29 Jun 2021

Study in South Africa: A Guide for International Students

Do you want to experience adventurous study abroad student life in a beautiful natural environment with English-taught programs and low tuition fees? Then you should study in South Africa! South Africa, or officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), has a multiethnic population, eleven national languages, and endless natural landscapes with unique wildlife. 

The country has not one, but three capital cities: executive Pretoria, judicial Bloemfontein and legislative Cape Town, while the largest city is Johannesburg. It shares borders with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and two independent countries, Lesotho and Swaziland. 

Being the mother country of political leader Nelson Mandela, writer and activist Nadine Gordimer, novelist John Maxwell Coetzee and entrepreneur Elon Musk, South Africa is an exciting place to be.

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What makes South Africa unique though? More and more students from all over the world made the difference and chose South Africa for their studies thanks to the country’s stunning landscapes, value for money tuition fees, recognized universities and affordable cost of living.

Not to mention that South Africa is the second largest economy in Africa, making the country a quite attractive trade and business meeting point. If you are interested in business or trade studies, you have already found your next study destination!

If you choose to study in South Africa then you will be able to visit the country’s most famous sights like the Table and Drakensberg Mountains, the Kruger National Park, the Garden Route, the Cradle of Mankind or Robben Island, places that will offer you unforgettable travelling experiences. Don’t forget to experience the South African safari as well!

South Africa - Quick Facts & Figures


Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial), Cape Town (legislative)


11 national languages (including Afrikaans, English, and Xhosa)


59.6 million

Area Size

1,221,037 km²


45,000 international

Academic Year

February - November


South African Rand (ZAR)

Calling Code


Time Zone


south africa

More about studying abroad in South Africa

It is impossible to mention South Africa without referring to a part of the country’s identity, the Apartheid movement. The Apartheid has played a key role in shaping the social, cultural and political landscape of South Africa today. Thanks to Nelson Mandela’s leadership and efforts, South Africa has united and became the “Rainbow Nation” it is today. 

Why study in South Africa and not another country? Since the reforms that took place in the country in 2004, more than 45,000 international students choose South Africa every year for their studies. Plus, South African universities like the University of Cape Town, the University of Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch University, rank among the top universities in the world. 

South Africa has 26 public universities which are divided into three major categories: Theoretical universities which offer theoretically-oriented degrees, universities of technology or technikons which offer vocational-oriented degrees and comprehensive universities which are a combination of both, offering both types of degrees. 

South Africa has 11 official languages, but no stress, you don’t need to know any of them in order to get admission into South African universities. The major language of instruction is English and you can prove your linguistic competency through a language test like TOEFL in order to get admitted. 

If you want to know more about this fascinating country and its culture, university fees, visa requirements and education system, read through our study in South Africa study guide below!

Education System

Want to learn about how the higher education system works in South Africa? Both public and private universities offer programs in English language and focus on academic excellence.

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Student Visas

If you are not a South African citizen, then you will need a visa for studies in South Africa. Learn more about the student visa process, and what you need to enter the country, depending on your citizen status.

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Housing & Living Costs

Housing and cost of living in South Africa are relatively cheap, especially when compared with other countries in Europe. You can choose to either live in a private or shared student accommodation.

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Tuition Fees & Scholarships

Tuition fees for degree programs in South Africa vary and is based on a credit system charge, but education for international students is still lower than in many other European countries.

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Language & Culture

South Africa has 11 official languages and is a country rich in history and culture. Find out more about what the country offers in terms of language, culture, and more!

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Application Process

Entry requirements in South Africa vary from university to university. Here you can find more information about the application process for people from around the world.

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Ready to look at education in South Africa? Use our search engine to find and compare top programs in South Africa today!

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Last update: 29 Jun 2021

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Karel has dual nationality in South Africa and Switzerland, but spent most of his upbringing at international schools in Switzerland and returned to South Africa for his university studies. Read about his experiences studying at Stellenbosch University.

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