Only ten of the world’s top 1,000 universities are in Africa, according to one list

Michelle Obama at University of Cape Town.
Michelle Obama at University of Cape Town.
Image: Reuters/Charles Dharapak
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The dearth of top quality tertiary institutions in Africa has been laid bare in a new report which cited only ten schools on the continent in its ranking of the best 1,000 universities in the world.

The annual ranking is compiled by the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), a Saudi Arabia-based education consulting organization. CWUR bases its ranking on a range of indicators, with quality of education, quality of faculty and alumni employment making up 75% of its criteria. CWUR also takes into the account factors such as patent filings, publications and citations.

Based on this criteria, only 10 universities in Africa, spread across South Africa, Uganda and Egypt, made it into the 2016 rankings. Five universities in South Africa were named, including the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, which was the continent’s highest ranked university. Egypt had four universities listed, while Uganda had one. Of Africa’s listed universities, only four featured in the top 500.

Noticeably missing from the rankings was Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, which has around 150 universities. The country’s educational system has suffered decades of decay occasioned by a lack of funding and development. As a result, Nigerians are increasingly paying to have their kids educated in North America, Europe and Australia, spending more than the federal government’s $750 million annual budget for national universities, by some estimates.

CWUR’s ranking is one of several annual lists of tertiary institutions worldwide, including ones put out by Times Higher Education in London and US News & World Report. A Times Higher Education report released in April listed South Africa’s University of Cape Town as the continent’s best, followed by the University of the Witwatersrand.

Globally, Harvard University retained the top spot on CWUR’s list, which it has held every year since the rankings were first published in 2012. Also unchanged was the fact that the global top ten universities all came from the United States and the United Kingdom.