South African Universities

South Africa is home to some of the most prestigious universities in Africa, offering a wide range of programs and research opportunities across various fields. The country’s higher education system is well-regarded globally, with several institutions consistently ranked among the top in the world.

Many South African universities are known for their strong academic programs, diverse student bodies, and vibrant campus life.

Below, you will find an overview of some notable universities in South Africa.

University of Cape Town (UCT)

Located at the foot of Table Mountain, UCT is South Africa’s oldest university, founded in 1829. It’s consistently ranked as the top university in Africa by various international rankings, and is the only African member of the Global Universities Leaders Forum (GULF).

University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town id Africas best university.

UCT is renowned for its research output and has a wide range of degree programs across faculties including Commerce, Engineering, Law, Science, Humanities, and Health Sciences. The campus combines beautiful historic buildings with modern facilities, providing an inspiring setting for study and research.

The University of Cape Town is home to circa 30,000 students in an average year and encompasses six campuses. The university offers everything from bachelor’s degrees to doctorals degrees, and all degrees are in English.

The roots of this school goes back to 1829, when the South African College was founded. It was granted full university states in 1918, making it the oldest university in Sub-Saharan Africa in continous operation.

Stellenbosch University (SU)

Situated in the town of Stellenbosch, in the heart of the Western Cape’s wine region, Stellenbosch University is one of the leading research-intensive universities in South Africa. Founded in 1918, it boasts a rich cultural and academic heritage. This is one of the two oldest universities in South Africa in continuous operation as a university; it received its full university status on the same day as UCT in 1918. Its beautiful campus blends historic architecture with state-of-the-art facilities.

In a recent edition of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Stellenbosch was placed in the 251-275 group worldwide while also ranking as #3 in Africa.

The Stellenbosch University is especially well-regarded for its programs in forestry, agriculture, wine sciences, Afrikaans literature, development studies, and theology. It is consistently ranked in the top 100 worldwide for development studies, theology, agriculture, and forestry.

Africa’s first microsatellite, the SUNSAT which was launched in 1999, was created at Stellenbosch University.

The students at SU are nicknamed Maties. The name is believed to come from the Afrikaans word ”tamatie” which means tomatoe, and be a reference to the maroon sports uniforms and blazer colour of the students.

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits)

The University of the Witwatersrand in northern Johannesburg, commonly known as Wits, is known for its commitment to academic excellence and research, particularly in the fields of engineering, health sciences, and humanities.

Established in 1896, Wits is the third-oldest South African university in continous operation. It

has produced a significant number of Africa’s leaders in various sectors. Wits offers a vibrant campus life and has a strong focus on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills among its students. In an average year, Wits has circa 40,000 enrolled students. Roughly 20% of them live on campus.

Wits has its roots in the South African School of Mines whish was founded in Kimberley in 1896. In 1904, the school moved to Johannesburg and was renamed the Transvaal Technical Institute.

University of Pretoria (UP)

With its main campus in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, UP is one of the largest and most diverse universities in the country, offering more than 1,800 academic programs. Established in 1908, it has a strong focus on research and innovation, with significant contributions to fields such as veterinary science, education, and law. The university also places a high emphasis on community engagement and sustainability.

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)

Formed in 2004 through the merger of the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville, UKZN is located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It’s known for its strong research programs, particularly in the areas of HIV/AIDS, agriculture, and indigenous knowledge systems. UKZN offers a wide array of undergraduate and postgraduate programs across its five campuses.

Rhodes University

Located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, Rhodes University is one of South Africa’s oldest and most prestigious universities, established in 1904. Despite its small size, Rhodes is well-known for its excellent academic standards, vibrant student life, and high proportion of postgraduate students. It has a strong focus on journalism, fine arts, and literature.

University of the Western Cape (UWC)

UWC is located in the Bellville suburb of Cape Town and was established in 1959. Originally created for people classified under apartheid as “Coloured,” it has transformed into a diverse and vibrant institution. It’s particularly noted for its programs in natural sciences, law, education, and public health. UWC has played a significant role in the fight against apartheid and continues to focus on social justice and equity.

Nelson Mandela University (NMU)

Formerly known as Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, NMU is located in Port Elizabeth and offers a wide range of professional and vocational training programs. It’s known for its engineering, maritime studies, and art and design programs. NMU is committed to serving the needs of its community and fostering a culture of innovation and sustainability.

South African universities are characterized by their commitment to addressing local and global challenges through innovative research and teaching. They offer students from around the world an opportunity to study in a diverse and dynamic environment.