The University of Cape Town (UCT) is among the best 100 institutions in the world for six subjects, according to the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings by Subject 2021. Development studies – UCT’s top-performing subject – remains ranked 10th globally.

“Development studies includes a wide range of research and study areas that have the potential for significant impact in affecting the progress of South Africa – and the continent more broadly,” said UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Internationalisation Professor Sue Harrison.

“As a university in the Global South, UCT is honoured to be repeatedly recognised by the international community as one of the best destinations to study this subject.”

UCT was ranked in 36 of the 51 subjects assessed by QS. Five were placed in the 51–100 band:

  • anthropology
  • archaeology
  • architecture / built environment
  • geography
  • medicine.

An additional 10 subjects ranked in the 101–150 range:

  • agriculture and forestry
  • anatomy and physiology
  • communication and media studies
  • earth and marine sciences
  • education
  • English language and literature
  • geology
  • geophysics
  • history
  • law.

In the five broad subject areas identified by QS (into which the subjects are divided), UCT ranked as follows:

  • arts and humanities (tied 174th)
  • engineering and technology (tied 326th)
  • life sciences and medicine (111th)
  • natural sciences (tied 236th)
  • social sciences and management (tied 192nd).

UCT’s strongest subject area, life sciences and medicine, moved up one place compared with the previous year.

To produce its rankings, QS combines information from four sources: two global surveys of academics and employers to assess international reputation, and two indicators (research citations per paper and h-index in the relevant subject) to assess research impact. These are weighted differently depending on the discipline. This year, QS analysed information for 1 453 institutions across 51 subjects.

As with all the international university rankings, the QS subject rankings are comparative: they rank institutions in relation to one another, rather than against an objective measurement.

Leading subjects in other rankings

During October 2020, Times Higher Education (THE) and the US News & World Report Best Global Universities released their latest subject rankings. THE placed UCT’s best-performing subject, clinical and health, at 66th (tied) globally – well within the top 100. Five additional subjects at UCT came in THE’s top 200:

  • education (101–125)
  • law (126–150)
  • life sciences (176–200)
  • psychology (176–200)
  • social sciences (101–125).

In the US News & World Report Best Global Universities Subject Rankings, UCT had six subjects in the top 100, including infectious diseases, a new subject, which ranked 9th.

Review the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject.

Read more about the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 methodology.