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SA universities and their place in the world

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South Africa is the best-represented African nation on this year’s QS World University Ranking, with nine representatives featuring among the world’s top institutions.
The University of Cape Town is the country’s leading university, ranked 171st worldwide, while Stellenbosh University (302nd) and the University of the Witwatersrand (331st) both feature in the top 400.
The University of Pretoria and Rhodes University both made it into the 501-550 category, with the University of KwaZulu-Natal ranked in the 551-600 range. The University of Johannesburg is in the top 600, and both North West University and University of the Western Cape are in the top 700.
QS also publishes Faculty Area tables alongside its World University rankings, which measure performance in five faculty areas: Arts and Humanities, Engineering and Technology, Life Sciences and Medicine, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences and Management. These tables help to measure an institution’s performance in specific areas, giving students a clearer picture of the quality an institution can provide in their subject of choice.
South Africa’s best faculty area performance is in the Arts and Humanities, featuring five universities in the top-400 for this faculty area, with the University of Cape Town holding on to a top-200 place, coming 122nd.
This national performance is backed up by four top-400 Life Sciences and Medicine faculties, and four top-400 Social Sciences and Management faculties. The University of Pretoria, University of the Witwatersrand, and Stellenbosch University consistently feature in the top-400 for each faculty area.
South African universities are starting to produce research with a global impact. Stellenbosch University, despite being ranked 302nd overall, comes 96th in the world by citations per faculty. Two other South African universities also come in the top 300 by this measure: Rhodes University (212th) and University of Cape Town (278th).
The 12th edition of the QS World University Rankings 2015/16 confirms the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the world’s top university followed by Harvard, The University Cambridge and Stanford University (tied for third place). ETH Zurich, at ninth, breaks into the top 10 while the sharpest rise in the top echelon of the table is for the two leading Singaporean universities which make the top 15 for the first time ever. The National University of Singapore (12th) is the leading Asian institution while Nanyang Technological University (13th) takes a quantum leap, nearly closing the gap with its domestic rival. Australian National University (19th) also returns to the top 20.
Ben Sowter, QS head of research, comments: “What’s fascinating about these latest results is that they reveal more diversity than ever in the distribution of world-class universities at the highest levels. We’re providing prospective students with the richest picture yet.”