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Top Universities in Africa

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If you decide to study in Africa, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to explore different cultures, landscapes, sights and general adventures in this huge and diverse continent. A total of 17 African universities are featured in the QS World University Content® 2019with the majority (nine) of these found in South Africa.

Read on for an overview of the best universities in Africa this year, in reverse order of appearance in this year’s ranking, including information on each university’s location and other details. The first eight universities are all ranked in the 801-1000 range* and are therefore joint 10th in Africa.

=10. University of the Western Cape

University of the Western Cape

Starting off our overview of the best universities in Africa in 2019 is South Africa’s University of the Western Cape, located in the Bellville suburb of Cape Town. Founded in 1959, the university played a key role in the fight against discrimination and racial inequality in South Africa’s history.

=10. University of Nairobi

University of Nairobi

One of the largest universities in Kenya, the University of Nairobi was originally established as Royal Technical College in 1956, before becoming part of the University of East Africa in 1963. This then split into three separate universities in 1970, including Makerere University.

=10. Rhodes University

Rhodes University

Rhodes University, located in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, is named after British businessman Cecil Rhodes. The university is highly residential and relatively small, with around 8,000 students currently enrolled.

=10. North-West University

North West University

North-West University is another South African institution that was formed by the merger of previous universities in 2004. It’s a large university, with about 69,000 students spread across three campuses in the North West and Gauteng provinces.

=10. Assiut University

Assiut University

New to this year’s ranking, Egypt’s Assiut University was established in 1957 as the first university in Upper Egypt, and is located in an urban campus in the large city of Asyut. It offers courses both English and Arabic-taught courses.

=10. Alexandria University

Alexandria University

As well as featuring here, Alexandria University is also ranked 14th in the QS Arab Region University Content 2018. It was originally founded in 1938 as a branch campus of Cairo University, but became a separate institution in 1942, gaining its current name in 1952.

=10. Al-Azhar University

 Al-Azhar University

Located in Cairo, Al-Azhar University is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting institution, dating back to the 10th century. It has strong links to Sunni Islam and the Al-Azhar Mosque and is considered one of the most prestigious Sunni Islamic universities.

=10. Al Akhawayn University Ifrane

Al Akhawayn University Ifrane

Based in Morocco, Al Akhawayn University Ifrane is another new entry this year and the last to be ranked 801-1000.A public, non-profit university located in Ifrane, in the midst of the Middle Atlas mountain range, it’s one of the younger institutions in this article, inaugurated by King Hassan II of Morocco in 1995.

9. University of Kwazulu-Natal

University of Kwazulu-Natal

The South African University of Kwazulu-Natal is ranked 751-800 in the world this year and is another young university formed through a merger, this time in 2004. The university has five campuses around the KwaZulu-Natal province in the south east of the country.

8. Ain Shams University

Ain Shams University

The first of the best universities in Africa to be ranked 701-750 is the Egyptian Ain Shams University, which is ranked 17th in the QS Arab Region University Content 2018. Based in Cairo and established in 1950, Ain Shams is a very large institution, hosting approximately 180,000 students in 15 faculties.

7. University of Pretoria

University of Pretoria

Ranked 561-570 in the world this year is South Africa’s University of Pretoria. It’s one of the largest universities in the country, with over 50,000 students at seven campuses. Established in 1908, the university also features in the top 50 of the latest QS BRICS University Content.

6. University of Johannesburg

University of Johannesburg

Up from 601-650 to 551-560 this year, the University of Johannesburg is the youngest university in South Africa to feature in the QS World University Content, having been formed from a merger of earlier institutions as recently as 2005.

5. Cairo University

Cairo University

Egypt’s Cairo University is ranked in the 521-530 range of the overall world rankings, and 11th in the Arab regional ranking. Despite the name, its main campus is actually in Giza, 20km southwest across the Nile from Cairo.

4. The American University in Cairo

American University in Cairo

The next university on our list of the best universities in Africa is based in Egypt. The American University in Cairo is ranked joint 420th in the world in 2019. Also ranked sixth in the most recent edition of the Arab region university rankings, it teaches in English and possesses Egypt’s largest English-language library collection.

3. Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University is placed joint 405th in the world and within the top 50 of the BRICS ranking. Founded in 1918, the university is located in the town of Stellenbosch, 50 kilometers east of Cape Town.

2. University of the Witwatersrand

University of the Witwatersrand

Ranked joint 381st this year, the University of the Witwatersrand (often called Wits for short) is another South African institution, with five campuses in urban and suburban Johannesburg, the country’s largest city. The university has around 38,350 students, of which about 3,750 are international students.

1. University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town

Leading the way for the top universities in Africa is South Africa’s oldest university, the University of Cape Town, ranked joint 200th in the QS World University Content® 2019 along with Sweden’s Stockholm University. The campus sits upon the slopes of Table Mountain’s Devil’s Peak, offering fantastic views.

*For more information about ranking categories, and answers to other frequently asked questions, click here.

This article was originally published in September 2016. It is updated for every QS World University Content® launch, most recently in June 2018.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The Assistant Editor of, Sabrina edits and publishes articles which guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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