Eight South African universities made 2017 edition of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).
The list of the best 800 in the world failed to have many African representations, with Asia, Europe and North America maintaining dominance.
From the African continent, South Africa had the highest number of institutions, eight, on the list.
They are; University of Witwatersrand, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, University of Johannesburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal, North-West University, University of South Africa, and the University of Pretoria.
Harvard and Stanford remain as the top two universities in the world, according to the ARWU study.
Others in the top ten are the University of Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University.
The rest are University of Oxford, Columbia University, California Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago.
ARWU ranks universities by several indicators of academic or research performance, which include alumni and staff winning Nobel prizes and fields medals.
Other indicators are highly cited researchers, papers published in Nature and Science, papers indexed in major citation indices, and the per capita academic performance of an institution.
Although more than 1300 universities are ranked by ARWU, only the best 500 are published.
But in the list of 2017, universities ranked between 501 and 800 were also published.
The ARWU study has been published yearly by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy since 2009.