Shining a light on the mother continent

The inaugural Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings call attention to the region’s success and provide a framework for development, writes Phil Baty

June 26, 2023
Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings cover

View the THE Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings 2023 results

Africa will never reach its extraordinary potential without thriving universities. The first objective of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 master plan for transforming the continent into a global powerhouse is to “build a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development”. That mission needs strong and successful universities – to nurture human talent on a huge scale, to drive innovation in a new knowledge economy and to enable the inventions and discoveries that will help us to overcome the global grand challenges, including food security and climate change, and secure a sustainable future for all.

Today, Times Higher Education, the trusted provider of data and insights to global higher education since 1971, introduces a pioneering framework for supporting Africa’s universities. A world-first bespoke university ranking and performance analysis system developed specifically for Africa, in a project led by Africa, the Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings - powered by THE in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation - highlight the strongest universities in the region across a unique, comprehensive range of performance indicators. These indicators cover three vital areas: teaching, research and societal impact.

Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings 2023: results announced

The Sub-Saharan Africa University Rankings methodology was developed by THE’s data team, drawing on decades of experience gained from the creation of the renowned THE World University Rankings and THE Impact Rankings, which judge universities’ social and economic impact through the lens of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The development work was undertaken in consultation with university leaders across sub-Saharan Africa, in a project initiated by a consortium of African and international higher education organisations and companies, which include Botho, Maverick and Mycos. The project was led by Ashesi University in Ghana, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. THE independently managed all data collection and calculations.

The rankings explore the impact of universities in sub-Saharan Africa in addressing some of the toughest challenges faced on the continent, embracing key Agenda 2063 and UN priorities. Themes covered in the comprehensive methodology include:

  • University infrastructure
  • Teaching quality
  • Research impact
  • Inequality

The rankings assess current performance, helping African universities to showcase good practice, benchmark themselves against peers and identify areas where they can improve. A key component of the rankings is a unique survey enabling us to account for students’ experiences using information that comes directly from students themselves.

The inaugural rankings feature 121 universities from 20 countries, representing almost half of all eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Not all universities that might be expected to be ranked are present in this inaugural edition, and not every country is featured, as the process is voluntary and minimum thresholds were set for responses to the fledgling student survey. But we expect the rankings to grow rapidly in the coming years as they are embraced as an important resource.

In recent years, THE has recorded the rise of African higher education and research on the world stage, as more and more African universities embrace the global THE Impact Rankings and demonstrate their profound social good, and as more reach the research publication thresholds to enter theTHE World University Rankings, standing shoulder to shoulder with universities across the global north. But while these bespoke rankings provide important data links and pathways to success in the global rankings, they were initiated and driven forward by African institutions, and developed to support the core missions and policy agenda of the vast sub-Saharan African university community.

THE is delighted to deliver this exciting and vital new resource – and to play its part in supporting a dynamic and diverse sub-Saharan African university community, which will be vital to secure a thriving future for Africa.

Phil Baty is THE’s chief global affairs officer.

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