UCT research 109th in the world

05 November 2021 | Story Staff writer. Photo Roger Sedres. Read time 7 min.
UCT placed UCT 109th in the world and best in Africa in the 2022 US News & World Report Best Global Universities Rankings.
UCT placed UCT 109th in the world and best in Africa in the 2022 US News & World Report Best Global Universities Rankings.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has been placed 109th in the 2022 US News & World Report Best Global Universities Rankings. UCT was also ranked in the top 100 for five subjects, including an outstanding position well within the top 20 for infectious diseases.

The Best Global Universities Rankings differs from most other world university rankings in that the emphasis is on academic research. The methodology assessed 1 849 universities, ranking the top 1 750 in terms of a university’s global and regional research reputation and academic research performance, using bibliometric indicators such as publications, citations (the number of times a publication is referenced) and international collaboration. While UCT is down six places, moving down from 103 in the 2021 rankings, it remains the top in Africa, according to the rankings released on 26 October 2022.

Five subjects in the top 100

In the simultaneously released subject rankings this year, UCT ranked in 20 subjects, including five in the top 100:

  • one subject in the top 20: infectious diseases (13th)
  • two further subjects in the top 50: public, environmental and occupational health (39th) and immunology (47th)
  • two further subjects in the top 100: social sciences and public health (65th) and psychiatry/psychology (88th tie).

UCT Deputy Vice-Chancellor for research and internationalisation, Professor Sue Harrison, said: “In a time of declining funding and the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, UCT’s researchers have continued to produce work of outstanding quality, and it is wonderful for this work – and the work in other equally critical fields – to be recognised internationally. Most notably, even beyond the metrics that are used in rankings such as this – important as they are – we are most proud of the impact this research has on the grand challenges of our time, and in this time in particular. As the pandemic rolled out across our country and the world, our researchers pivoted with extraordinary commitment and energy to use their expertise in health and social sciences to address the particular challenges of SARS-CoV-2.” 

On a continent that faces some of the world’s greatest health challenges and deeply damaging inequality, said Harrison, it is important that Africa produces researchers with a thorough understanding of the particulars of our context and priorities. “These results show the strength and depth of our research in health sciences. That our research is recognised internationally is critical for ensuring that we can lead, or partner on equal terms, in the large international collaborations often needed to address complex challenges and to attract the funding to do so.”

Top subject ranking for infectious diseases

UCT’s work in infectious diseases –  the subject ranked at 13th in the world –  is consolidated in various research groupings, some of which fall under the umbrella of the world-leading Institute of Infectious Disease & Molecular Medicine (IDM), a large research entity that draws most of its members from the departments of Medicine, Pathology and Integrative Biomedical Sciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

IDM Director Professor Valerie Mizrahi said “the remarkable achievement of being placed in the top 20 in infectious diseases demonstrates our cutting-edge expertise in the fields of some of the greatest causes of death and debilitating illness in the world and on the continent: HIV, tuberculosis, and HIV-associated TB, antimicrobial resistance, and now, COVID-19".

“One of the greatest strengths of the infection research ecosystem at UCT is its interdisciplinarity: the IDM draws on deep disciplinary strengths in immunology, clinical medicine, microbiology and public health to tackle infectious diseases.”

UCT has a good presence through Top 50, Top 100 and Top 200

Public health, which has shown up well in two of the top 100 subjects, has long been a strength at UCT, and consistently shows in the top 100 across various university ranking systems.

A further eleven UCT subjects were ranked in the top 200:

  • clinical medicine (102nd)
  • microbiology (113th tie)
  • cardiac and cardiovascular systems (128th)
  • plant and animal science (134th tie)
  • environment/ecology (141st)
  • arts and humanities (162nd)
  • geosciences (165th tie)
  • neuroscience and behaviour (166th)
  • surgery (174th, and making its first appearance in this ranking)
  • physics (191st tie) and
  • space science (200th).

Each subject has its own methodology based on academic research performance and reputation, and is tailored to the different publication characteristics of that field.

Rankings of the year

UCT has performed well in global rankings this year and leads Africa in five major world university rankings. Apart from the US News & World Report Best Global Universities Rankings, these include Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) and the ShanghaiRanking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

Read more about the US News methodology:

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