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Tertiary Education in South Africa

by Staff Reporter

This article is aimed to help you understand the various types of institutions as well as explain which universities belong under what heading.

Tertiary education in South Africa has a strong presence in the world of Universities, with its highest-ranked institution, the University of Cape Town (UCT) ranked 145 in the world according to the QS World University Ranking 2013/14. The University of Witwatersrand (Wits) also makes an appearance at 313 and Stellenbosch University (US) at 387. Consisting of 23 Public Higher Education institutions, South Africa hosts an array of universities including those that are traditional universities, universities of technology, and comprehensive universities.

South Africa has 11 traditional universities

They offer theoretical orientated Bachelor degrees and have a strong research capacity and high proportions of postgraduate students. These universities include the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of Fort Hare, the University of Free State, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Limpopo, North-West University, University of Pretoria, Rhodes University, University of Stellenbosch (Maties), University of Western Cape and the University of Witwatersrand (Wits).

In addition, South Africa also has six Universities of Technologies.

Universities of Technology, or Technikons, which are more vocational. This means that they are primarily based on an occupation or employment. These types of programmes prepare students for specific trades, crafts and a career at various levels from a trade, a craft, technician, or even a professional position in engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, architecture, pharmacy, law etc. These programmes are considered more “hands-on” and often students are required to do additional work or interning within their field of training during the duration of their course.

Vocationally oriented institutions award students with higher certificates, diplomas and degrees in technology; and have some postgraduate and research capacity. Such institutions include Cape Peninsula of Technology (CPUT), Central University of Technology, Durban University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology and Vaal University of Technology.

Lastly, South Africa offers six comprehensive universities.

Comprehensive institutions offer a combination of both academic and vocational orientated diplomas and degrees. Students are able to decide which choice of programme they wish to complete. Comprehensive Universities include the University of Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of South Africa, University of Venda, Walter Sisulu University and University of Zululand.

The Department of Higher Education and Training is responsible for all tertiary and vocational training and education, including Adult Basic Education and Training centers. Each University remains autonomous, however, reporting to their own Education Departments rather than the Government. The Departments implement policies of the national department as well as local ones.

As seen above, South Africa offers many different types of higher education institutions. Students have a wide range to choose from and thus should think carefully about where they want to study and what they wish to gain from their university and course.

All South African campuses are multicultural, they have good academic facilities as well as a wide range of social activities and clubs and support systems for international students. Students who wish to study South Africa beyond the confinements of the university also have many opportunities to volunteer in communities as well as get involved in the development of local communities.

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