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Top marks for 5 SA universities as they climb in global rankings

Wits University is one of the five South African universities which featured in the top 500 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.
Wits University is one of the five South African universities which featured in the top 500 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.

Eleven of the 26 universities in SA were featured in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021, released on Wednesday.

The rankings compared a record 1,527 research-led universities from 93 countries and regions and five of the country's institutions were among the top 500.

The rankings are the only global performance tables that judge research-intensive universities across all their core missions, namely teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

While the University of Cape Town was one of the world's top 200 universities in the survey, ranked 155, four other South African institutions were in the global top 500.

They are the University of the Witwatersrand (201-250) category, down from 194th last year, Stellenbosch University (251-300), University of KwaZulu-Natal (351-400) and Durban University of Technology (401-500).

North West University (501-600), University of Pretoria (601-800), University of Johannesburg (601-800), University of the Western Cape (601-800) and the University of SA (1000+) and the Tshwane University of Technology (1000+) completed the round up of South African institutions in the rankings.

Stellenbosch University (SU) welcomed its ranking.

Prof Hester Klopper, SU's deputy vice-chancellor for strategy and internationalisation said this was proof of the institution's research impact worldwide and the recognition afforded to the calibre and stature of its researchers.

“Being ranked in the band 251-300 means that SU excelled well above the vast majority of universities worldwide that took part in this ranking.

“While the university remains cognisant of the importance of rankings in the overall perception of an institution’s academic and research standing, our focus is on academic and research excellence that will shape a better world for all,” Klopper said.

SU said it improved again on the indicators, industry income (knowledge transfer and a university’s ability to attract funding in the commercial marketplace), research (number of published academic papers, reputation for research excellence, and income) and citations (number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally).

The 2021 rankings placed the UK's Oxford University in the top spot for the fifth consecutive year. The US, however, dominated the top 10, claiming a record eight positions.

The US institutions in the top 10 are Stanford University (2); Harvard University (3); California Institute of Technology (4); Massachusetts Institute of Technology (5); University of California, Berkeley (7); Yale University (8); Princeton University (9); and University of Chicago (10).

China’s Tsinghua University is the first Asian university to make the top 20, where it is ranked joint 20th with the US's Duke University.

The University of Cambridge, at six, was the only other UK institution in the top 10.