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New faces and climbers for Africa in THE ranking

African universities have had their strongest placement in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for many years, with new universities making the list and the continent’s top performers climbing.

The latest ranking was released on 26 September.

The continent’s top two universities, Cape Town and the Witwatersrand, both in South Africa, increased their positions after a few years of sliding down the table. UCT moved up 15 positions to 156 and Wits moved up one band to 201-250.

Stellenbosch University also improved by one band, to 301-350, followed by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which kept its position in the 401-500 band.

Uganda’s Makerere University dropped down a band to 501-600, ceding the joint fourth spot on the continent it shared with UKZN last year.

Only the University of South Africa in that country lost ground: the remainder all held their 2018 positions.

Unlikely suspects

The 2019 list contained some surprises, perhaps none more so than Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa. TUT debuted in the 801-100 band of the list of 1,250 universities and above many other African and international universities. It is the only African university of technology in the ranking. TUT has faced turbulence for a number of years, with many violent protests rocking its campuses.

TUT is joined by two debutants from Nigeria. Covenant University makes its first appearance in the same band (601-800) as the country’s top performer from 2018, the University of Ibadan. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was ranked in the bottom band of all those below 1,001.

In the rest of the West African region, the University of Ghana maintained its position in the 801-1,001 band.

Another newcomer, the University of Dar es Salaam, was also ranked in the bottom band. It is the first university from Tanzania to make a THE ranking. Elsewhere in East Africa, the University of Nairobi dropped down one band to the bottom group.

Charge from the north

The rest of the continent may have to be wary as there was a remarkable showing from North Africa this year. Egypt more than doubled its universities on the list, to 19.

Algeria added five universities to its tally of one in 2018, while Morocco and Tunisia both have one new university on the list. The four countries have a combined 32 universities in the top 1,250.

A group of six Egyptian universities in the 601-800 band top the North African cohort. This group includes the American University in Cairo and Mansoura University.

No time for complacency

Phil Baty, editorial director of the THE rankings, said he was impressed by Africa’s strong showing. He added, however, that Africa needs to invest more in universities if it is to keep up the pace globally.

“Establishing the region on the global stage will require intensified focus and investment in research capabilities, and a strengthened international outlook to attract global talent and international students,” he said in a statement.

China and Asia in general are continuing to grow, with Baty saying the “old elite” in Europe and the United States will need to overcome “deepening cuts and creeping isolationism” to stave off the challenge.

For the second consecutive year the United Kingdom’s famous universities of Oxford and Cambridge top the list respectively, while the top 10 is dominated by US universities.