The Top 10 Universities in Africa

It’s Africa Day on 25 May and to celebrate this fascinating continent, we’ve compiled a list of the best universities in Africa.

There are 54 countries in Africa, and about 1.4 billion people live in the continent today. With such diversity and large numbers, it’s no wonder that some of the best universities in the world are in Africa. If you’re interested in studying in Africa, either for your whole degree, or for a year abroad, check out this article. Once you’ve found a university you’d like to attend, you’ll need to find some student accommodation. You’re in luck, because offers some of the best student accommodation in over 400 cities across the world!

The rankings in this article are based on the famous QS World University Rankings for the year 2023.

A view of Cape Town in South Africa
South Africa is home to most universities on this list. Pictured is the city of Cape Town (photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. University of Cape Town

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Global university rank: 237th

The best university in Africa, the University of Cape Town can trace its roots back to the founding of the South African College in 1829. It was granted full university status in 1918. From the 1960s to the 1990s the University of Cape Town had a reputation as a strong opponent to South Africa’s apartheid regime. Today it’s attended by almost 30,000 students and five alumni or staff members have won the Nobel Prize. The university is especially well known for its faculties of commerce, law and medicine.

A view of the University of Cape Town campus
The campus of the University of Cape Town (photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. University of Johannesburg

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Global university rank: 412th

Created in 2005 as a merger of two earlier universities, the University of Johannesburg has become one of the best universities in Africa in only its 18 years of existence. Today more than 50,000 students attend UJ. The university has four campuses, all in the Johannesburg area. In 2013 then-US president Barack Obama visited the Soweto campus and received an honorary doctorate from the university.

A view of the Johannesburg skyline
Johannesburg is one of the most exciting cities in Africa (photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. The American University in Cairo

Location: Cairo, Egypt

Global university rank: 416th

The American University in Cairo was founded in 1919 by the American Mission in Egypt to offer American-style university programmes. It’s a relatively small university, but very diverse: there are less than 7,000 students, but they come from over 50 different countries around the world. The university’s original campus is in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, but nowadays it also has a campus in the satellite city of New Cairo. Among the university’s alumni are several Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as the queen of Jordan and the former crown prince of Iran.

A view of a street in Cairo
Cairo is a beautiful, historic city (photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. University of Witwatersrand

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Global university rank: 428th

Named after the mineral-rich Witwatersrand escarpment, the University of Witwatersrand, or Wits, has its roots in the mining industry. It was originally called the South African School of Mines when it was founded in 1896. It was established as a full-fledged university and got its current name in 1922. Today Wits has more than 40,000 students. In the QS World University rankings it got particularly high points for its international research network and for the good employment outcomes of its alumni.

The Great Hall of the University of Witwatersrand
The Great Hall of the University of Witwatersrand (photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. Stellenbosch University

Location: Stellenbosch, South Africa

Global university rank: 454th

Stellenbosch University was founded in 1918, on the same day as the University of Cape Town received full university status. Traditionally most of the teaching in Stellenbosch used to be in Afrikaans, but these days the university wants to promote multilingualism in order for more students to have access to its teaching, and classes are also offered in English. The first successful penis transplantation in the world was performed at Stellenbosch University.

A view of the Stellenbosch University campus
Stellenbosch University is one of the best universities in Africa (photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. Cairo University

Location: Giza, Egypt

Global university rank: 551st – 560th

Cairo University was founded in Cairo in 1908 as the Egyptian University. Today its campus is in the city of Giza, right across the Nile River from Cairo. It’s a massive university with about 200,000 students, making it one of the largest universities in the world. Particularly highly ranked for its international research network, among the university’s alumni are three Nobel Prize winners, several notable politicians and the Oscar-nominated actor Omar Sharif.

The pyramids of Giza
Cairo University is located in Giza, a city famous for its pyramids (photo credit: Wikipedia)

7. University of Pretoria

Location: Pretoria, South Africa

Global university rank: 591st – 600th

The University of Pretoria was established in 1908. It has since grown from 32 students to a large institution with a student body of almost 40,000, divided between the university’s nine faculties and a business school. Pretoria is currently the only university in South Africa where you can study veterinary sciences. The university is notable for its high research output: the faculty members publish more academic articles than any other university in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an alumni of UP, and Elon Musk also briefly attended the university.

University of Pretoria administration building
The University of Pretoria administration building is nicknamed “The Ship” thanks to its peculiar shape (photo credit: Wikipedia)

8. University of Sousse

Location: Sousse, Tunisia

Global university rank: 751st – 800th

The only university in this list that is not in South Africa or Egypt, the University of Sousse, or Université de Sousse in French, was establised in 2004 from a division of an earlier university. The university is divided into 17 institution (four faculties, four school and nine institutes) and thus it offers a wide range of different subjects to study for its 25,000 students. In the QS ranking, it scored especially high points for its excellent faculty to student ratio.

A view of the city of Sousse in Tunisia
Sousse in Tunisia is the home to the only university on this list that is not in South Africa or Egypt (photo credit: Wikipedia)

=9. Ain Shams University

Location: Cairo, Egypt

Global university rank: 801st – 1,000th

Ain Shams University, or ASU, is the only university in this list that has received the prestigious 5-star rating from QS. One of the oldest non-sectarian universities in Egypt, it’s a very large university with more than 150,000 students. A notable part of both faculty and students are from outside Egypt, creating an international atmosphere. Several notable politicians have attended the university, with alumni going on to become government ministers in for example Maldives, Libya and Syria.

The Ain Shams University faculty of pharmacy
This modern building houses the Ain Shams University’s faculty of pharmacy (photo credit: Wikipedia)

=9. Rhodes University

Location: Grahamstown, South Africa

Global university rank: 801st – 1,000th

Established in 1904, Rhodes University is the oldest university in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Rhodes is a smallish university of about 7,000 students, but these students come from over 40 different countries in the world. In the QS ranking, it’s high international student ratio was one of Rhodes’s biggest strengths, along with good employment outcomes for its alumni. Rhodes University’s alumni include Nobel Prize winner Max Theiler and bestselling novelist Wilbur Smith.

An aerial view of Grahamstown, home of the Rhodes University
Grahamstown (also known as Makhanda) is the home of Rhodes University (photo credit: Wikipedia)

=9. University of KwaZulu-Natal

Location: Pinetown, South Africa

Global university rank: 801st – 1,000th

The University of KwaZulu-Natal was formed in 2004 as the merger of the two major universities in the province of KwaZulu Natal – the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville. There are about 30,000 students across the university’s five campuses. One of the university’s stated goals is to do its share in the development of the African continent through academic excellence, innovation in research and engagement with the rest of society.

The main clock tower of the University of KwaZulu-Natal
The main clock tower of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (photo credit: Wikipedia)

So there we are, the 10 (or actually 11) best universities in Africa! Seven in South Africa, three in Egypt and one in Tunisia. Many of these universities are located in some very beautiful and historic cities, and all of them offer excellent degree programmes in a variety of subjects. If you would like to live in one of the amazing cities listed here and study in one of the best universities in Africa, pick the one that suits you best and get your application in! If (and hopefully, when) you get accepted, you’re going to need some student accommodation. When you start your accommodation search, remember to check out!