We made a determination to create two distinct lists: a) Africa, excluding South Africa, and b) South Africa.
Click HERE to see the Top 10 Universities in South Africa – 2015 Edition.
Our previous edition of this list included three Egyptian universities: Cairo University, American University in Cairo, and Mansoura University. Because of the extraordinary disruption of academic life in Egypt over the last year, we have made the difficult decision to omit Egyptian universities from consideration at this time.
Here is our list of the Top 10 Universities in Africa – 2015 Edition
Founded in 1922, and later becoming an independent national university in 1970, Makerere University is Uganda’s largest and oldest public university. The university developed a focused research agenda in line with the national government’s policy objectives, and seeks to support those programs with a multidisciplinary approach ranging from natural sciences to economics and education. Spread across three campuses, Makerere University has a population of over 40,000, with more than five percent of the student body made up of international students. Makerere offers 145 undergraduate programs, over 140 Postgraduate programs, and 135 Masters Degree programs. Home to a top medical school, the University of Makerere also partners with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to host a medical exchange program in which students complete rotations in the fields of cardiology, family planning, pediatrics, infectious disease, and trauma (emergency medicine), among many others.
With a student population of around 30,000 (including over 1,000 international students), the University of Ghana is the oldest and largest public university in the country. Originally founded as an affiliate college of the University of London, the University of Ghana became an independent institution in 1961. Academic programming is spread over nine colleges issuing an array of academic degrees. A hub of research, the university has institutes focusing on seismology, population studies, migration studies, and ecology. The university boasts partnerships with the Norwegian Universities’ Committee for Development Research and Education, and the Commonwealth Universities Student Exchange Consortium. Balm Library, the university’s main library, has a collection of over 300,000 volumes.
Tracing its roots back to 1956 as a technical college, the University of Nairobi (UoN) became an independent university in 1970. Today, the university is spread across seven campuses and is home to over 1,600 academic staff members who oversee more than 70,000 students (at least 90 are PhD students), through over 600 of its university programmes. UoN hosts an average of 120 foreign students each year, and has close ties with the international community, with official bilateral collaborations with at least 20 global universities and organizations in joint research and publications. The research intensive university has over 1,000 research projects currently being undertaken by staff and students, and boasts a range of research facilities, including the expansive Science and Technology Park which also houses the small-scale digital fabrication workshop that serves as a rapid prototyping centre, the “FabLab.” Its also a space where students can incubate and develop business ideas, with entrepreneurship strongly encouraged and supported throughout the university, like at the School of Computing’s Startup Incubation Program.
The oldest university in the continents’ most populous country, the University of Ibadan (UI) has a population of over 35,000 students, including 13,000 undergraduates, 7,000 postgraduates, and 14,000 distance learning students. With a total of 13 faculties – including Agriculture and Forestry, Veterinary Medicine and Technology – and 300 professors, UI produces an average of 3,000 postgraduate and PhD students every year. UI has close ties with international institutions, including the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in the United States that sends its medical students to UI’s teaching hospital.
Established in the early 1980s as the country’s first institution of higher education, the University of Botswana is now home to nearly 19,000 students. Females make up more than 55 percent, with an undergraduate population of over 15,000, and more than to 3,000 postgraduate students, all taught by a total of 890 academic staff members. The university has a total of 9 research facilities, including the Okavango Research Institute that is focused on the study and conservation of the Okavango Delta along with other southern African wetlands, and the Centre for Study of HIV & AIDS that takes an interdisciplinary approach to understand and address the impact of the virus. The University’s main library, one of the largest on the continent, is five stories high, has roughly 460,000 books, 123,000 full text journals, and 187 internet-dedicated workstations.
Established in 1962 with a total of 72 students and only three faculties, the University of Lagos (Unilag) sought to train professionals for the newly independent Nigeria. UNILAG has over 40,000 undergraduate students, 12,000 postgraduates, and 100 PhD candidates, all taught by over 1,000 academic staff members. With an emphasis on research, the University’s faculty has published over 1,700 papers, with the most publications coming out of the medical, science, and engineering faculties. The university was recently one of seven institutions to receive a share of a $1.2 million research grant awarded by the Lagos State government.
