More institutions take part in rankings, only one in top 200

The number of universities in Africa participating in the 20th edition of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024 has increased by 16%, from 97 in 2022 to 113 institutions this year.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa, placed in 167th position out of 1,904 universities from 108 countries and regions, was the only university in Africa to be among the top 200-ranked institutions. The University of Oxford was placed first globally.

In total, 18 African countries had their universities assessed, including Egypt (28), Algeria (23), Nigeria (15), South Africa (12), Morocco (11), Tunisia (eight), and Ghana (four). Others on the list were Botswana (two), Tanzania (two), Ethiopia (one), Kenya (one), Uganda (one), Namibia (one), Mozambique (one), Mauritius (one), Rwanda (one), Zambia (one) and Zimbabwe (one).

Several other African countries, including Angola, Libya, Malawi, Somalia and Senegal, had their universities assessed, but they were not ranked.

Southern Africa

UCT dropped seven places from last year’s 160th spot, which was its best-ever position in the THE rankings.

Two other South African universities, Stellenbosch University (SU) and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) also dropped from the 250-300 band in 2022 to the 301-350 category. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) was the fourth-best placed out of 12 South African universities in the rankings, after squeezing into the 401-500 band, an improvement from the 601-800 group where it was placed in 2022.

Although only 12 South African universities were ranked this year, down from 15 in 2022, the country had the most highly ranked institutions in Africa, with one university in the top 200 (UCT), three in the top 500 (SU, Wits and UJ) and five universities in the 500-1,000 band – University of KwaZulu-Natal (501-600), University of Pretoria (501-600), North-West University and the University of the Western Cape (both 601-800) and the University of the Free State (801-1,000). Three others were in the 1,001-1,500 bracket.

Outside South Africa, Ghana’s University of Cape Coast was the only university in Sub-Saharan Africa to be ranked in the 601-800 band.

Botswana was the only newcomer country in Africa that had universities ranked. The University of Botswana and Botswana International University of Science and Technology were in the band of 1,201-1,500.

North and West Africa

The accolade of having the highest number of ranked universities went to Egypt that had 28 universities in that index.

Egypt’s best-ranked university was a newcomer the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology, or E-JUST, in the band of 601-800. Egypt also had 10 universities on the top 1,000 list – except for E-JUST, all of them were in the 801-1,000 band.

They included the following universities: Al-Azhar, Alexandria, the American University in Cairo, Aswan, Cairo, Damietta, Kafrelsheikh, Mansoura and Zagazig. The other participating Egyptian institutions were placed in the 1,000+ group.

Algeria had 23 of its universities ranked but none of them were in the top 1,000, while Nigeria had 15 universities ranked. Two universities, Covenant University and the University of Ibadan, were in the bracket of 801-1,000.

Morocco had 11 universities ranked and, as in the case of Algeria, had none of its universities placed among the top 1,000 in that ranking index.

Eight Tunisian universities were on the list but only the L’Université de Tunis El Manar was in the bracket of 801-1,000.

Commenting on the performance of universities in North Africa, Phil Baty, the chief global affairs officer at THE, said universities in that region, as well as in the Middle East, are thriving, led by their counterparts in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Israel.

New methodology

According to Duncan Ross, the chief data officer at THE, the rankings, that were the largest ever, were based on an intensive new methodology of five pillars that included international outlook, research environment, research quality, industry and teaching.

In a briefing, Ross said the five pillars were gauged through 18 performance indicators as compared to 13 last year.

For instance, the teaching pillar was assessed through five metrics that included teaching reputation, student-staff ratio, doctorate-bachelor ratio, doctorate-staff ratio and institutional income, while the research environment pillar was calibrated by research reputation, research income and research productivity while the research quality pillar is based on citation impact, research strength, research excellence and research influence.

A university’s international outlook was gauged by four indicators, namely, the number of international students, international staff, international co-authorship and studying abroad, although, according to Ross, that metric was not applied this year while the industry pillar was measured through the institution’s income from the industry and patents.

Commenting on South Africa’s universities’ performance compared with the world average, Baty said universities in South Africa that were ranked had improved in all pillars, except the industry indicator.

He also noted that South African universities’ strongest metrics were research productivity, influence and international co-authorship.

In comparison with the growth in entries in the global ranking, earlier this year, only 121 institutions participated in the first THE ranking of Sub-Saharan universities, which yielded a list of 88, in which Wits was ranked first and neigbouring UJ second.

It also used a different set of metrics that was largely undergraduate-focused and based on a methology that has five pillars, namely resources and finances; access and fairness; teaching skills; student engagement; and Africa impact, which required self-evaluation from institutions that opted to participate.