Wits has fallen 39 places in the annual Quacquarelli Symonds World University rankings to 399 – down from 360 last year.
Climbing up five places and ranked at 156 is the University of Cape Town. It remains the sole African university to make it into the top 200 of the world’s best universities.
“In the world we have 25 000 universities and league tables only focus on the top 500. So being positioned number 399, with the number of universities in the world, you realise Wits made strides in cutting itself globally and being recognised as one of the best universities. But we need to improve,” Nhlanhla Cele, director of strategic planning, says.
Cele says research output is a very strong criteria to establish a university’s position.
Cele says they aim to introduce 21st century research institutes built around areas of academic excellence at Wits.
Wits will bring in high-level researchers and academics, high-achieving postgraduate, masters and PhD students to build on their strong research culture, “with the view that we are in the top 100 by 2022”.
Cele says, however, that Wits wants to be known for good teaching and not just research. “Academic excellence and the Wits experience are priority number one.”
In 2007 the then deputy vice chancellor, Professor Loyiso Nongxa, discussed plans to get Wits into the top 100 institutions in the world by the university’s centenary in 2022.
Cele says Wits Vision 2022 is a strategic planning process started two-and-a-half years ago after evaluating Wits performance against the previous plan called Wits 2010.
University faculties were also ranked in the survey, placing the Wits life sciences and medical faculty at 281 – still trailing UCT’s faculty ranked at 169.
Criteria for the ranking include academic and employer reputation as well as the number of foreign students attracted
The survey evaluated 2 919 universities, including 15 in South Africa, and ranked the top 712 across the world.
The top 10 universities were all from the United Kingdom and United States, with the University of Cambridge topping the list. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came in second and third.