Top 10 Best Universities In South Africa 2023

Top 10 Best Universities In South Africa

Are you eager to explore the finest institutions of higher learning in South Africa? Look no further! In this article, we’ll delve into the top 10 best universities in the country, providing you with a comprehensive overview of each institution’s strengths, achievements, and offerings.

South Africa’s educational landscape is brimming with diversity and excellence, making it a sought-after destination for students locally and internationally. These universities have consistently demonstrated their commitment to academic innovation and advancement, from cutting-edge research facilities to world-renowned faculty. 

Just as we’ve written about the top 20 best high schools in South Africa, as we take you through the top 10 universities in South Africa, you’ll gain insights into their unique contributions to science, technology, humanities, and beyond.

Whether you’re a prospective student seeking the ideal institution for your higher education journey, a parent looking to guide your child toward the best possible academic opportunities, or simply someone curious about the South African education system, you’re in the right place. 

We assure you that all the information you need to make informed decisions or satisfy your curiosity will be covered extensively in the upcoming sections. So, let’s embark on a journey through the educational excellence these universities offer. Without any further ado, let’s get started. 

Top 10 Best Universities in South Africa 

The top ten best universities in South Africa along with their rankings are listed below:

1. The University of Johannesburg (U.J.)

Best Universities in South Africa - University of Johannesburg
  • Tuition: R102,280 – R110,330

The University of Johannesburg (U.J.) is an Afropolitan international university, boasting a diverse student community shaping lives and expanding career paths. Situated within Johannesburg’s dynamic and cosmopolitan environment, the University captures the city’s liveliness while embracing its diversity. 

More than just a slogan, “The Future Reimagined” encapsulates U.J.’s ethos. The institution promotes the 4th Industrial Revolution concepts across diverse fields, accelerating innovation in Africa. Interestingly, the University is one of the top 10 cheapest Universities in South Africa.

U.J. is deeply rooted in Africa, propelling a future characterized by critical thinking and meaningful collaboration. With a commitment to excellence, the University equips its students with a competitive edge on the global stage. 

This benefits South African learners and attracts bright minds from across the globe to collaborate with U.J.’s visionary leaders in reshaping the future. U.J.’s impact isn’t confined to South Africa; it resonates across Africa and worldwide through the efforts of students, mentors, professors, and thought leaders.

  • Facts about U.J.
  • In the Q.S. Global World Rankings 2022, U.J. stands at #434.
  • The University of Johannesburg is one of South Africa’s most prestigious public universities.
  • It has a high research output. 
  • Does the University of Johannesburg accept international students? 

Yes, the University of Johannesburg (U.J.) welcomes international students. The International Admissions and Welfare Office is dedicated to offering essential assistance throughout international students’ academic journeys at U.J.

  • How much is the application fee for U.J. for international students?

The application fee for international students at U.J. is R200.00. 

Related: Top 15 Best Boarding Schools In Pretoria

2. University of Cape Town (UCT)

  • Domestic tuition is 21,500 ZAR; International tuition is 75,000 ZAR.

Ranked as the premier University in South Africa, the University of Cape Town (UCT) is a multicultural institution with a dedicated team of over 5,000 academic, administrative, and service staff. UCT welcomes a diverse student body of more than 28,000 individuals hailing from over 100 countries. Annually, around 7,200 students proudly graduate from this esteemed institution, which also hosts a vibrant array of over 100 societies and 40 sports clubs on its campus.

With a comprehensive offering across six faculties—Commerce, Engineering & the Built Environment, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, and Science—UCT is a hub of expert faculty members deeply committed to their respective fields. This ensures students are immersed in a dynamic and intensive learning experience, fostering rapid growth. More so, UCT offers one of the best free online courses in South Africa with certificates.

UCT places significant emphasis on cultivating students’ engagement in volunteer initiatives. These endeavors play a pivotal role in honing leadership and service skills, and they contribute to addressing critical socio-economic issues, including:

– High levels of inequality

– Unequal access to justice

– Substance abuse

– Housing shortages

– Illiteracy and innumeracy

Furthermore, UCT’s impact extends beyond the classroom, as the University has nurtured numerous accomplished leaders. This legacy of academic excellence and research underscores UCT’s formidable reputation in the academic realm.

