The University of Cape Town (UCT) held its position as the top university in Africa in the 2019 Best Global Universities Rankings, ahead of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Globally, UCT continues to skirt the top 100 – the university is ranked 114th in the world – in the latest report from US News & World, the global authority in education rankings for more than three decades.

In the subject rankings, released simultaneously, UCT is ranked in the top 50 globally in immunology (49th) – up three places from last year. The university is also in the top 100 in a further three subjects:

  • microbiology: 63rd, up two places
  • social sciences and public health: 71st, up 10 places
  • clinical medicine held firm at 91st place.

A further seven subjects were ranked in the top 200: plant and animal science (116th), environment/ecology (125th), arts and humanities (143rd), geosciences (152nd), psychiatry/psychology (154th), space science (165th) and physics (166th).


The Best Global University Rankings differ from most other widely recognised world university rankings because these focus solely on research. The methodology measures a universityʼs global and regional research reputation and academic research performance using indicators such as publications, citations (the number of times a publication is referred to) and international collaborations.

“To be ranked just outside the top 100 in the world is a significant achievement and demonstrates that UCT continues to punch above its weight.”

Professor Michael Kyobe, deputy vice-chancellor for Research and Internationalisation, said it is encouraging to see UCTʼs research perform so strongly in the rankings.

“To be ranked just outside the top 100 in the world is a significant achievement and demonstrates that UCT continues to punch above its weight – at a time of declining national funding and increased global competition,” he said, adding that the institution is working very hard to maintain this level of excellence.

Universities in the United States and the United Kingdom remain at the top of the rankings. The top four institutions are in the US, with Harvard University leading at number one, Massachusetts Institute of Technology second and Stanford University third. The University of California-Berkeley is fourth, with Oxford University in the UK at number five.

With 227 universities ranked, the US has the most institutions on the overall list of 1 250, followed by China with 130, the UK with 78, Japan with 67, and Germany with 62.

China accounted for three of the top 10 universities in engineering, and four of the top 10 in computer science, with Tsinghua University at number one in both subjects.

Across the 22 subject rankings, Harvard University ranks number one in more subjects than any other institution, taking the top spot in 10 of these rankings.