specific dorm for final year medical students.

Best universities in Africa 2018

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results

Africa Rank 2018 World University Rank 2018 University Country City
1 171 University of Cape Town South Africa Cape Town
2 251–300 University of the Witwatersrand South Africa Johannesburg
3 351–400 Stellenbosch University South Africa Stellenbosch
=4 401–500 University of KwaZulu-Natal South Africa Durban
=4 401–500 Makerere University Uganda Kampala
=6 601–800 American University in Cairo Egypt Cairo
=6 601–800 Beni-Suef University Egypt Beni Suef
=6 601–800 University of Johannesburg South Africa Johannesburg
=6 601–800 University of Pretoria South Africa Pretoria
=6 601–800 University of the Western Cape South Africa Cape Town
=11 801–1000 Ain Shams University Egypt Cairo
=11 801–1000 Alexandria University Egypt Alexandria
=11 801–1000 Assiut University Egypt Asyut
=11 801–1000 Cairo University Egypt Cairo
=11 801–1000 University of Ghana Ghana Accra
=11 801–1000 University of Ibadan Nigeria Ibadan
=11 801–1000 Mansoura University Egypt Dakahlia
=11 801–1000 University of Marrakech Cadi Ayyad Morocco Marrakech
=11 801–1000 Mohammed V University of Rabat Morocco Rabat
=11 801–1000 University of Nairobi Kenya Nairobi
=11 801–1000 University of South Africa South Africa Pretoria
=11 801–1000 South Valley University Egypt Qena
=11 801–1000 Suez Canal University Egypt Ismailia
=11 801–1000 University of Tlemcen Algeria Tlemcen
=25 1001+ University of Monastir Tunisia Monastir
=25 1001+ Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University Morocco Fez
=25 1001+ University of Tunis El Manar Tunisia =Tunis

Read more: Best universities in the world


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