Higher Education in South Africa
Higher education and training encompasses both undergraduate and graduate degrees, including bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Both public and private higher education institutes exist, including universities, universities of technology, and comprehensive institutions. The universities offer traditional theoretically and research-oriented degrees; the other institutions focus on professional and vocational education and training.
Why Study in South Africa?
In addition to the opportunity to study in English within a multicultural environment, South Africa has many world-class schools of higher education that include state-of-the-art research along with high-quality master’s degree programs. South Africa has three universities in the top 400 universities world-wide, as ranked by the 2012-2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Universities in South Africa
South Africa has 23 state funded higher education institutes that offer master’s degrees, including 11 universities, 6 universities of technology, and 6 comprehensive institutions. Private institutions exist as well, totaling 115. Programs are offered in most academic disciplines, and master’s degrees in business administration, economics and finance are especially popular. International students are welcome and use the same application procedures as South African nationals.
Tuition and Program Duration
Annual tuition for master’s studies varies widely by program and school, but is generally low in state schools, from about $1,500 to $5,000 (US); private schools are somewhat higher. Master’s programs also range in duration, but are typically 1-2 years.
The academic year runs from February through December and includes two semesters. Each semester typically consists of six weeks of classes, a one-week break, then seven weeks of classes, and finally one week for studying (called swot week) and then exams.
Many multinational corporations operate in South Africa, and graduates with master’s degrees will find numerous opportunities for employment, whether they are South African nationals or expats. Industry sectors that are currently growing include automotive, information technology, communications, mining, banking and services. The vast majority of jobs are concentrated in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria, and Johannesburg. To obtain a work permit, an international student must usually first have a job offer for a position that cannot be filled locally. However, students with skills in specialized areas or highly qualified experts in certain fields may be able to obtain work permits even without a specific job offer.
International students studying in South Africa are required to have a study permit before they enter the country to attend school. A visitor’s permit cannot be exchanged for a study permit after arrival. Once a student has been accepted at a university, they can apply for a study permit at the South Africa office in their home country.
International students are required to obtain South African health insurance, even if they are covered by health insurance in their home country. Proof of this coverage is required when applying for the study visa. Students must pay for the entire academic year in advance; monthly or other payments are not allowed.
Although English in the predominant language for public exchanges and business in South Africa, the country has 11 official languages, including Afrikaans (a derivative of Dutch), Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. Students may encounter indigenous languages throughout the country; however, most South Africans can speak more than one language and English is widely understood.
Sports are very popular in South Africa, with the major sports being soccer, rugby and cricket. Other sports with significant followings and international presence include swimming, golf, boxing and tennis.