Wits Facts

Wits has a reputation built on research and academic excellence. Wits is one of only two universities in Africa ranked in two separate international rankings as a leading institution in the world and is the only university in the country that features in the top 1% in the world in seven defined fields of research according to the 2007 ISI international rankings. Wits is also the recipient of the highest levels of external financial support of all universities in the country, from donors and partners all over the world - testimony to the high esteem in which we are held internationally.


Wits is home to 20 South African Research Chairs, seven research institutes, 20 research units, 10 research groups, six Centres of Excellence, more than 200 rated scientists, of which 16 are A-rated.

  • Wits is home to 16 NRF A-rated scientists, based on a stringent evaluation of an individual scientist s research record over five years. These scientists are international leaders in their disciplines. Prof. Jill Adler is the only educationist in the country to have been awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation.
  • Wits is ranked in the top 1% in the world in seven defined fields of research according to the 2007 ISI international rankings.
  • Wits is the proud home of six Centres of Excellence in Biomedical, TB Research, Strong Materials and Aerospace, Advanced Drug Delivery Technology, Viral Gene Therapy and Palaeosciences.
  • Wits has 40 research entities, eight of which are Medical Research Council units. It is also home to 20 prestigious National Research Foundation Chairs in the following areas: Geosciences; Electrical and Information Engineering; History; Chemical and Metallurigcal Engineering; Theoretical Particle Cosmology; Medical Entomology and Vector Control; Fundamental Physics and String Theory; Protein Biochemistry and Structural Biology; the Origins of Modern Human Behaviour; Vaccine Preventable Diseases Bio-inorganic Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Biomaterials and Polymer-Engineered Drug Delivery Technologies.
  • Wits is developing six prestigious multidisciplinary research institutes, which will seek to produce highly specialised forms of knowledge to tackle the challenges of the 21st Century, the first four of which are the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute, the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience, the Wits Mining Research Institute and the Evolutionary Studies Institute. The latter institute combines the strengths of Wits' Institute for Human Evolution, the Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, and many allied disciplines and aims to expand and extend South Africa's position as the global leader in the paleosciences. 
  • Wits is also home to one of the largest fossil collections in the southern hemisphere. New species are constantly being discovered due to our groundbreaking research efforts. A senior researcher from the Evolutionary Studies Institute, recently named a new species of therapod, or meat-eating dinosaur, an ancient ancestor of today's birds. The dinosaur, which lived more than 161 million years ago and was discovered in a remote region of Xinjiang, north western China, is named Aorun zhaoi, after the Dragon King in the Chinese epic tale Journey to the West.
  • Wits ambitions are interlinked with those of the city and the region in a country that punches above its weight in the world. Wits hosts the R40-million Gauteng City Region Observatory, a high-level research facility that will assist the province to benchmark its performance and further develop a research-based approach to long-term strategic planning related to economic, social and other areas of development.
  • Wits established the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, the first of its kind on the African continent, in 2008. The Centre supports research, teaching and public debate about India and its growing presence across the continent.

  • The University is structured into five Faculties which comprise 34 Schools.
  • The University library system comprises two main libraries and 14 divisional libraries. Students have access to 1,000,000 book volumes, 400,000 journal titles and 46,000 new electronic resources.
  • Wits vast campuses are spread over 400 hectares in Braamfontein and Parktown.
  • The University has 18 residences which accommodate 20% of the student population.
  • Wits is committed to further developing its institutional infrastructure in line with national priorities to develop high level and scarce skills in the country. It has recently completed various capital projects including new buildings for the Wits Art Museum, the School of Public Health, the 4th quadrant of the Chamber of Mines building and the FNB Building upgrade.
  • Wits has two commercial companies, Wits Enterprise and the Wits Health Consortium, offering opportunities for contract research, short courses and tailor-made business solutions for the public and private sectors.


