These South African university courses are among the best in the world

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The latest QS World University Rankings has listed all the subjects that South Africa’s top universities excel at in 2018 – ranking among the top 500 courses in the world.

The report covers 42 subjects in arts and humanities; engineering and technology; life sciences and medicine; natural sciences; and social sciences.

South African universities stand out for their expertise in development studies, QS said, while South Africa’s top-ranked university – the University of Cape Town – ranked within the top 100 globally for 11 subjects.

Overall, UCT has 35 subjects ranked within the top 500 universities in the world (all within the top 350), while the University of the Witwatersrand has 21 subjects within the top 500. This is followed by Stellenbosch University with 18 subjects, the University of Pretoria with 15 subjects, UKZN with 8, the University of Johannesburg with 4 and Rhodes university with 2 subjects.

Five of South Africa’s universities perform strongly in developmental studies, with the subject being the highest-ranked subject at UCT, Stellies, UJ and UKZN. At Wits, the subject is the second strongest subject, after mining and mineral engineering, where Wits ranks as the 15th best university in the world for that subject.

Wits is also the only university in South Africa ranked for mathematics.

The University of Pretoria and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, meanwhile, are also the best universities in the country theological and religious studies, and Rhodes makes its mark known in communication and media studies.

The tables below outline the top subjects to study at South Africa’s ranked universities. Subjects within the top 100 are highlighted in green.


University of Cape Town

Subject Global ranking
Development Studies 11
Sports-Related Subjects 37
Archaeology 38
Geography 49
Architecture 51-100
English 51-100
Agriculture & Forestry 51-100
Anatomy & Physiology 51-100
Anthropology 51-100
Law 51-100
Social Policy & Administration 51-100
History 101-150
Medicine 101-150
Earth & Marine Sciences 101-150
Environmental Sciences 101-150
Communication & Media Studies 101-150
Education 101-150
Politics & International Studies 101-150
Sociology 101-150
Art & Design 101-150
Linguistics 101-150
Civil Engineering 151-200
Biological Sciences 151-200
Pharmacy & Pharmacology 151-200
Psychology 151-200
Physics & Astronomy 151-200
Accounting & Finance 151-200
Business & Management Studies 151-200
Modern Languages 201-250
Chemical Engineering 201-250
Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering 201-250
Electrical Engineering 251-300
Economics & Econometrics 251-300
Computer Science & Information Systems 301-350
Chemistry 301-350

University of the Witwatersrand

Subject Global ranking
Mineral & Mining Engineering 15
Development Studies 19
Archaeology 51-100
Anthropology 51-100
Earth & Marine Sciences 101-150
Geography 101-150
Architecture 151-200
English 151-200
Medicine 151-200
Law 151-200
Politics & International Studies 151-200
Education 201-250
Sociology 201-250
Linguistics 251-300
Chemical Engineering 251-300
Agriculture & Forestry 251-300
Pharmacy & Pharmacology 251-300
Biological Sciences 351-400
Mathematics 351-400
Chemistry 401-450
Physics & Astronomy 451-500

Stellenbosch University

Subject Global ranking
Development Studies 44
Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies 51-100
Agriculture & Forestry 51-100
Geography 151-200
Law 151-200
English 201-250
Linguistics 251-300
Chemical Engineering 251-300
Medicine 251-300
Environmental Sciences 251-300
Business & Management Studies 251-300
Education 251-300
Biological Sciences 301-350
Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering 351-400
Economics & Econometrics 351-400
Computer Science & Information Systems 401-450
Chemistry 401-450
Physics & Astronomy 451-500

University of Pretoria

Subject Global ranking
Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies 51-100
Agriculture & Forestry 101-150
Archaeology 151-200
Architecture 151-200
Law 151-200
Education 201-251
Chemical Engineering 251-300
Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering 251-300
Sociology 251-300
Electrical Engineering 301-351
Economics & Econometrics 301-351
Biological Sciences 351-400
Medicine 351-400
Computer Science & Information Systems 401-450
Chemistry 451-500

University of KwaZulu-Natal

Subject Global ranking
Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies 51-100
Development Studies 51-100
Agriculture & Forestry 201-250
Education 251-300
Medicine 351-400
Chemistry 351-400
Biological Sciences 451-500
Physics & Astronomy 451-500

University of Johannesburg

Subject Global ranking
Development Studies 51-100
Geography 151-200
English 251-300
Law 251-300

Rhodes University

Subject Global ranking
Communication & Media Studies 151-200
English 201-250

The QS subject rankings are based on a mix of survey responses and hard data, compiled and weighted to formulate a final score.

This includes academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per paper, the h-index (an index that measures both the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar) as well as insight from discipline-level experts and specialists.

This article was first published on businesstech.co.za