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US varsities dominate latest world ranking, SA top in Africa


Harvard University

The fact that American universities continue to take the top positions in university rankings is no longer news. The same goes for South African Universities dominating higher education in the continent. What is noteworthy, however, is the criteria used to rank top varsities.

The latest university ranking by Shanghai-based Academic Ranking of World Universities places a high premium on the quality of staff as opposed to the quality of students churned by these top universities. The assumption is that highly qualified teaching staff and researchers naturally produce above average graduates.

“Universities are ranked by several indicators of academic or research performance, including alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Field Medals, highly cited researchers and papers published in Nature and Science,” states ARWU.

It is instructive to note that alumni winning Nobel Prizes and Medals only constituted 10 percent of the overall score, while if staff has a Nobel Prize, a 20 percent weighted measure is allocated. In addition to highly cited researchers and papers published, ARWU also considered papers cited in science and social science, and per capita academic performance.

Based on these parameters, Harvard, Stanford and Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT) clinched the top three positions respectively. UK’s Cambridge and Oxford broke the US domination in the top 10 at number 5 and 9. Out of the top 10 universities, all were American except UK’s University of Cambridge.

American (including a few Canadian) Universities took 56 out of the 100 top universities according to ARWU.

There are only 5 African universities in the top 500, 4 based in South Africa and one in Egypt. The best performing university in the continent is University of Cape Town followed by University of the Witwatersrand.

In Kenya, universities have focused on expanding physical facilities at the expense of attracting and retaining top researchers and faculty who will train better qualified students ready for the market and provide solutions to prevailing social-economic issues facing the continent.


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