Universities in South Africa

Universities in South Africa by City:

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About universities in South Africa

Beginning in 2005, the higher education system of South Africa embarked on a reform aimed at offering every citizen of the country an opportunity to pursue some type of post-secondary education.  Below we will take a closer look at the results of that reform, the various types of tertiary institutions it created, and the programs/degrees now available to students.

Prior to 2005, the higher education system of South African was comprised entirely of universities known as “technikons”—institutions designed to help students learn a trade that could lead to employment in the South African economy.  Today, the system has been reworked, and now includes three separate types of private post-secondary institutions:  Universities, Universities of Technology, and Comprehensive Universities.


Universities in South Africa are private, relying solely on student tuition for their operation.  Unlike other post-secondary institutions in the country, these schools are entirely academic in nature, with programs leading to undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in a number of fields.  Like in most developed countries around the world, South African universities offer Bachelor, Master’s and Doctorate degrees, but they also offer a degree that is fairly unique to their system, a post-graduate degree that fits between the Bachelor and Master Degree called the Bachelor Honours Degree.

At the undergraduate level, students studying at South African universities can take courses towards a Bachelor’s degree, diploma or higher certificate, with the former being the most popular course of study.  These programs, which are offered in a wide array of disciplines, generally take four years to complete, after which students are free to pursue employment in their chosen field of study or continue their education.

At the graduate level, students can take courses leading to the Bachelor Honours degree or Master’s degree.  Programs leading to the Bachelor Honours degree typically span one-year in duration.  For potential employers, these types of degrees signify a deeper knowledge in the specific subject matter.  This one year program can also be applied towards a Master’s degree in the same or related discipline, a degree that in total spans two years after the Bachelor degree.

Students pursuing their Bachelor, Bachelor Honours or Master’s Degree can choose from a wide variety of programs, in categories that include the sciences, arts and humanities, business and commerce, and the social sciences.

Exceptional students who successfully complete their Master’s Degree can apply for admission into one of the many doctoral programs offered by the universities, although admission requirements into these programs are much more rigid than that of the undergraduate and graduate programs.

Universities of Technology

The Universities of Technology are much like the technikons that were phased out during the educational reform process.  These schools focus more on professional and vocational education, rather than on academic programs.  Students studying at these schools can earn credentials (diplomas/certificates) in a variety of technical and vocational fields, with programs generally spanning two to three years in duration.  Some schools even offer four-year courses of study in subjects such as computer programming, database management, and computer science, leading to a Bachelor of Technology degree; a degree that in South Africa affords the same status as an academic Bachelor degree.

Comprehensive Universities

Although much fewer in number than the other two categories of post-secondary institutions, the Comprehensive Universities in South Africa are unique in that they offer both academic education and vocational or professional training.  At these universities, students who are near to graduating with their Bachelor degree can take professional or vocational courses that will not only help them find and secure gainful employment, but also excel in their chosen career field.

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