Universities in Johannesburg


Page created : 4th July 2011
Page updated : 23rd February 2021

There are two Government run Universities in Johannesburg, and one privatly run University.

The more senior and more traditional is the University of the Witwatersrand, affectionately known as Wits (pronounced Vits), and the newer University of Johannesburg, usually referred to by its abbreviated form, UJ, which prior to 1994, was the Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit.

Both, like most of South Africa’s past, have a fairly complex history.

University of the Witwatersrand

Wits is the oldest and most established of the Universities in Johannesburg, after opening in 1896 as the South African School of Mines in Kimberley (South Africa’s Northern Cape Province).

University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg

Not surprisingly it focused on the technical and scientific aspects of mining, having opened 29 years after diamonds were discovered in the town.

When gold was discovered in Johannesburg in 1886, an offshoot, still only teaching mining discipline, opened in approximately 1903 to cater for the developing gold mining industry.

After changing its location and name a number of times, it was granted full university status on March 1st, 1922, when it became the English speaking, University of the Witwatersrand, and still occupies the original 80 acre site in the suburb of Milner Park on land donated by the Johannesburg Municipality.

It is one of only two universities in Africa rated by two separate international rankings as a leading world institution.

The 5 faculties – Commerce, Law and Management; Engineering and the Built Environment; Health Sciences; Humanities and Science, comprising 34 schools offering 3000 courses, are spread over 5 campuses..

The original site of Wits University is divided into 2 campuses – East and West, separated by the M1 Motorway, with the Education campus off-site in Parktown and the Medical campus off-site in Hillbrow.

The University of Witwatersrand has a reputation built on research and academic excellence, and is especially known for its Medical and Engineering faculties.

It is the recipient of the highest levels of external financial support of all South African universities.

Click here for the Wits University prospectus website.

University of Johannesburg

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) came into being when three previously independent institutions of learning – Johannesburg’s Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit (RAU), Soweto’s Vista University and the Technikon Witwatersrand (TWR) merged to form one of the largest residential universities in South Africa, with over 50,000 permanent students, with more than 3,000 from 80 countries outside South Africa.

The University of Johannesburg Campus in Johannesburg

The Soweto and Daveyton campuses of the Vista University were first incorporated into the Rand Afrikaans University on 1st January 2004, and when the Technikon Witwatersrand merged with the enlarged RAU on 1st December 2005, the University of Johannesburg was born.

The Technikon Witwatersrand had been in existence since 1925, the Rand Afrikaans University since 1967 and the Vista University since 1982.

The main campus is the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus (Auckland Park is the suburb and Kingsway the road), with 4 ‘satellite’ campuses in Doornfontein, Auckland Park Bunting Road, Soweto and the East Rand.

Click here for the UJ prospectus website.

IIE MSA

(Independent Institute of Education, Monash South Africa)

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) came into being when three previously independent institutions of learning – Johannesburg’s Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit (RAU), Soweto’s Vista University and the Technikon Witwatersrand (TWR) merged to form one of the largest residential universities in South Africa, with over 40,000 full-time students.

The moving Magic Carpet at the kid's Pudi Ski School at Afriski Mountain Lodge in Lesotho

Not surprisingly it focused on the technical and scientific aspects of mining, having opened 29 years after diamonds were discovered in the town.

When gold was discovered in Johannesburg in 1886, an offshoot, still only teaching mining discipline, opened in approximately 1903 to cater for the developing gold mining industry.

After changing its location and name a number of times, it was granted full university status on March 1st, 1922, when it became the English speaking, University of the Witwatersrand, and still occupies the original 80 acre site in the suburb of Milner Park on land donated by the Johannesburg Municipality.

It is one of only two universities in Africa rated by two separate international rankings as a leading world institution.

It has 5 faculties – Commerce, Law and Management; Engineering and the Built Environment; Health Sciences; Humanities and Science, comprising 34 schools offering 3000 courses.

The University of Witwatersrand has a reputation built on research and academic excellence, and is especially known for its Medical and Engineering faculties.

It is the recipient of the highest levels of external financial support of all South African universities.

Click here for the Wits University prospectus website.

University Rankings

There are a number of university ranking systems, but they do tend to attract criticism, as the criteria and weightings used to generate the lists, are not consistent.

I’ve included them all here, as they do give an indication of the university’s ranking, even if the system is flawed!
They are the latest rankings as at February 2021

The three most most influential and widely used international university rankings are –
The QS World University Rankings : Published annually by the British Company, Quacquarelli Symonds, that specialises in the analysis of higher education institutions around the world.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings : Times Higher Education is a British publication, specialising in issues related to higher education.
The Academic Ranking of World Universities : Published annually by the Chinese company, Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, which is an independent organisation focusing on higher education.

Included as well is The Webometric Ranking of World Universities, which is published by the Cybermetrics Lab, a research group of the Spanish National Research Council in Spain.
It shows universities ranked according to how active their website is on the internet.

The QS World University Rankings

Africa Rank Name World Rank
1 University of Cape Town January
2 University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg) March
3 Anderson February

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Africa Rank Name World Rank
1 University of Cape Town January
2 University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg) March
3 Anderson February

The Academic Ranking of World Universities

Africa Rank Name World Rank
1 University of Cape Town January
2 University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg) March
3 Anderson February

The Webometric Ranking of World Universities

Africa Rank Name World Rank
1 University of Cape Town January
2 University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg) March
3 Anderson February
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