Facts about UCT

  • English is the medium language
  • Excellent education in a world-renowned city
  • Ranked #1 in Africa
  • UCT is at the highest position university in South Africa
  • Students have access to free internet on campus
  • Ranked #183rd in the world according to Times Higher Education
  • At position 109th in U.S. News & World Report Best Global Universities Rankings
  • How much is the UCT application fee?

The UCT application fee is R300. 

  • Does UCT accept international students?

The International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO) at UCT assists international students by providing information about application procedures, visa requirements, application deadlines, medical cover, and international tuition fees. This empowers internationalization at UCT.

Related: Full List of Colleges of Education In Nigeria

3. Stellenbosch University

Best Universities in South Africa - Stellenbosch University
  • Tuition:R34 272 to R70 038

Stellenbosch University, established in 1866, is one of South Africa’s oldest academic institutions. It has gained recognition for its century-long commitment to high-quality teaching and research, positioning itself as one of Africa’s premier universities. The University offers diverse programs, including Summer School, Postgraduate, and Ph.D. options, all conducted in English. 

With its roots in tradition, Stellenbosch University is organized into ten faculties: Arts, Education, Science, Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, Health Sciences, Military Science, Law, Theology, and Engineering. The institution boasts an open-air theater and the HB Thom Theatre, accommodating 430 spectators.

Stellenbosch University’s reputation extends globally. It ranks in the world’s top 251-275 universities and holds third in Africa. The student body of around 22,000 includes over a third who pursue postgraduate studies. Since 1993, the University has seen a significant rise in international enrollment, with over 1,900 students from 70+ countries.

The University takes pride in being research-intensive, conducting pure and applied research across diverse disciplines. Its ongoing collaboration with industry and government establishes it as a benchmark for research excellence. Students are given the flexibility to complete assignments and exams in either English or Afrikaans.

Related: Top 10 High Schools in Randfontein

Facts About Stellenbosch University:

  • Stellenbosch University was in the world’s top 251-275 universities, third in Africa.
  • The institution also boasts an open-air and 430-seat theatre called the HB Thom Theatre. 
  • Assignments and examinations may be written in either English or Afrikaans by students.

How much is the application fee for international students?

For international students applying to Stellenbosch University, there is an application fee of R100. This fee is required during the admission application process.

What are the entry requirements for the University of Stellenbosch?

The following requirements are necessary to gain entry to the University of Stellenbosch: a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or an Independent Examinations Board (IEB) school-leaving certificate. These certificates must be certified by Umalusi and serve as the qualification for admission to bachelor’s degree studies.

Related: Top 10 Cheapest Community Colleges In USA

4. University Of The Witwatersrand

  • Tuition: 44,910 ZAR

The University of the Witwatersrand, known as Wits, stands out as one of the pioneering institutions to embrace non-discrimination. This commitment, although challenged during the apartheid era, contributed to its resilience and success. 

Ranked second in South Africa, Wits is renowned for its five critical faculties: Commerce, Law, and Management; Engineering and the Built Environment; Health Sciences; Humanities; and Science. The Faculty of Humanities holds the top position in Africa.

Spanning two campuses across 400 acres, Wits offers an impressive array of resources, including 11 libraries and 17 residences. With a rich history, the University boasts of producing 4 Nobel Laureates, 91 Rhodes Scholars, and 4 National Planning Commissioners. Over 40,000 students and over 6,000 staff members contribute to its vibrant academic community.

Facts about the University Of The Witwatersrand:

  • Wits have been voted one of the best universities in South Africa
  • It has a total of 27 A-rated researchers.
  • 9% of students are from overseas
  • 93% of students are employed within six months of graduation
  • U.S. News (Best Global Universities Rankings) rated Wits as 192 in the world
  • Wits has two campuses: one in Braamfontein and one in Park Town.

Where is Witwatersrand University ranked in the world?

Wits hold its ground in the global landscape, securing the #244 spot in the Best Global Universities ranking. Its international appeal is evident, as Wits welcomes students from various backgrounds through integration programs and academic partnerships. 

