List of best universities in Africa released – South Africa leads the way

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African universities have recently been ranked by the Times Higher Education foundation, who recently released a TOP-30 list of African universities. South African universities lead the list, as eleven out of Top 20 African universities are from South Africa. According to the ranking, University of Cape Town (UCT) is the best university in Africa, followed by Wits University in Johannesburg and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. The 20 best universities are listed below:

1. University of Cape Town (South Africa)

2. University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

3. Makerere University (Uganda)

4. University of Stellenbosch (South Africa)

5. University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)

6. University of Port Harcourt (Nigeria)

7. University of the Western Cape (South Africa)

8. University of Nairobi (Kenya)

9. University of Johannesburg (South Africa)

10. Universite Cadi Ayyad (Morocco)

11. University of Pretoria (South Africa)

12. University of Ghana (Ghana)

13. University of South Africa (South Africa)

14. Suez Canal University (Egypt)

15. Universite Hassan II (Morocco)

16. Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia)

17. Rhodes University (South Africa)

18. University of The Free State (South Africa)

19. North West University (South Africa)

20. University of Tunis (Tunisia)

University of Cape Town Upper Campus. Photo source: Wikipedia.
University of Cape Town Upper Campus. Photo source: Wikipedia.

Makerere University provides a surprise by taking the third place. The University has traditions, it was formed in 1922 and as such is one of the oldest universities in sub-Saharan Africa. It has a commendable alumni list, including leaders not only from Uganda but other East African countries as well. Makerere University sets an example to other countries, that even a relatively small country can host a top-level university.

African Universities do not shine on global scale. Based on World University Rankings, also by Times Higher Education, UCT is again the best African University, ranked respectably 124th. Otherwise only Universities of Witswatersrand, Stellenboch and Cadi Ayyad (Marrakech) make the top 400. Another World Ranking (CWUR) puts Witswaterstrand 149th, well ahead of Cape Town and other African universities

The poor performance by African universities is no surprise as they desperately lack resources. Faculty are often poorly paid, equipment is outdated, library collections are very limited, and there may be substandard internet connections. Therefore universities struggle to provide quality education and generate academic research. Much research in Africa is funded and led by foreigners, and names of locals involved in these research projects will appear at the end of publication contributor lists. One problem regarding university education in many African countries is quantity over quality, e.g. large numbers of students enrolling to and graduating from universities each year, all facing very limited employment opportunities. Those who find jobs often end up doing menial duties. Unfortunately often even the most talented and determined local graduates fail to get the chance to develop their careers and to do more demanding jobs, and employers may hire expensive expats instead.

There is no outright solution to improve quality of universities. Increased and properly allocated resources would do much, but we are talking about very poor countries where any public funds are hard to come by. High tuition fees, on the other hand, would turn off prospective students, who will then never get opportunity to enjoy higher education. Commercial funding by companies and rich individuals could provide additional funds, but unlikely in the quantities needed.

Further reading:

World University News: New book probes funding of higher education in Africa, Karen MacGregor19 October 2013

One thought on “List of best universities in Africa released – South Africa leads the way

    […] Previous Africa This Time Blog post (August 18, 2015): List of best universities in Africa released – South Africa leads the way […]


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