Wits has moved up 72 places in the field of Clinical Medicine and retain its leading spot in Africa

Wits University has kept its position as the best university in Africa, according to the 2019 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) released on July 14.

The university has consistently been ranked first since 2014, with University of Cape Town (UCT) trailing behind it. Wits is ranked No 289 in the top 500 out of 4 000 participating universities worldwide. The only other country in Africa to make the top 500 is Egypt, which is ranked at 410.

Even though Wits maintained its Number One ranking in Africa this year, the university dropped two places overall from the previous year.

In earlier years, Wits performed well in the field of mining engineering but has subsequently dropped from 32nd place in the previous year to No 44 out of 100 this year. The field of study where Wits excelled, however, is clinical medicine, where it was ranked No 145 the previous year and now ranks No 73 out of 500.

Professor Martin Veller, dean of health sciences, said the faculty is satisfied with the recent ARWU results and improvement of the faculty’s position reflects progress in the quantity and quality of its research output.

“This ranking is an important tool to gauge our progress as the faculty, and the university wishes to be research-intensive in order to, from the faculty’s perspective, contribute to the wellness of South African and African societies,” said Veller.

Although Wits improved in this ranking, it was nevertheless beaten by its main competitor, UCT, which ranks at No 67.

“UCT has been ahead of Wits for many years. The reason for this is multi-factorial, but primarily because they have had a greater focus than we have had for many years. This means their research infrastructure is better developed. We are, however, slowly narrowing the gap,” said Veller.

According to ARWU, universities are ranked by several indicators including academic or research performance, highly cited researchers, published journals and papers indexed in major citation indices, and the per capita academic performance of an institution.

“Most ranking systems concentrate on research outputs and the ‘reputation’ of a university or faculty,” said Veller.

“We as a faculty must also concentrate on the quality and quantity of our education (at both under- and post-graduate levels) as well as on service delivery and health systems strengthening in order to maintain and improve our global ranking.”