How much is the University of the Witwatersrand online application fee?

To apply, a non-refundable application fee of R100 for South African citizens and R700 for foreign citizens is required. Visit the self-service portal for more information.

Also Read: Top 5 Best Law Universities in South Africa

5. University of Pretoria

  • Tuition: 36,000 ZAR

The University of Pretoria (UP), a prominent research-intensive institution, consistently ranks among South Africa’s top universities in research impact and student graduation rates. With campuses in Pretoria and Johannesburg, UP is strategically located near government bodies, research institutes, and diplomatic missions.

The University comprises nine faculties, including the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), offering diverse academic programs:

– Economic and Management Sciences

– Education

– Engineering, Built Environment, and Information Technology

– Health Sciences

– Humanities

– Law

– Natural and Agricultural Sciences

– Theology and Religion

– Veterinary Science

Also Read: Top 10 Best Culinary Schools in South Africa

6. University of Pretoria

Best Universities in South Africa - University of Pretoria
  • Tuition: 36,000 ZAR

UP houses 140 academic departments and 85 research centers, affirming its commitment to quality, relevance, and global impact. As Africa’s premier research-focused institution, UP leverages over a century of expertise to address global challenges within a developing nation’s framework.

Having produced a quarter-million alumni in its 105-year history, UP enrolls around 50,000 contact students, with over 13,000 postgraduates, including 4,500 overseas students, predominantly from SADC nations.

For international applicants seeking admission to UP, the process involves providing copies of previous university transcripts, final year project reports (PDF), and master’s dissertations (PDF) for Ph.D. candidates.

UP’s vision encompasses fostering human capital, generating knowledge, and making a difference locally and globally. Through well-established facilities and expertise, the University equips students to confront the world’s multifaceted challenges.

Facts about the University Of Pretoria:

  • The institution’s medical school has been recognized among the top five in the country.
  • Over 250,000 graduates have graduated from the University for over a century of academic service.

Also Read: Top 10 Best Online Schools In South Africa

7. Rhodes University

  • Domestic tuition is 30,705 ZAR, and International tuition is 37,990 ZAR.

Nestled in Grahamstown, South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Rhodes Institution shines as a compact yet remarkable university. Its outstanding undergraduate pass and graduation rates, robust postgraduate achievements, and prolific research output position it among the finest in South Africa. 

These accolades mirror the caliber of students drawn to Rhodes, the diverse educational offerings, and the unwavering dedication of its staff to fostering student growth and accomplishment.

Amidst its scenic backdrop, Rhodes emerges as a dynamic, multicultural knowledge hub, hosting a student body exceeding 7,000. Notably, 26 percent are postgraduates, and an impressive 20 percent hail from 40 countries, lending a global perspective to the campus community.

Rhodes University’s commitment to excellence is underscored by its status as one of South Africa’s premier institutions. This distinction is further highlighted by its attractively small size, fostering close-knit academic relationships and a supportive environment.

How much is the application fee for Rhodes University 2024?

For those aspiring to join this exceptional academic community, the application process requires an initial non-refundable fee of R100 for all applicants. This fee symbolizes the first step towards a transformative educational journey at Rhodes University.

Facts about the University Of Rhodes 

  • In the Q.S. Global World Rankings is #801-1000.
  • Rhodes University is one of the best public universities in Grahamstown 

Related: Top 10 Private Schools in Cape Town

8. North-West University

  • Tuition: R59 410

The North-West University (NWU) is a multi-campus institution in South Africa that spans two provinces. The Mafikeng and Potchefstroom campuses are in the North-West Province, while the Vaal Triangle Campus is in Gauteng. The Institutional Office, called the Head Office, is near the Potchefstroom Campus.

Historically, the African continent played a pivotal role in generating, preserving, and distributing educational resources. Scribes would borrow books from around the world, replicate them, and return them to the illustrious Ancient Library of Alexandria. Similarly, in Timbuktu, families created scrolls to safeguard knowledge in various fields such as arts, philosophy, and science. 

These manuscript collections, spanning the 13th to the 20th century, have been passed down through generations, resulting in an estimated 700,000 works. This resource is a testament to Africa’s heritage.

