The first thing when people are thinking about getting a higher education is going to study in European, Asian, or American Universities. The African continent has long been shrouded in a negative light as a continent that needs saving. Many people overlook Africa’s contribution to academics and research and yet one of the oldest universities in the world is the University of Al-Azhar from Egypt, established in 970 AD. Post-colonization, Africa has experienced exponential growth in the education sector. There are over 1200 universities in Africa offering a myriad of post-secondary education and these are the top five universities in Africa according to the Times Higher Education university rankings in 2020.
1. University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town (UCT) is the oldest higher education facility in South Africa, it was established in 1829 and was known as South African College, a high school for boys. The university has about 30,000 students and 5,000 academic and administrative staff. UCT, as it is more commonly known, is a public research university offering degrees in six faculties in Law, Science, Engineering & the Built Environment, Humanities, Health Sciences and Commerce. The University of Cape Town is rated as the best research institution in Africa and has students enrolled from over 100 countries across the world. UCT offers various scholarships and encourages students to engage in social and economic development across Africa and the world.
2. University of the Witwatersrand
The University of the Witwatersrand is the third oldest public institution of higher learning in South Africa. The Wits or Wits University, as it’s commonly known, was established in 1896 in Kimberly South Africa and was then known as the South African School of Mines. In 1904, the institution was moved to Johannesburg. The Wits has over 40,000 students enrolled offering degrees in five faculties encompassing Sciences, Commerce, Law, Management, Engineering, Health Sciences and Humanities. The Wits counts for Nobel Prize winners in the fields of Medicine, Chemistry and Literature and among its illustrious alumnae was South Africa’s first black president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Nelson Mandela.
3. Stellenbosch University
Located in Stellenbosch South Africa, Stellenbosch University is another public research university founded in 1864. Stellenbosch and the University of Cape Town are the oldest institutions of higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa, having been granted full accreditation in 1918 on the same day. The university has five campuses and offers degrees in ten faculties. The student population of Stellenbosch is over 30,000 with over 3000 staff. Students at Stellenbosch are commonly referred to as ‘Maties’ derived from the Afrikaans maat, name for ‘mate’. Stellenbosch was the first African university to sign the Berlin Declaration on open access to knowledge in the sciences and humanities. Stellenbosch University is also famous for being the first African university to design, manufacture, and launch the first microsatellite in Africa in 1999.
4. Aswan University
This is the first top 5 African university that is not from South Africa. Established in 1976, Aswan University was a branch of Assuit University. The university became an independent institution in 2012, gaining independence from the new South Valley University, having joined it in 1995. The university offers degrees sciences and humanities. It is based in the Aswan region which is along the famous river Nile in Egypt. Students at Aswan University have access to many archaeological sites and other historical sites like the Coptic churches and Mosques, making this a premier institution to study Egyptian archaeology.
5. University of Ibadan
Based in Ibadan Nigeria, the University of Ibadan was founded in 1932 and became a fully accredited university in 1962. The institution was established as a research-based public institution of higher learning. The university offers degrees in 17 faculties and has established botanical and zoological gardens where it conducts conservation activities. The institution also runs several public facilities such as a children's library, educational workshops and a media centre. The University of Ibadan has world-renowned authors as members of its alumni, such as the 1986 Nobel prize for Literature laureate Wole Soyinka and the famous Things Fall Apart author, Chinua Achebe.