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Small universities make a splash in Shanghai rankings

Some of Africa's smaller universities have raised their hands in the latest subject rankings by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, released on 28 June.

The University of Malawi ranks in the top 400 in the world for human biological science as well as for clinical science. In public health the University of Zambia nets a top 200 spot, while the University of Zimbabwe receives a top 300 ranking in the same category.

Other lesser-known universities that crack the top 400 in public health include Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University (201-300), Uganda’s Mbarara University of Science and Technology (301-400), Kenya’s Moi University (301-400), and Ethiopia’s University of Gondar (301-400).

The ARWU, popularly known as the Shanghai Rankings, rates universities according to papers published, citations, papers in top journals, prestigious award winners among staff, and international collaboration.

As expected, Africa performs best in health-related disciplines. Africa has 18 universities in the top 500 in public health, including five in the top 100: the University of Cape Town (40), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (51-75), Makerere University (51-75), the University of the Witwatersrand (51-75) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (76-100).

Makerere makes the top 300 in human biological science as well as clinical medicine. It is also in the top 200 in veterinary science. Nairobi makes three of the subject lists.

In West Africa only the University of Ghana manages a position on any list apart from KNUST: 301-400 in public health.

South Africa is strong in geography and ecology, with two top 100 universities in each. It houses Africa’s top performer in any category: the University of Pretoria’s veterinary school ranked 30th in the world in the veterinary ranking. The country’s perennial ranking heavyweights, Cape Town and Wits, have broader representation across all subject categories than any other universities in Africa.

North Africa is strong in physics and pharmaceutical sciences. Eight universities in Morocco and Egypt make the physics top 500, spearheaded by the former’s Université Mohammed Premier in the 201-300 band. Nine universities in Egypt are rated in the top 500 for pharmacy subjects. Egypt was also strong in mathematics, securing three of Africa’s four top 500 spots.

However, Africa fares dismally in engineering disciplines and only slightly better in social sciences with a mere five rankings in the 12 subject areas. A rare success story, the University of Johannesburg’s hospitality and tourism school, ranks 34th in the world.