Go back

Cape Town keeps slipping in Times Higher world rankings

The University of Cape Town—Africa’s highest-ranking institution in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings—continues its downward slide in the list published this week.

UCT lands in 171th place overall in the 2018 rankings, published on 5 September. This is a drop of more than 20 places from 148th place in 2017, and a big slide from its 103rd position in 2012.

The university’s scores have dropped in both the research and teaching components, which together make up more than half the total score. A large portion of these scores is drawn from reputational surveys.

So who has overtaken Africa’s powerhouse?

There is a trend of Asian universities climbing up the ranking. China’s Nanjing University has moved from a sub-200 placing last year to 169. The country’s Fudan University has moved from 155 to 116.

The UCT lost places to European and United States universities as well.

However, Phil Baty, editor of the WUR, said not all universities should interpret a drop in the rankings as a drop in quality. “As rankings are a zero-sum game, you have to run fast just to stand still. Falling doesn’t necessarily mean declining quality, simply that others are making faster progress.”

The rapid growth of universities submitting data to the rankings also clouds things, he said. “Things will settle down soon as we focus in on the top 1,000 from now on.” Last year, only 800 universities were published in the final ranking.

Wits also drops

Africa’s runner-up in the WUR, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, drops out of the top 200 altogether, sliding from No 182 last year into the 201-150 band, which does not distinguish individual placements. It’s important to note, however, that this is a return to the sub-200 bands for Wits.

South Africa’s Stellenbosch University has improved this year, moving from the 401-500 band into the 351-400 band. Its research score has improved markedly since last year.

The country’s University of KwaZulu-Natal has also moved up, from the 501-600 band to the 401-500 band. Unlike many other African institutions it has improved its performance in the three big indicators—research, education and citations.

Africa’s top non-South African institution is Makerere University in Uganda. It remains in the 401-500 band. Its education score has climbed since last year, but its research and citations scores have dropped.

Many African institutions come in at the very lowest end of the table. The universities of Ghana, Ibadan (Nigeria) and Nairobi all end up in the sub-800 list alongside a number of North African institutions.