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South Africa is an exciting place to study, in part because of the physical diversity of the place. A beautiful coastline with cliffs and beaches stretches 2,500 kilometers along the southern border, the desert of Kalahari lies to the north, and a mountainous escarpment lies in the middle of the country.

South Africa’s National Policy for Higher Education made a goal in 2001 to transform the country’s higher education system. In doing so, a 20% participation rate in higher education was set for 10-15 years. To promote the growth of students in higher education, the South African government is investing resources into schools, creating an ideal situation for international students who are interested in studying there.

Although the South African central government is investing significant efforts into education, schools are in large part controlled by one of nine provinces, each of which have their own education department. Schools also have their own education administration, controlled by a civically- or politically-affiliated chancellor who is appointed by the government.

Higher Education in South Africa

Higher education in South Africa – that is, education which is
aimed at achieving undergraduate or postgraduate degrees, certificates, diplomas or doctoral degrees – is referred to as Tertiary Education. South Africa currently has 24 world-class public (state-funded) tertiary education institutions, including universities, universities of technology, and comprehensive institutions. In addition, there are a growing number of private universities in South Africa as well as foreign higher education institutions, such as those from the UK and Australia.

Universities usually offer basic qualification after 3 years and career-oriented education degrees after 4 years. Students may then go on to pursue their masters and doctoral degrees. A masters degree in South Africa requires one year of study through research or course work after an undergraduate qualification, and a doctorate is at least 2 extra years in addition to writing a research thesis. Another education option is an honors degree, which requires study for one additional year after a bachelor’s degree.

Technikons are vocation-oriented schools, and have less stringent entry requirements for applicants than universities. 4-year diploma programs are available at Technikon schools, but students can also exit earlier and continue their education while working. Many technikons are now being integrated with universities to become larger tertiary education institutions.

Language in South Africa

South Africa has 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, Zulu, Ndebele and English. It is a benefit to have some knowledge of one of the languages besides English in order to study in South Africa. However, the best language to learn and degree to which you’ll actually use it depend on the city where you study.

Cost of Education

Tuition at higher education institutions in South Africa vary between schools. In addition to receiving money through tuition, schools also get government funding, which is based on the ratio of students to teachers and tuition receipts.

Higher education in South Africa is a unique learning experience with so many benefits for students to take advantage of in this exciting, diverse country.


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