As riots and violence remain rife within South Africa’s universities as a direct result of discord over student funding, the rest of the world is watching and it’s not a good look.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017, which claims to be the only global university performance monitor to judge world class universities across all of their core missions (teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook), has revealed South African universities to be plummeting down the list due to the recent ‘Fees Must Fall’ student protests reignited by SA’s Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s recent recommendation.

Although the University of Cape Town has, once again, retained its top ranked tertiary institution title in the latest ranking, its position has dropped down by a whopping 28 places. The only institution to improve on its previous ranking is Wits University.


The Times Higher rankings are a direct reflection of the 2016 QS World University Rankings, which has also shown the country’s universities to have dropped down the global list as a consequence of ongoing funding concerns, exposing UCT’s depreciation by as many as 20 spots to 191 worldwide, whilst Wits – in second place – has dropped 28 places to 359.

Whilst the QS World University Rankings have revealed Stellenbosch University to have climbed back into the top 400 to 395 from the 401-410 band in 2015, the University of Pretoria, Rhodes University, and University of KwaZulu-Natal have all dropped down in the rankings, with the University of Johannesburg remaining stable from the previous year’s ranking.

Head of research at QS, Ben Sowter, said that ‘South Africa’s performance mimicked the global trend that stressed the importance of prolonged investment’, saying that South African universities struggled due to funding shortfalls.