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Education System of South Africa


Types of higher education institutions:


University of Technology (former Technikon)

College (Further Education and Training Colleges, Nursing, Technical Colleges)

Comprehensive Institutions

School leaving and higher education credentials:

Senior Certificate

Matriculation Endorsement

National Certificate

National Higher Certificate

National Diploma (Ndip)

National Higher Diploma

Bachelor of Technology (Btech)

Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor Honours Degree

Postgraduate Diploma

Master of Technology (Mtech)

Master's Degree

Doctor of Technology (Dtech)



Pre-higher education:

Duration of compulsory education:

Age of entry: 6

Age of exit: 15

Structure of school system:


Type of school providing this education: Primary School

Length of program in years: 6

Age level from: 6 to: 12

Junior Secondary

Type of school providing this education: Junior Secondary School (first year still placed under primary school)

Length of program in years: 3

Age level from: 12 to: 15

Certificate/diploma awarded: General Education and Training Certificate

Technical Secondary

Type of school providing this education: Technical Level Secondary School

Length of program in years: 2

Age level from: 15 to: 17

Certificate/diploma awarded: Senior Certificate 1-3 years (depending on N programmes followed)

Senior Secondary

Type of school providing this education: Senior Secondary School

Length of program in years: 3

Age level from: 15 to: 18

Certificate/diploma awarded: Senior Certificate

School education:

Primary education lasts for six years, divided into junior primary and senior primary. Until now, secondary school lasted for five years, the first year of the junior secondary phase being followed in primary school. At the end of junior secondary (three years), pupils are awarded the General Education and Training Certificate. At the end of the senior secondary phase (lasting for three years), pupils sit for the Senior Certificate Examination. The 1996 Constitution confirms the right to basic education and that the Government must progressively make further education (i.e. the senior secondary phase preceding higher education) available and accessible through reasonable measures. Compulsory education lasts for nine years (until age 15), followed by non-compulsory further education. In the senior cycle, students may study subjects either at Higher Grade, Standard Grade, or Lower Grade. N-courses are also offered to some technical school and college candidates. A Senior Certificate is awarded by the SA Certification Council following externally moderated examinations on completion of senior secondary school. Technical secondary education is provided by technical centres and secondary and vocational schools. Matriculation endorsements are also offered by this Council to students who have satisfied the ministerially approved overlay on the Senior Certificate. Provision is also made for further education colleges through the Further Education and Training Act. Technical high schools may, inter alia, offer courses leading to Senior Certificates with matriculation endorsements, which statutorily constitute the minimum general admission requirement for access to universities. Universities of Technology (former Technikons) require Senior Certificates but not necessarily with matriculation endorsements.

Higher education:

The higher education system consists of Public Universities, Universities of Technology and a College sector. The Higher Education Act (December 1997) provides for the appointment of a Registrar of Private Higher Education Institutions and a number of private institutions have registered or are in the process of registering in terms of these provisions. The South African universities offer Bachelor, Bachelor Honours, Master and Doctorate Degrees, as well as Undergraduate and Postgraduate Diplomas. Course work is structured in modules, with students registering in a unit/credit system. Universities and Universities of Technology, as autonomous institutions, are subsidized by the Department of Education, and provide training at the post senior certificate level. University of Technology courses lead to National Diplomas and Certificates and, as from 1995, to Degrees with a minimum duration of four years. The Certification Council for Technikons (SERTEC) is responsible for conferring Universities of Technology Diplomas. The Higher Education Act stipulates that higher education at Universities, Universities of Technology and Colleges comes directly under the responsibility of the national government, whilst further education colleges report to the nine provincial governments. There are 23 public higher education institutions in South Africa.

Main laws/decrees governing higher education:

Decree: Higher Education Act Year: 1997

Academic year:

Classes from: Jan to: Dec

Languages of instruction: Afrikaans, English

Stages of studies:

Non-university level post-secondary studies (technical/vocational type):

Non-university level:

Higher technical/vocational studies are provided by Technical Colleges and Universities of Technology. Apprenticeship training for technicians is offered by Technical Colleges. Apprentices study for the National (Technical) Certificate (N training). N-3 courses can also be taken as credits for the Senior Certificate. The programme consists of three parts (N-1, N-2, N-3), each lasting for four months, six months or a year, depending on the course concerned. The N-training is a pre-senior Certificate level and the N-3 credits are considered for the Senior Certificate (with pass in English and Afrikaans) for entry to Universities of Technology and National Certificate studies, but not for university studies. Most tertiary-level vocational programmes lead to a three-year National Diploma as basic qualification. Universities of Technology also provide vocationally oriented education and training in a variety of disciplines leading to, amongst other Diplomas, first and advanced Degrees. Diplomas at technical-vocational level lead to BTech, MTech and Dtech Degrees. There are other types of specialist colleges, such as Nursing Colleges and Agricultural Colleges, which do not offer Degree studies unless offered in cooperation with Universities or Universities of Technology. In such cases, the Degree-awarding institution/authority's name will appear on the Certificate.

University level studies:

University level first stage: First stage:

The Bachelor Degree is awarded both by Universities and Universities of Technology. Universities award the Bachelor Degree after three to six years of study: Humanities, Commerce, Science - 3 years; Agriculture, Law, Engineering, Pharmacy and Education, four years; Veterinary Medicine and Architecture, five years; Dentistry, five-and-a-half years; Medecine and Theology, six years. Students in Humanities, Commerce and Science wishing to proceed to a Master Degree are required to take a Bachelor Honours Degree, which is awarded after a further year's study. Universities of Technology award the Bachelor Degree of Technology (BTech), which is a four-year Degree which includes one year of experiencial training. Universities also confer a Professional Bachelor Degree after four years.

