QS Rankings: Africa’s Best Shine In Research Networking

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South Africa Leads, Ghana, Kenya And Nigeria With Two Institutions Each

South Africa has once again emerged as Africa’s higher education powerhouse as some of its universities are the continent’s best resourced and most sustainable and have a thriving research ecosystem supported by international partnerships, according to the 21st edition of the QS World University Rankings 2025.

According to the rankings that were released on 4 June, 40 universities in Africa were rated. South Africa had 11 universities on the list – five of them in the 500-best universities group and one in the top 200.

Four of these universities were among the world’s top 50 in the international research network index.

“Globally, that gave South Africa the fourth-highest number of top 50 universities in that indicator, behind only the United Kingdom, the United States and France,” said Simona Bizzozero, the director of communications at QS Quacquarelli Symonds. That performance was a signal that South African universities are highly collaborative in terms of cross-border research.

Egypt led the continent in terms of the most ranked universities, as it had 15 institutions on the scorecard, two of which were in the top 500. Eight other African countries featured in the rankings: Tunisia with four universities, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria with two institutions each, and Ethiopia, Morocco, Sudan and Uganda with one university each.

Who is leading the pack?

The African cohort was led by the University of Cape Town (UCT) which was in the 171st position globally – two places up from its 173rd placing in the previous QS ranking.

Other African universities that were placed in the group of the top 500 globally included the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) (267), Stellenbosch University (SU) (296), the University of Johannesburg (UJ) (312), Cairo University (350), the University of Pretoria (UP) (354), and the American University in Cairo (410).

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According to datasets from QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the firm whose higher education specialists ranked the universities, 21 African universities were in the top 1,000 universities as compared to 18 last year.

In this context, the University of KwaZulu-Natal was in eighth position on the continent after it was placed in 587th globally, while the Ain Shams University of Egypt was in ninth position on the continent after it was placed in 592nd position, which was an improvement on last year’s global bracket of 721-730.

Ethiopia’s University of Addis Ababa was the best-placed university in Sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa and was in the 10th position on the continent after it was placed in the global bracket of 771-780, a position it shared with Tunisia’s University of Tunis El Manar. Egypt’s Alexandria University was the continent’s 11th-best university in the 801-850 global band.

South Africa’s North-West University, the University of South Africa, and Ghana’s University of Ghana were in the global band of 851-900. Others in the top 1,000 included two Egyptian universities, Mansoura University and Egyptian Future University, Kenya’s University of Nairobi, Uganda’s Makerere University, and South Africa’s Rhodes University and the University of the Western Cape.

What were they ranked on?

The universities scored points on nine indicators that included academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty ratio, and international faculty ratio. Other indicators were: the international-student ratio, international research network, employment outcomes, and sustainability.

According to Ben Sowter, the senior vice president of QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the results also drew on the analysis of 17 million academic papers and the expert opinions of over 280,000 academic faculty and employers. “This year’s world university rankings featured 1,500 universities across 106 higher education systems,” he said.

Commenting on the performance of South African universities, Bizzozero noted that those universities scored highly in six out of the nine indicators that included employer reputation, citations per faculty, international student ratio, international research network, employability and sustainability.

However, their best performance was in the international research network where they secured Africa’s nine-highest ranks in that indicator, of which four universities, UP, UJ, UCT and Wits, were among the world’s top 50 in that index.

Employability of graduates

According to Bizzozero, Uganda topped the tables for employment outcomes, with an impressive score of 98.3, exceeding the global average by 74.5 points.

Wits and UCT were found to be also producing exceptionally employable graduates, as both of them were among the world’s 50 best universities in the employability index, ranking 18th and 46th respectively.

According to Bizzozero, South Africa also spearheaded African research, as all of its 11 universities listed occupied the continent’s top positions in the indicator of citations per faculty. South Africa’s best performers in citations per faculty and among the world’s 500 best in that segment were SU (190), UCT (294), Wits (432) and UJ (499).

The African overview of the rankings showed that African universities were making headway, especially in establishing research partnerships, as 29 universities on the continent showed improvement in the international research network indicator.

Whereas the South African universities led the African group in that segment, Egyptian universities were second on the continent and had exceeded the global average.

African universities also excelled in the employment outcomes indicator as, in addition to Wits and UCT that already indicated a good performance in that area, other African universities that were among the top 100 in that field included Makerere (25), Addis Ababa (49), Cairo (50), Ghana (51), University of South Africa (65), Nairobi (67) and Nigeria’s Lagos University (91).

Although the four Tunisian universities in the ranking, the University of Tunis El Manar, the University of Tunis, the University of Sousse, and the University of Sfax, were all in the average global band of 1,001-1,200, according to Bizzozero they had scored higher than the global average in faculty-student ratio, international research network and employment outcomes indicators.

Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and Sudan, each with one or two universities ranked, displayed high scores for international research network and employment outcomes, many of their universities exceeding the global average.

Sustainability

In terms of sustainability, an indicator that is appearing in QS World University Rankings for the second year, two notable improvements were recorded: UCT, which rose 125 places to rank in 50th position globally, and Wits, which moved 112 places to 127th position globally.

According to QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the two success stories are indicators that institutions in African countries that often bear the brunt of climate change can make significant gains if a new generation of students demands more action and transparency.

As African universities continued to make some gains within the global academic agenda, at the top of the world’s ranking table was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while Imperial College London was in second position and the University of Oxford in third position.

University World News

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