Drawing from its African roots, the North-West University recognizes the value of participating in the OERu network. This involvement presents an opportunity for Africa to once again play a significant role in providing valuable educational opportunities to distinguished thinkers worldwide.

Facts about North-West University:

  • In the Q.S. Global World Rankings is #1001-1200.
  • North-West University is one of South Africa’s best public universities in Potchefstroom.

What is the acceptance rate for a North West University visa?

The acceptance rate for a visa at North-West University is notably high, standing at 96%. This makes the University’s admission process comparatively straightforward.

Also Read: List of Public Universities in South Africa

9. University Of The Western Cape

  • Local tuition is 18,880 ZAR, Domestic tuition is 18,800 ZAR, International tuition is 36,595 ZAR

Established in 1960, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) stands out within South African higher education. It is a dynamic institution committed to excellence in learning, teaching, research, and innovation globally while upholding the values and ethos integral to its status as a public university.

UWC boasts an enrollment of approximately 23,000 students across both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. These programs span seven faculties, encompassing diverse fields:

  • Department of Dentistry
  • Economic and Management Sciences Faculty
  • Arts and Humanities Faculty
  • Community Health Sciences Faculty
  • Faculty of Education
  • Faculty of Law
  • Faculty of Natural Sciences

With a dedicated team of 2,400 academics, professionals, and support staff, the University is well-equipped to foster an environment of growth and education.

Related: Top 10 Most Expensive High Schools in South Africa

10. University of the Free State

Top Universities in South Africa - University of the Free State
  • Domestic tuition is 18,248 ZAR, and International tuition is 27,372 ZAR.

Situated near the city center, the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State is complemented by two satellite campuses. One, known as the South Campus, resides in Bloemfontein, while the other finds its place in the former homeland QwaQwa, formerly part of the University of the North until 2003.

The University’s comprehensive sports facilities accommodate over 20 sports, medical resources, and cultural activities spanning from political engagement to outdoor pursuits and the creative arts. Within its grounds, one can find a student center, a student newspaper called IRAWA, and the campus radio station KovsieFm.

What is the ranking of the University of the Free State? 

Regarding its ranking, the University of the Free State is a prominent public institution in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It holds a position in the top public universities globally, specifically in the Q.S. World University Rankings 2024, which is at #1001-1200.

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FAQs About the Best Universities In South Africa 

Which University has the highest pass rate in South Africa?

The University of Pretoria emerges at the forefront in this regard. SAICA’s pass rate breakdown by University highlights distinct performance differences among institutions. The University of Pretoria (UP) secures the top position with an impressive 99% pass rate, trailed by the University of Stellenbosch at 96% and the North-West University (NWU) at 95%.

Which University has the most employed graduates in South Africa?

Regarding favorable employment outcomes, the University of Cape Town (UCT) leads South African universities. Based on data from Quacquarelli Symonds (Q.S.), universities worldwide were evaluated for graduate employability, revealing that UCT stands out with the best employment results in the country.

Which is the safest University in South Africa?

According to the StuDocu World University Ranking 2021, the North-West University (NWU) claims the title of the safest University in South Africa, achieving an impressive score of 9.4 out of 10. As crime rates continue to rise in the country, NWU prides itself on fostering campuses where staff and students feel a sense of safety and security.

What is the number 1 university in South Africa?

Per the latest Q.S. World University Rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds, the University of Cape Town (UCT) has secured the top position as the best University in South Africa. The 2024 rankings assess 1,500 institutions across 104 locations, emphasizing criteria such as employability and sustainability.

Related: Top 20 Cheapest Universities In Nigeria and Their Courses

The Best Universities In South Africa (Summary) 

South Africa is a diverse and competitive landscape in higher education, with universities striving for excellence across various fronts. 

Through a careful assessment of multiple criteria, including academic prowess, employability, and research impact, a distinct group of institutions emerges as the cream of the crop. 

These top 10 universities offer a wealth of educational opportunities and contribute significantly to the nation’s intellectual growth, global recognition, and societal progress. 

As students and researchers explore these esteemed institutions, they engage in a journey of discovery, innovation, and collaboration that fuels South Africa’s pursuit of academic distinction and societal betterment.

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