  • Wits exceeds the national norms in terms of enrolments in the Science, Engineering and Technology fields and is very close to having half of all our enrolments accommodated in these areas.
  • The Wits Business School has entered into a partnership with the London Business School, one of the world's top ranked Business Schools, to run an International Executive Development Programme. The Professorial Chair in Entrepreneurship and a Centre for Entrepreneurship was also established at the WBS.
  • The School of Accountancy at Wits University has achieved an average pass rate of 90% in part one and 80% in part two of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) qualifying exam over the past eight years. Wits students continue to dominate the top 10 positions in the SAICA exams.


  • The 40-year-old Wits Business School is fully accredited by the South African Council for Higher Education and received the prestigious International Accreditation by the Association of MBAs.
  • Our undergraduate engineering degrees are recognised by the Engineering Council of South Africa and have also been approved by the professional engineering accrediting bodies in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland and Hong Kong.
  • Our professionally qualifying architecture degrees are accredited by the South African Council of Architects and validated by the Commonwealth Association of Architects.
  • Wits' professionally qualifying degree in quantity surveying is accredited by the South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, UK, while the construction management degree is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Building.
  • The Wits Actuarial Science Programme at the Honours level provides exemption from 12 of the examinations required for qualification as a professional actuary with the Edinburgh Faculty of Actuaries or the London Institute of Actuaries.
  • The School of Public Health is internationally renowned for its academic and research activities. International funders preferentially send students from Africa to the School, which enjoys local and international partnerships with institutions like the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Brown and Colorado Universities and the Swiss Tropical Institute.


  • The Wits Centre for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine is a partner in a R5,7 million training and support project to help South Africa become a leader in the global soccer arena, ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
  • The Graduate School of Public and Development Management is the largest postgraduate school of public management in southern Africa.
  • Wits has launched a palaeontological outreach programme in the Eastern Cape village of Nieu Bethesda in association with the Albany Museum and the Department of Science and Technology. It has also played an instrumental role in having the fossil-rich Makapan Valley in Limpopo declared a World Heritage site.
  • The Siyakhana Food Garden project is a model permaculture food garden system for food production, education, research and the empowerment of the community (particularly women) in the Johannesburg inner city.
  • Wits offers a range of services to the community. The Wits Disability Unit is a model centre for higher education institutions that caters for disabled students, while the ten-year-ol Centre for Deaf Studies offers support and education to caregivers and families of the Deaf. The Emthonjeni Centre offers speech and hearing therapy, counselling and psychotherapy to the public and acts as a practical training ground for students in this area.
  • Wits is committed to developing South African academic talent from an early age. It has developed two student equity programmes that spans three provinces, 42 schools and hundreds of learners from Grades 10-12. The Targeting Talent, Investing in Excellence, Facilitating Success programme sees exceptional learners from Grade 10 being mentored for three years by Wits lecturers and tutors in order to better prepare them for entry into higher education. The Bale project aims to provide first generation South African female black learners with the opportunity to study for a career in the fields of Science and Engineering.
  • The Wits Centre for Applied Legal Studies plays an integral role in advocating for the constitutional rights of ordinary South Africans, particularly on issues related to basic services, education, gender issues, housing evictions and social security matters. The Wits Law Clinic is one of the biggest in South Africa and is renowned for its work, particularly in areas of public interest law.


  • Wits students designed a software system to solve virtually all mathematical problems, built a theft-proof, pyramid shaped coffin that allows the deceased to be buried in a squatting position and developed a fuel that burns more cleanly and produces fewer greenhouse gases, while using up agricultural by-products.
  • The Wits Convergence Laboratory in the School of Electrical and Information Engineering brings together under one roof voice, data, video, multimedia and entertainment via 'a next generation' telecommunications network. Students developed software systems to aid the visually-impaired, devices to allow video streaming from the T-shirts of soccer players to mobile phones and developed virtual music gloves.
  • In 2007, a team of students from the School were awarded a silver medal at the annual SIMagine awards at the World 3GSM International Software conference in Barcelona. David Vannucci, Teddy Mwakabaga and Rolan Christian won for their innovative mobile phone game, Mobiraba?, an adaptation of the local Morabaraba game played on the continent.
  • The Wits School of Arts created the first South African 3D animation political satire - The Bushpig Project - for both television series and mobisodes.


