Since 2003 UCT has maintained its position as the highest ranked South African and African university in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) conducted annually by the Institute of Higher Education at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. In 2007 UCT was the only African university to make it into the top 200 of the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) World University Rankings conducted each year by the London-based newspaper The Times Higher Education Supplement and study-abroad specialists Quacquarelli Symonds. UCT is one of only four universities from the developing world in the list of top 200 universities.
The university continually strives to improve its global competitiveness whilst remaining locally relevant and engaged. To give substance to this aspiration and consolidate its standing as a research-intensive university, a number of structures or "instruments" have been established to promote collaborative interdisciplinary research. These instruments in no way detract from the academic freedom to practice curiosity-driven research across the full spectrum of disciplines. However, in line with international good practice, the value of interdisciplinary, multi-faceted collaboration is recognized as being instrumental to increasing global competitiveness; giving expression to our leadership role in Africa; effectively addressing the increasing complexity of research questions; leveraging more and better funding; increasing the mobility of researchers and creating exchange opportunities for postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students. Moreover, the impact of research that results from meaningfully focused agendas demonstrates high responsive engagement with society. At UCT, the four instruments for driving such collaboration are National Centres of Excellence, National Research Chairs, Institutional "signature themes" and Peer-accredited Research Groupings.