Local universities perform well in QS subject rankings

South African institutions have performed well in the new QS – Quacquarelli Symonds – World University Rankings by Subject 2015. There are seven of the country's universities in the ranking, South African institutions cumulatively appear 15 times among the top 100 across the disciplines and the University of Cape Town is seventh globally in development studies.

Leading the pack in the country and on the continent, the University of Cape Town featured in 23 of 36 subjects measured, and tied for place 39 for geography.

Several South African universities showed excellence in development studies. After Cape Town came the University of the Witwatersrand, or Wits, at number 15. Four other local institutions claimed positions in the global top 100 – with Stellenbosch University at 46 and the universities of Johannesburg, KwaZulu-Natal and Pretoria falling in the 51 to 100 band.

Egypt also had four universities ranked and in development studies the American University in Cairo was at 43, Uganda’s Makerere University at 33 and Kenya’s University of Nairobi at 47. Egypt’s Cairo University, Ain Shams University and Alexandria University also made appearances on the ranking sheet.

Simona Bizzozero, QS head of communications, told University World News that South African universities had “significant experience in working with non-governmental aid organisations and for international organisations such as the United Nations and the World Bank and in research projects linked to development of young economies”.

The QS World University Rankings by Subject introduced six new subjects this year – architecture, art and design, business, dentistry, development studies and veterinary science, to make a total of 36 disciplines.

The subject rankings have been published annually since 2011 and are based on academic reputation, employer reputation and research impact.

South African performance

Apart from featuring in 23 subjects, the University of Cape Town, or UCT, was ranked in the top 100 globally in six subjects over and above development studies and geography – law, education, English language and literature, politics and international studies, earth and marine sciences, and agriculture and forestry.

“UCT is particularly pleased to see South Africa hold its own in this specific ranking,” said Kylie Hatton, the university’s deputy director for communication and marketing.

Wits is ranked in 11 subjects and has two in the top 100, the University of Pretoria is featured in 11 subjects and has one in the top 100, Stellenbosch is in 10 of the subjects and has two in the top 100 globally, and KwaZulu-Natal is in four subjects with one top 100 ranking. Rhodes University is evaluated in two subjects and made its mark in the 151-200 group.

Other outstanding performers from South Africa in the top 100 worldwide were Stellenbosch University for agriculture and forestry and the University of the Witwatersrand for geography.

“These rankings provide a unique opportunity for South African institutions to be recognised for their specialised prowess in certain disciplines, something not seen in overall institutional rankings,” said Ben Sowter, QS head of research.