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Top 10 best universities in Sub-Saharan Africa

A report by Times Higher Education has ranked the top universities in Sub-Saharan Africa. The ranking aims to spotlight African higher education institutions and address local higher education challenges.

University of the Witwatersrand
  • The University of the Witwatersrand takes first place in the first-ever Times Higher Education Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings.
  • The top five is made up of universities from South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. 
  • While South Africa has the most institutions in the top 10 (four), Nigeria is the most-represented nation overall, with 37 ranked institutions.
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The rankings were officially announced at the organisation’s first forum in the region, which took place in partnership with Ashesi University in June 2023. According to the report, the list is led by South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand. The University of Johannesburg, and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania came in second and third, respectively.

Despite South Africa having the most institutions in the top 10 (four), Nigeria is the most-represented nation overall, with 37 ranked institutions, led by Covenant University in seventh place. The ranking includes 88 institutions from 20 countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Mauritius, Kenya and Mozambique.

Insights from the report showed that about two-thirds of participating universities are public institutions; a quarter are private, not-for-profit organisations; and about a tenth are private, for-profit organisations.

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The ranking was put together with a hybrid methodology covering teaching, impact and research elements. The methodology is made up of five key pillars: resources and finance; access and fairness; teaching skills; student engagement, and Africa impact.

A key part of the data collection was a survey of more than 20,000 students from 88 institutions. Students were asked a range of questions, including how challenged they felt by the teaching at the university, how much it supported critical thinking and the opportunities they had to interact with staff of Exam-Labs and peers.

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The University of the Witwatersrand, commonly known as “Wits”, is located in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The university has five faculties encompassing the sciences; commerce, law and management; engineering; health sciences; and humanities.

Famous alumni include Nelson Mandela, who studied law there and became president of South Africa and the 1993 Nobel Laureate for peace; novelist Nadine Gordimer (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1991); Aaron Klug (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1982) and Sydney Brenner (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2002).

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The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is the second South African university to feature in the top five of the SSA ranking.

The university has four campuses, each with its own unique identity and history.

UJ has eight colleges and faculties – business and economics; art, design and architecture; education; engineering and the built environment; health sciences; humanities; law and science. There is also the Johannesburg Business School.

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Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences is a public university in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The university focuses on teaching and research in medicine, dentistry, public health, nursing and allied health.

The university has two campuses, one in Upanga West, in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam, and another 31km west of Muhimbili Hospital, which has a 571-bed teaching hospital.

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The University of Pretoria was founded in 1908 with just four professors and 32 students. It has now expanded to become one of the largest research universities in South Africa.

There are nine faculties encompassing economics and management sciences; education; engineering, built environment and information technology; health sciences; humanities; law; natural and agricultural sciences; theology and religion and veterinary science. There is also the Gordon Institute of Business.

Makerere University was established in 1922 and is the oldest university in Uganda.

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It began as a technical school offering courses in carpentry, building and mechanics and has since expanded to offer courses in agricultural sciences, business and management sciences, computing and information sciences, education, engineering, design art, health sciences, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences and law.

The university is spread over three campuses in the country’s capital, Kampala.

SSA University Rank University Country Score
1 University of the Witwatersrand South Africa 81.9
2 University of Johannesburg South Africa 79.6
3 Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences Tanzania 79.2
4 University of Pretoria South Africa 78.7
5 Makerere University Uganda 72.1
6 University of the Western Cape South Africa 71.1
7 Covenant University Nigeria 70.0
8 UGHE – University of Global Health Equity Rwanda 68.3
9 Ashesi University Ghana 67.9
10 Ardhi University Tanzania 67.1
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