Study in South Africa

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A nation celebrated for its culture and outstanding beauty; its emerging higher education system means there are more reasons to consider study in South Africa

With living expenses considerably lower than in the UK and USA, and international exchange rates ensuring value for money, South Africa's universities are becoming a popular choice among foreign students.

If the opportunity to embark on such an incredible learning adventure wasn't enough, South Africa is unrivalled when it comes to its terrain and abundance of wildlife.

Masters degrees

South African universities dictate the length and subject matter of their postgraduate programmes. Masters courses typically involve one to two years of full-time study.

Institutions in this country have traditionally placed an emphasis on extensive dissertations - although more varied assessment methods are becoming commonplace.

To undertake postgraduate study in South Africa, you will usually need an undergraduate degree in a relevant course and a strong academic record.

South African universities

There are 23 public universities in South Africa and these are split into:

  • comprehensive universities;
  • traditional universities;
  • universities of technology.

The highest ranked African university, the University of Cape Town (UCT), is based in South Africa. It lies in 124th position in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-15.

Further down the list are the University of the Witwatersrand, referred to locally as 'Wits University', and Stellenbosch University.

Course fees

South African course fees are relatively cheap when compared to other global destinations, but they do still vary, so make sure you clarify the total cost with your chosen university.

For example, since 2013, citizens and permanent residents from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been charged a SADC administration fee by the University of Cape Town, in addition to their standard degree course costs.

In 2015, the fee was set at R3,275 (£178.84).

The 15 member states of the SADC are:

  • Angola;
  • Botswana;
  • Democratic Republic of Congo;
  • Lesotho;
  • Madagascar;
  • Malawi;
  • Mauritius;
  • Mozambique;
  • Namibia;
  • Seychelles;
  • South Africa;
  • Swaziland;
  • United Republic of Tanzania;
  • Zambia; and
  • Zimbabwe.

Students from the rest of the world are eligible for international fees, which are split into two areas:

  • course fees, dependent on your programme of study; and
  • an international term fee, which is a per-annum sum levied by UCT.

The international fee for students studying full time at the University of Cape Town in 2015 is R47,500 (£2,593.92).

Funding to study in South Africa

Funding for international postgraduate students is limited, but some institutions do offer scholarships to cover the course fees. The majority of South African institutions have bursaries and scholarships, which are available to South African nationals and students from other African countries.

How to apply

To be accepted onto a Masters course, you will usually need an undergraduate degree in a related subject and a strong academic background. For a breakdown of the admissions requirements for a particular course, visit the university website.

Language requirements

Courses are typically taught in English, although some institutions do encourage the use of Afrikaans and other official languages in an academic context, so be sure to check this before you apply.

Student visas

UK citizens are allowed to enter South Africa and stay for up to 90 days with a visitor's visa. Students wishing to remain in the country for the duration of their course must apply for a student permit. South African institutions are not able to register an international student without one.

To apply for a study visa, you'll need to complete the BI-1738 form, pay the processing fee and present the following documentation to the South African High Commission in London:

  • a valid passport;
  • an official university letter confirming your provisional acceptance and the duration of the course;
  • details of the person who will act as your guardian as well as written confirmation;
  • consent from both parents or the parent who has sole custody;
  • proof of health coverage and a copy of your medical reports;
  • a police clearance certificate;
  • proof of financial security.

For more information, visit:

Student visas for South Africa will typically take around a month to be processed.

South African exchanges and placements

Contact your university to see if they have links with a South African institution. For example, the University of Sunderland is one of eight UK member institutions that can offer international-to-international exchanges as part of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP).

Doctoral programmes

To study for a PhD in South Africa, you will require a Masters degree in a related field.

Your research proposal will need to be submitted to your university of choice - identifying a faculty member may be helpful here, as you can contact them directly regarding your area of interest.