Study System in South Africa

University landscape of South Africa

For some years now, the South African Republic has invested a lot in improving the general educational situation. About a fifth of their total budget goes to the education sector. The promotion of young South Africans and equal opportunities for blacks and whites plays a major role in this. The rigorous racial segregation of apartheid was also reflected in the university sector – at that time there were separate universities for whites and blacks as well as students of Indian origin. An aftereffect from this time are some study programs that to this day only take place in AfrikaansAfrikaans is the former colonial language that almost only whites can speak. OtherwiseEnglish is the regular language of instruction .

Prestigious and international: The universities of South Africa

The South African universities are among the best on the African continent . Not least because of this, studying there is very popular with many foreigners. In total, around 30,000 of the 660,000 students enrolled at South African universities come from abroad. The largest proportion of foreigners are young people from other African countries. Among the Europeans, the most numerous Swiss and Germans come to study in South Africa, a country located in Africa according to travelationary.

Three types of colleges in South Africa

In 1997 the South African government initiated a comprehensive and protracted educational reform: Smaller universities and polytechnic universities merged to form larger universities. Since then there have been a total of 23 state universities in South Africa : On the one hand there are six technical universities, the Universities of Technology . Before the university reform, they were called technicians and were located below the universities. Studying at these universities is very practical.

On the other hand, there are eleven traditional universities . They are mainly dedicated to imparting theoretical knowledge. The six other Comprehensive Universities , however, perform a balancing act between the Universities of Technology and the Traditional Universities . These “comprehensive universities” combine theoretical and practical components in their curricula. The largest university in the country is the public correspondence university, which is one of the largest colleges in the world.

Administration and funding of the universities

All state universities manage themselves autonomously . So, for example, you decide for yourself about the allocation of study places and the occupation of your chairs. A special feature is the university sponsorship by the private sector, which is customary here. For example, university equipment and lecture halls are partially financed.

Private and international universities

Private universities have also been admitted in South Africa since the university reform. Their number is constantly increasing. In addition, some international universities with campus branches have settled in the country.

Study system

The South African academic year is divided into two semesters . It extends from January / February to November / December. South African universities offer Bachelor, Master and PhD courses. There are also various study programs that end with the non-academic degrees Certificate and Diploma . The study programs are usually modularized and calculate the study achievements in a unit or credit system.

Bachelor’s degree in South Africa

A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in the humanities, economics and natural sciences usually takes three years in South Africa. In law , engineering and agricultural sciences as well as in pharmaceutical and education for another year is added. The study time in medical subjects and theology is extended to a total of five to six years. A bachelor’s degree is in itself a professional qualification, and many students then choose to start their career straight away.

After such an undergraduate bachelor’s degree, you can optionally join a one-year postgraduate course leading to a Bachelor of Honors . During this time, the previous knowledge is deepened and specialized. Such an honors degree is usually the prerequisite for admission to a South African master’s program.

Master’s degree in South Africa

A master’s degree at South African universities is usually designed for one year . The degree consists either of an extensive thesis based on one’s own research or of a shorter thesis in connection with coursework , which means attending numerous lectures and courses.


For someone who develops a special interest in their own research work in the course of their studies, a doctorate may be an obvious choice – provided that their previous achievements are appropriate. In this context, a comprehensive doctoral thesis is then written, which includes independent research work. In contrast to many other countries, no oral defense of the written thesis is required in South Africa . It normally takes two years for the doctorate to be awarded .

National Diploma

The National Diploma is a further degree at technical universities . Such a degree in various technical subjects takes three years. It is divided into a theoretical and a practical part, each lasting 18 months. The one-year Higher National Diploma can then be added as a further qualification . These degrees could possibly be recognized in Germany like those from German universities of applied sciences or vocational academies. In any case, this must be clarified in advance.

Study System in South Africa

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