The University of Cape Town (UCT) once again ranks in the top 201–300 band of universities, according to the 2023 ShanghaiRanking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) published on 15 August – the best ranking for a university in South Africa and on the continent.

First published in 2003, ARWU ranks more than 2 500 universities annually and only the best 1 000 are published.

“UCT continues to be ranked the top university on the continent, a position that reflects the exceptional calibre of our researchers and their contributions and an achievement that has gained the university international recognition,” said Professor Sue Harrison, the deputy vice-chancellor for Research and Internationalisation.

“While we celebrate this, we recognise that these rankings and similar ones do not encompass numerous vital elements of the academic project, including both research elements and teaching and learning, that hold significant importance for and contribute to the impact of institutions and communities in the Global South. UCT’s Vision 2030 to ‘unleash human potential for a fair and just society’ continues to guide our priorities beyond the confines of rankings. With this in mind, we are particularly happy about our strong performance in these rankings and numerous others, nevertheless.”

“UCT continues to be ranked the top university on the continent, a position that reflects the exceptional calibre of our researchers and their contributions.”

ARWU uses six indicators to rank world universities:

  • number of alumni winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (10%)
  • number of staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (20%)
  • number of highly cited researchers (20%)
  • number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science (20%)
  • number of articles indexed in the major citation indices in the Web of Science (20%)
  • per capita academic performance of a university (10%).

The list of Highly Cited Researchers released annually by Clarivate Analytics identifies researchers who have demonstrated significant influence through the publication of multiple highly cited papers in the Web of Science during the past decade. UCT has three researchers in the most recently published list – Emeritus Professor William Bond, Professor Estelle (Vicki) Lambert and Professor Dan Stein. UCT once again achieved the top score in the country for this indicator.

Harvard University was ranked top by ARWU for the 21st consecutive year. Stanford University took second place once again and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) maintained its position in third place.

UCT top in Africa in other World Rankings published this year

In June, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2024 placed UCT top on the continent and at 173rd position worldwide, which was an impressive rise of 64 places compared to the previous year. This improved performance is largely due to a change in methodology, as QS introduced three new indicators, which now considers the university’s extensive international collaborations, excellent graduate employment rates and highly successful alumni; and evaluates UCT’s contribution to social and environmental impact.

Earlier in May, the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) 2023 ranked UCT at 267th position, which is in the top 1.4% of universities worldwide and the best in Africa.

View the complete ShanghaiRanking’s ARWU 2023.

Read about the ARWU methodology.