South Africa dominates a snapshot of what a new ranking for African universities could look like, making up two-fifths of the institutions in the list.
Egypt is the second most-represented country, with six universities in the top 30 table, which was drawn up by Times Higher Education and measures research impact. Morocco and Tunisia both have three institutions making the running.
The Africa Universities Summit includes a consultation on proposals for a full THE ranking for the region, building on the flagship World University Rankings. This would combine the citation scores from Elsevier’s Scopus database, used for this snapshot, with a wider range of performance metrics designed to meet the region’s specific challenges.
The University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand, both in South Africa, take first and second places respectively in the preliminary top 30.
In third place, a lone Ugandan institution – Makerere University – bridges South Africa’s domination of the top five, with Stellenbosch University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal taking fourth and fifth place respectively.
Speaking to the BBC World Service, Phil Baty, editor of the THE World University Rankings, said that the plan is to “develop more metrics to capture a wider range of activities at African universities”. This top 30, he continued, is designed “to get a conversation going”.
“Naturally what you find is the richer, better-funded universities in Cape Town and Johannesburg are more likely to attract and retain the leading scholars; they can offer slightly better terms and conditions and it means they are publishing higher quality work in higher quality academic journals,” he said.
The top 30 snapshot was calculated using the ratio of the citations received by an institution’s publication output between 2009 and 2013 and the total citations that would be expected based on the average of the subject field. To be included in the table, an institution must have published a minimum of 500 research papers in the five-year period assessed, with at least 50 papers per year.