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Top Universities in Africa

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If you decide to study in Africa, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to explore different cultures, landscapes, sights and general adventures in this huge and diverse continent.

A total of 11 African universities are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2021, with the majority (seven) of these found in South Africa.

Read on for an overview of the top universities in Africa this year, including information on each university’s location and other details. The first four universities are all ranked in the 801-1000 range* and are therefore joint eighth in Africa.

QS World University Rankings 2021 - Top Universities in Africa

Africa rank

Global rank

University

Location

1

  220=

2

  403=

South Africa

3

  411=

4

  439=

South Africa

5

  456=

South Africa

=6

561-570

Egypt

=6

561-570

South Africa

=8

  801-1000

Egypt

=8

  801-1000

Egypt

=8

  801-1000

South Africa

=8

  801-1000

South Africa

=8. University of Kwazulu-Natal

University of Kwazulu-Natal

The South African University of Kwazulu-Natal is a young university, formed only as recently as 2004 by a merger of previous institutions. Today it has five campuses around the KwaZulu-Natal province in the south-east of the country.

=8. Rhodes University

Rhodes University

Rhodes University, located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, was founded in 1904. The university is highly residential and relatively small, with around 8,100 students currently enrolled.

=8. Alexandria University

Alexandria University

As well as featuring in the World University Rankings, Alexandria University is also ranked 16th in the QS Arab Region University Rankings 2020. It was originally founded in 1938 as a branch campus of Cairo University, but became a separate institution in 1942, gaining its current name in 1952.

=8. Ain Shams University

Ain Shams University

The last of the top universities in Africa to be ranked 801-1000 is the Egyptian Ain Shams University, which is ranked 14th in the QS Arab Region University Rankings 2019. Based in Cairo and established in 1950, Ain Shams is a very large institution, hosting approximately 180,000 students in 15 faculties.

7. University of Pretoria

University of Pretoria

Ranked 561-570 in the world this year in 2021 (down from 551-560 last year) is South Africa’s University of Pretoria. It’s one of the largest universities in the country, with over 52,000 students at seven campuses. Established in 1908, the university also features in the top 50 of the latest QS BRICS University Rankings, in 45th place.

6. Cairo University

Cairo University

Egypt’s Cairo University is ranked in the 561-570 range of the overall world rankings, falling from 521-570 last year. However, it earns an impressive 11th place in the Arab regional ranking. Despite the name, its main campus is actually in Giza, 20km southwest across the Nile from Cairo.

5. Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University is placed joint 456th in the world this year, down 29 places. The university ranks within the top 55 of the most recent BRICS ranking, in 51st place. Founded in 1918, the university is located in the town of Stellenbosch, 50 kilometers east of Cape Town.

4. University of Johannesburg

University of Johannesburg

Climbing remarkably from the 501-510 to joint 439th this year, the University of Johannesburg is the youngest university in South Africa to feature in the QS World University Rankings, having been formed from a merger of earlier institutions as recently as 2005.

3. The American University in Cairo

American University in Cairo

Heading back to Egypt for the next in our look at the best universities in Africa, the 2021 world ranking sees the American University in Cairo drop 16 places to now rank joint 411th in the world. Ranked ninth in the most recent edition of the Arab region university rankings, the university teaches in English and possesses Egypt’s largest English-language library collection.

2. University of the Witwatersrand

University of the Witwatersrand

Ranked joint 403rd this year, the University of the Witwatersrand (often called Wits for short) is another South African institution, with five campuses in urban and suburban Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. The university has around 39,950 students and, according to the university’s website, 97 percent of its students find employment within six months of completing their studies.

1. University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town

Leading the way for the top universities in Africa is South Africa’s oldest university, the University of Cape Town, ranked joint 220th in the QS World University Rankings® 2021. The campus sits upon the slopes of Table Mountain’s Devil’s Peak, offering fantastic views. It also performs well in the academic reputation indicator, ranking in the 173rd worldwide.

*For more information about ranking categories, and answers to other frequently asked questions, click here.

This article was originally published in September 2016. It is updated for every QS World University Rankings® launch, most recently in June 2020.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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