UP delivers strong performance in QS subject rankings yet again

Posted on March 22, 2023

The University of Pretoria (UP) has again grown its share of subjects considered to be among the best at universities in South Africa and the rest of the world. Altogether, 21 subjects offered at UP have been ranked in the 2023 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World Rankings by Subject. This is an increase from 20 in 2022 and 18 in 2021.

This enhanced recognition is despite growth in the number of universities included in the 2023 QS subject rankings which were released last week, covering 54 disciplines offered at 1 597 institutions (1 543 in 2022) around the world.

Of the 21 disciplines in which UP was ranked this year, eight are rated first in South Africa, up from five top-rated disciplines in 2022.

Two UP subjects – Mineral and Mining Engineering – are again among the top 60 worldwide. They are in 35th position worldwide and second in South Africa. Veterinary Science is in the 51-60 global band.

Other UP subjects with high global rankings are Accounting and Finance, Agriculture and Forestry, Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies, and Law.

Meanwhile, three subjects included in the QS rankings for the first time in 2023 have moved straight into favourable domestic ranking positions. These are Materials Science (third in South Africa), Natural Sciences (fourth) and Physics and Astronomy (seventh).

For the 2023 rankings, QS grouped the 54 disciplines analysed into five broad subject areas: Arts and Humanities; Engineering and Technology; Life Sciences and Medicine; Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences and Management.   

It then used five broad metrics to rank the universities. These are Academic Reputation; Employer Reputation; Research Citations per Paper; H-Index, and International Research Network (IRN).

UP’s achievement in the global and domestic arenas are as follows:

Improvements – broad subject areas – (2023 global rank):

UP improved its position in all five broad subject areas compared to 2022. The rate of improvement is the best of all the ranked domestic institutions:

  • Arts and Humanities (341, by more than 60 positions)
  • Engineering and Technology (284, up by 68 positions)
  • Life Sciences and Medicine (325, up by 12 positions)
  • Natural Sciences (451-500, ranked for the first time)
  • Social Sciences and Management (283, up by 40 positions)

Improvements – (global rank):

  • Biological Sciences (Top 350)
  • Environmental Sciences (Top 300)
  • Mathematics (Top 450)

Improvements (domestic rank):

  • Chemical Engineering (1st in 2023 from 2nd in 2022)
  • Biological Sciences (2nd in 2023 from 3rd in 2022)
  • Chemistry (5th in 2023 from 6th in 2022)
  • Environmental Sciences (3rd in 2023 from 4th in 2022)
  • Mathematics (1st in 2023 from 2nd in 2022)
  • Law (1st in 2023 from 2nd in 2022)

Ranked for the first time (global and domestic rank):

  • Natural Sciences (Top 500 in the world and number 4 in SA)
  • Materials Science (Top 450 in the world and number 3 in SA)
  • Physics and Astronomy (Top 650 in the world and number 7 in SA)

Ranked first in South Africa (global rank):

  • Veterinary Science (51-60)
  • Accounting and Finance (101-150)
  • Law (151-200)
  • Economics and Econometrics (251-300)
  • Mechanical Engineering (301-350)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering (351-400)
  • Chemical Engineering (501-550)
  • Mathematics (401-450)

Ranked second in South Africa (global rank):

  • Mineral and Mining Engineering (35)
  • Theology, Divinity, and Religious Studies (101-130)
  • Agriculture and Forestry (101-150)
  • Architecture/ Built Environment (201-240)
  • Engineering and Technology (284)
  • Social Sciences and Management (283)
  • Biological Sciences (301-350)
  • Education (301-350)
  • Computer Science and Information System (501-550)

Ranked third in South Africa (global rank):

  • Environmental Sciences (251-300)
  • Materials Science (401-420)

Ranked fourth in South Africa (global rank):

  • Medicine (351-400)

Professor Tawana Kupe, UP’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said although there is some degree of subjectivity in all university rankings, subject rankings are considered particularly relevant as they can assist in decisions as to where and what to study.

“Knowledge knows no borders, and the latest QS subject rankings help to position the University of Pretoria as a globally competitive university, rooted in Africa. These rankings reflect the high quality of UP’s academic staff, 70% of whom hold PhDs,” he said.

“Further enhancing the academic strengths of the University is the growing number of postgraduate students choosing to make UP their academic home.”

Currently, postgraduate students make up approximately 30% of UP enrolments, and this is projected to increase to 35% by 2025.

“Over and above our high-quality educational offerings, the University has very fine facilities and a commitment to being human-centric and making an impact in all that we do, making UP welcoming as well as academically excellent,” Prof Kupe said.


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