  • The University boasts 14 museums and two art galleries housing a variety of rare and valuable artworks.
  • Wits Art Galleries are the custodians of some 9000 works of art which is one of the largest and most fascinating collections of African art. The internationally renowned collections are currently available to researchers and students by appointment. A major new project is underway to develop world-class premises and a permanent home to all South Africans have ensure easy access to the works.
  • The Wits Theatre has staged more than 2 000 different productions over its 26-year history.
  • Wits University is home to more than 100 sports clubs and societies, ranging from basketball to debating and scuba diving to chess. In 2008, both the Men s and Women s rowing team won the annual epic Universities Boat Race where all the premier University rowing crews are brought together to compete.


  • 91 Rhodes Scholars have originated from Wits. Only a limited number of these coveted scholarships are awarded to outstanding students worldwide.

  • 13 Witsies have been awarded prestigious National Orders by the President for their continuing contribution to science, art and medicine in the country.

  • Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, Professor of Composition and Theory produced the new composite version of the South African National Anthem and the official version used today. For this, she was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga.

  • The Chancellor of the University, Dikgang Moseneke, is the Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa. Wits Law School, one of the country s premier institutions, produced two of South Africa s post-1994 Chief Justices of the Constitutional Court.

  • The Origins Centre, a worldclass international tourist site at Wits, includes exhibitions on the Khoisan and Rock Art and tells the unique story of humankind?s creativity. The University also boasts one of the largest and most diverse groups of geoscientists in Africa.

  • In 2008, the Centre for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at Wits was officially inaugurated as the first FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence in Africa, only one of six such centres in the world. 

  • In recent years, Wits has revived its public intellectual engagement activities and has positioned itself as the intellectual hub of South Africa. The University provides a platform for intellectual debate and critical thinking across many disciplines. Nobel laureates, politicians, intellectuals, authors, researchers, scientists and others all have the opportunity to have their say at Wits.


  • Three Wits professors, Thomas Bothwell, David Glasser and Darrell Comins, claimed the prestigious Academy of Science of South Africa Gold Medal for three consecutive years for their outstanding contribution to science.
  • Prof. Valerie Mizrahi, a Wits based tuberculosis researcher is the two-time recipient of an International Research Scholar s grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She was the UNESCO-L OReal For Women in Science laureate for the Africa and Middle East Region for 2000. In 2006, she won the Department of Science and Technology s Distinguished Women Scientist Award and the Gold Medal from the South African Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In 2007, she was awarded the Order of the Mapungubwe (Silver).
  • Prof. Rosemary Falcon, a coal geologist, has been named the first Chair in Clean Coal Technology in the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering.
  • Several Witsies are recent recipients of the South African Women in Science Awards.
  • Wits University has won three of the four prestigious Harry Oppenheimer research awards made to date, worth up to US$125 000 each.
  • Achille Mbembe, Research Professor of History and Development at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research won the 2006 Bill Venter/Altron Literary Award for his book, On the Postcolony. The Award in 2007 was given to Prof. Norman Owen-Smith for his book, Adaptive Herbivore Ecology.
  • Prof. Jane Taylor of the Wits School of Arts has been named the winner of the 2006 Olive Schreiner award, a literary award presented by the English Academy of Southern Africa for her book entitled Wild Dogs.
  • Prof. Charles de Koning and Prof. Barry Fabian from the Faculty of Science have been honoured by the highly prestigious journal, Nature , for their mentoring of postgraduate students. Fabian walked away with the prestigious 2007 Lifetime Mentoring Achievement Award, while De Koning was awarded the highly prestigious Nature mid-career mentoring award.
  • Dr Glynis Goodman-Cron was awarded the S B Bronze medal for the best PhD thesis of a botanical nature.


Total Student Enrolments 32 703 
Female Students 54%
Postgraduate Students 33% 
International Students 10%
Undergraduate Student Success Rate 85%
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Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014/2015
251 - 275
Times Higher Education Alma Mater Index: Global Executives University Rankings 2013
QS World University Rankings 2014/2015
Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai World University Rankings) 2014

201 - 300

Center for World University Rankings 2014