Following the dissolution of the University of East Africa (which also included Makerere University College in Uganda, Nairobi University College in Kenya), the University of Dar es Salaam was established as an independent university in 1970, making it the oldest – and largest – university in Tanzania. The University has five campuses and 10 faculties, including faculties in mechanical and chemical engineering and aquatic science and technology, and offers bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, along with certification programs. Its expansive library maintains a collection of around 600,000 volumes and 2,800 periodical titles, of which more than 140 are current printed journals.
Established in 2002 with just 27 students, Ashesi University (AU) has grown to a population of over 600 registered students. Close to half are females, with foreign students making up 16 percent of the total population. Describing itself as a “coeducational institution,” its stated mission is to “educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within our students the critical thinking skills, the concern for others and the courage it will take to transform a continent.” With an academic program designed in partnership with over 20 international professors, AU offers majors in business, computer science, and management information systems. Its curriculum combines a liberal arts core, with a 4-year focus on leadership, innovation and community service. Ashesi is to launch an engineering degree program in 2015, with hopes to fill 50 percent of the slots with female students in a bid to address gender inequality in that sector. The university has 17 full time faculty members, complemented by 34 adjunct, intern and visiting faculty.
Established as the University College of Addis Ababa more than six decades ago, the Addis Ababa University (AAU), is the oldest educational institution in Ethiopia. AAU has gone from just over 30 students in 1950, to close to 50,000 today (including over 34,000 undergraduates, 13,000 graduates, and over 1,700 PhD students). The university has grown to have a staff contingent of more than 6,000, including over 2,4000 academics that are spread across its 14 campuses. These campus are made up of nearly a dozen colleges, and 8 research institutes, including the Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology that focuses on conducting biomedical research.
Named after the Senegalese historian and anthropologist, Cheikh Anta Diop, it’s the only francophone university on our list, with all courses being taught in French. Originally established as a medical school in 1918, it is now one of the largest universities on the continent with over 60,000 students, and draws a number of international students who enrol in its study abroad programs.
Cairo University is a large public university with over 45,000 students and 5,000 faculty. The university publishes its prestigious Medical Journal of Cairo University, as well as publications in interdisciplinary science, pharmacology, information technology, and political science. Founded in 1908, the university was the region’s first secular university, and boasted some of Africa’s first medical and engineering schools.
Prominent alumni include cryptographer Dr. Taher Elgamal, whose work on digital signatures has been adopted by the American National Institute of Standards and Technology, and NASA researcher Taher Elgamal, who participated in the Curiosity’s historic landing on Mars in August.
A popular study abroad destination, Cairo University regularly hosts thousands of international students during the academic year.
2) AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN CAIRO—EGYPT
Founded in 1919, the American University in Cairo is an American-style small liberal arts college with a heavy emphasis on quality of teaching. The university’s full-time faculty is complemented by an extensive adjunct teaching staff and frequent international visiting lecturers, including the Distinguished Visiting Professor program, which draws global experts from some of the world’s leading institutions.
The University is also on the cutting edge of climate change and women’s rights. Recent initiatives include a “Carbon Footprint Report” released in October, which was the first of its kind in the region, and the Heya Initiative, aimed at stopping sexual harassment, which recently gained recognition as both a United Nations and women-supported youth initiative.
Notable alumni include former Japanese Minister of Defense Yuriko Koike, Romanian diplomat and journalist Dan Stoenescu, and Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, Haifa Al-Mansour.
International students comprise more than 10 percent of the student body.
3) MANSOURA UNIVERSITY—EGYPT
Founded in 1972, Mansoura University is one of Egypt’s largest universities with a total student population of around 100,000 spread over its 17 faculties. A research powerhouse, Mansoura University boasts a world class array of medical centers, including those focused on oncology, urology and nephrology, gastroenterology, ophthalmic, and pediatric medicine. Its nephrology center is one of the largest in the region.
Recent student achievements include winning first place in the regional Remote Operational Vehicles (ROV) competition, and moving onto the international competition in the United States.
4) MAKERERE UNIVERSITY—UGANDA
Founded as a technical school in 1922, Makerere University became an independent national university in 1970. The university developed a focused research agenda in line with the national government’s policy objectives, and seeks to support those programs with a multidisciplinary approach ranging from natural sciences to economics and education. Home to a top medical school, the University of Makerere also partners with the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to host a medical exchange program, in which students complete rotations in the fields of cardiology, family planning, pediatrics, infectious disease, and trauma (emergency medicine), among many others.
