Studying in South Africa


There are 20 public universities and over 100 private higher education institutions in South Africa.

South African universities offer bachelor, honour, master, and doctoral degrees. Extended bachelor degree programmes are available at some higher education institutions. Undergraduate courses are usually taught in Afrikaans, and postgraduate courses in English.

Public universities in South Africa offer a variety of degrees. Private universities offer programmes in certain subject areas, focusing on vocational subjects. Private universities offer both degree and non-degree programs.

Tuition depends on the school. South Africans and students from other African countries usually pay less than foreigners.

Financial aids

If you want to apply for financial aid for your higher education in South Africa, you can visit the financial aid office of the university you are attending to see if you are eligible for bursaries or awards. Make sure you know the closing date for applications.

South Africans can apply for a National Student Financial Aid Scheme loan (NSFAS). The size of this loan can range from R2,000 to R30,000, and can be converted into a bursary if the student's pass rate is sufficiently high. NSFAS bursaries do not need to be paid back. The NSFAS loan does not cover private education.

Banks offer student loans, which non-citizens can apply for as long as they own a valid study permit and proof of registration at an South African university. The student's parents or another guardian must sign a pay back guarantee form. Bank student loans can be paid back once the studies are completed, but interest payments must be paid through the loan's term. Bank student loans cover studies at public and private institutions.

Another way to receive financial aid are external bursaries. These are offered by most South African companies to promising students. The terms of the bursaries depend on the company, but all of them will require the student to pay the bursary back by working at the company, once the education is completed. Students can find a list of bursaries available in any field (Bursary Register) at most high schools and financial aid offices.

Entry exams

South African universities request a minimum amount of points in the matriculation exams. Points are given to students according to the numbers of subjects passed and the score per subject.

Public universities admit students based on standardized exams: the National Senior Certificate scores and/ or the National Benchmark Tests (NBT).

University admission for foreigners

Foreigners can attend full degree programmes as well as exchange programmes in South Africa. Foreign students need to be granted student permits before entering South Africa - it is forbidden to enter the country with a visitor's visa and apply for a study permit from there.

Applications for Student Permits usually take six weeks to be accepted, but it is advisable to apply as early as possible. Student permits are granted for specific fields of study, and they last one year.

Honour and Master degrees

You must wait at least a year after you got your degree to apply for a Master, Honour, or PH. D. programme in South Africa. You can apply for validation if you completed modules at other universities.

Each of these higher education programmes must be completed within a certain period:

  • Master degree - Two years
  • Honour degree - Four years
  • PH. D. - Four years

Further reading

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