The University of the Western Cape (UWC), Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) are among eight South African universities that feature in the top 100 of new Brics global rankings published on Tuesday.
Universities in the five Brics countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are the focus of the rankings that the international education network organisation QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) has devised for the first time in its history.
In total, 400 universities from the Brics countries were considered for these rankings, QS representative Vickie Chiu told the Mail & Guardian.
The other five South African universities in the top 100 are familiar presences in various other global rankings as well.
In order, the eight local institutions are the universities of Cape Town (ranked 11th), Stellenbosch (30th), the Witwatersrand (31st), Pretoria (43rd), KwaZulu-Natal (60th), Johannesburg (61st), Rhodes (72nd) and the Western Cape (88th).
These QS rankings adopt a narrower focus than similar ones Times Higher Education published two weeks ago, which rated 700 universities from not only the Brics countries but also another 17 that the FTSE Global Equity Index classifies as emerging economies.
However, where Times Higher Education used exactly the same assessment criteria for these rankings as it does for its annual, world university rankings, QS said it had adjusted its rating method to provide "a more accurate reflection of the current higher education conditions among emerging economies in general".
"What makes the Brics ranking unique is our attempt to reduce the weighting of indicators which are of less relevance to these emerging nations and increase those which better reflect the current dynamics," said QS head of research Ben Sowter in a statement.
"For example, the weighting for international factors has been reduced to accommodate for the overall low rates of international recruitment. Institutions from these nations have prioritised other factors such as recruiting the most academically qualified staff, which is reflected in our 'Staff with PhD' indicator."
All the institutions in the QS top 100 can be found at TopUniversities.com. As with the Times Higher Education ratings, China's universities dominate the tables, with 40 of the country's universities featuring in the top 100 and seven of them making it into the top 10.
Russia has 19 universities represented in the top 100, while Brazil has 17 and India 16.
In the full global rankings QS released in September, which assessed more than 3 000 universities, the University of Cape Town, at number 137, was the only South African institution to make it into the top 150. Wits featured at number 313 and Stellenbosch at 387.
The universities of Pretoria, KwaZulu-Natal, Johannesburg and Rhodes followed at various lower positions in the top 700.
In a similar pattern, the Times Higher Education rankings, published in October, placed the University of Cape Town at number 126; and of local universities only Wits and Stellenbosch also featured in the top 350.