In celebration of the university’s 90 years of existence and of Uganda’s Golden Jubilee, an extension of the main library is currently under construction, and will ultimately result in 8,000 square metres of reading space, 300 computers, a multi-media unit, and software for people with disabilities.
Makerere University is Uganda’s largest university, with a population of over 40,000, with more than five percent of the student body comprising of international students.
Notable alumni include Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, former president of Tanzania H.E. Benjamin William Mkapa, and Archbishop of York in the Church of England John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu.
5) UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI—KENYA
Tracing its roots back to 1956, the University of Nairobi became an independent university in 1970. Today, the university is home to about 57,000 students, and boasts an extensive range of research faculties, from biotechnology and bioinformatics to HIV prevention and research, from nuclear science and technology to tropical and infectious diseases.
Notable alumni include Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai; urologist Harcharan Gill, who is a professor at Stanford University, and former supermodel and entrepreneur Iman.
6) UNIVERSITY OF DAR ES SALAAM—TANZANIA
Following the dissolution of the University of East Africa, the University of Dar es Salaam was established as an independent university in 1970. Today, the University has five campuses and 10 faculties, including faculties in mechanical and chemical engineering and aquatic science and technology.
Notable alumni include President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda; and Asha-Rose Migiro, the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations and a former minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation in the Tanzanian government.
7) UNIVERSITY OF BOTSWANA
In 1982, the “One Man One Beast” campaign was launched in Botswana to found an independent university that would reduce dependence on South African universities ruled under apartheid. Contributions poured in from all around the country in the form of cash, cattle, grain, eggs, and other crops. Today, the University of Botswana, whose motto is “Education is a Shield,” has an undergraduate population of roughly 16,000. The university offers comprehensive undergraduate programs in seven faculties. Degrees issued range from electrical and electronic engineering to media studies.
The University’s main library, one of the largest on the continent, is five stories high, has roughly 460,000 books, 123,000 full text journals, and 187 internet-dedicated workstations.
Notable alumni include radical feminist sociologist Patricia McFadden, who has served as faculty at Cornell University, Spelman College, Syracuse University, and Smith College in the United States.
8) UNIVERSITY OF GHANA
Originally founded as an affiliate college of the University of London, the University of Ghana became an independent institution in 1961. Today, the current student population is close to 30,000. Academic programming is spread over nine colleges issuing an array of academic degrees. A hub of research, the university has institutes focusing on seismology, population studies, migration studies, and ecology. The university boasts partnerships with the Norwegian Universities’ Committee for Development Research and Education, and the Commonwealth Universities Student Exchange Consortium.
Balm Library, the university’s main library, has a collection of over 300,000 volumes. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is the university’s chancellor.
Over 1,000 international students are currently enrolled in the University.
9) UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS
Established in 1962 with the aim of training professionals for the newly independent Nigeria, the University of Lagos is a comprehensive university that strives to learn through “knowledge and research.” The University houses nine faculties, and the Medical School is home to three faculties. With an emphasis on research, the University’s faculty has published over 1,700 papers, with the most publications coming out of the medical, science, and engineering faculties.
In celebration of its Golden Jubilee, the University of Lagos will host a three-day research conference and fair with the theme “Research and Innovation for Economic Development in a Globalising Nigeria.”
Notable alumni include Nigerian television actor Francis Agu; publisher and film producer Wale Adenugu; chairperson of the Nigerian Government’s Economic and Financial Crimes Farida Mzamber Waziri, and HIV/LGBT activist Bisi Alimi.
10) ASHESI UNIVERSITY
Established in 2002, Ashesi University’s mission is “to educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within our students the critical thinking skills, the concern for others and the courage it will take to transform a continent.”
While learning takes place in a liberal arts setting, the University of Ashesi grants majors in computer science, management information systems, and business administration.
The University of Ashesi has been endorsed by former President Jimmy Carter and Peter Woicke, former managing director of the World Bank. In 2009, the university’s founder, Patrick Awuah, Jr. was awarded the John P. McNulty Prize, given to an individual making an impact on pressing social issues.
Africa.com's Editorial Staff is the best group of writers and contributors covering Africa. The talented team publishes fun & easy reads as well as thought provoking commentary relevant to all 54 countries in Africa.