University level second stage: Second stage:

The Master Degree is awarded by both Universities and Universities of Technology. This Degree requires a minimum of one to two years' research after the award of an Honours Degree in the case of universities, and a Bachelor Degree in the case of Universities of Technology. The Master Degree in Technology (MTech) may be obtained at least one year after the BTech. This is an advanced qualification comprising taught subjects and research, or only research. The thesis must relate to an industry specific problem. Some university Master Degrees, e.g. the Master Degree in Business Leadership (MBusAdministration), are partly taught and partly research Degrees, where the thesis must relate to an industry or subject specific problem.

University level third stage: Third stage:

Doctorates and research Degrees are also awarded by both Universities and Universities of Technology. They are conferred to holders of Master Degrees after a minimum of two years' study. A Doctor in Technology (DTech) is awarded after successful completion of a thesis at Universities of Technology. This degree is research-based and studies last for at least two years. It comprises an advanced research project.

Teacher education:

Training of pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers

Teacher Colleges have been transferred to the National Department of Education and certain Universities run three-or four-year Diploma courses qualifying holders to teach in primary schools. This also applies to some universities and universities of technology. The general admission requirement for Diploma studies at any of these colleges is a Senior Certificate with pass marks in one of the two languages of instruction (i.e. English and Afrikaans).

Training of secondary school teachers

Degree-level courses for secondary school teachers are offered by all universities and universities of technology. A Senior Certificate with a matriculation endorsement or a Certificate of complete or conditional exemption is required for university study, whilst universities of technology have different requirements (usually Senior Certificates and further requirements as stipulated in their joint statute).

Training of higher education teachers

Forty per cent of academic staff obtained their highest qualification at the University in which they are employed, 30 per cent at another South African University and 30 per cent at a foreign University.

Non-traditional studies:

Distance higher education

Distance teaching, which is mainly by correspondence, provides courses for about 35 per cent of enrolled students. The University of South Africa (UNISA) offers correspondence courses, either in English or in Afrikaans, for Bachelor Degree and Postgraduate qualifications, provided such Bachelor Degrees include an in-service training component. Course work is structured in modules. A maximum of ten years is allowed to obtain a Bachelor Degree, an additional year for Bachelor Honours Degree, three years for Postgraduate qualifications, two further years for a Master Degree and two years for a Doctorate. The Degrees are considered to be equivalent in standard to those awarded by other Universities.


Administration & co-ordination:

Responsible authorities:

Department of Education

Head: Naledi Pandor, Minister

Administrative officer: Duncan Hindle, Acting Director-general

International relations: Ghaleeb Jeppie, Director

Private Bag X895
Pretoria 0001
South Africa

Tel: +27(21) 4657350

Fax: +27(21) 4614788

EMail: webmaster@educ.pwv.gov.za

WWW: http://education.pwv.gov.za

Higher Education South Africa (HESA)

Head: Piyushi Kotecha, Chief Executive Officer (Acting)

Administrative officer: Tessa Yeowart, Executive Manager

PO Box 27392
Pretoria 0132
South Africa

Tel: +27(12) 4812842

Fax: +27(12) 4812843/ 4812850

EMail: admin@hesa.org.za

WWW: http://www.hesa.org.za

Role of governing body: Umbrella body for South African public higher education institutions.

Council on Higher Education (CHE)

Head: Saki Macozoma, Chairperson

Administrative officer: Mala Singh, Interim Chief Executive Officer

PO Box 13354
The Tramshed, Gauteng 0126
South Africa

Tel: +27(12) 3929119

Fax: +27(12) 3929110

EMail: ceo@che.ac.za

WWW: http://www.che.ac.za

Role of governing body: Advises the Minister of Education on strategic issues in higher education, performs quality assurance functions, dissiminates information on higher education.

International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA)

Head: Roshen Kishun, President

International relations: Caleb Maqubela, International Liaison Officer

PO Box 65099
Reservoir Hills
Durban 4090
South Africa

Tel: +27(31) 2603077

Fax: +27(31) 2602967

EMail: aieasa@nu.ac.za

WWW: http://www.und.ac.za/und/ieasa

Role of governing body: Non-profit organization created to respond to international educational trends.

Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC)

Head: H. Africa, Chairperson

Administrative officer: Mala Singh, Executive Director

PO Box 13354, The Tramshed
Pretoria 0126
South Africa

Tel: +27(12) 3929100

Fax: +27(12) 3929110

EMail: admin@che.ac.za

WWW: http://www.che.ac.za/heqc/heqc.php

Role of governing body: Promotes quality assurance in higher education; Audits the quality assurance mechanisms of higher education institutions; Accredits programmes of higher education.

Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (UMALUSI)

Administrative officer: P. Lolwana, Chief Executive Officer

Post Net Suite 102
Private Bag X 1
Pretoria 0121
South Africa

Tel: +27(12) 3491510

Fax: +27(12) 3491511

EMail: info@umalusi.org.za

WWW: http://www.umalusi.org.za

Role of governing body: Quality assurer in the general and further education and training bands of the nationalqualifications framework (NQF).


Admission to non university higher education studies

Name of secondary school credential required: Senior Certificate

For entry to: Universities of technology, technical colleges, and other colleges.

Alternatives to credentials:

Senior Certificate with N-courses obtained at technical colleges or technical high schools.

Admission to university-level studies

Name of secondary school credential required: Senior Certificate

Minimum score/requirement: Pass marks in two Higher Grade languages, two additional Higher Grade subjects, at least a further Standard Grade subject and a minimum aggregate of 45 % for six subjects.

For entry to: Universities.

Alternatives to credentials: Certificate of exemption from the matriculation endorsement required as issued by the Matriculation Board on behalf of HESA or a conditional admission certificate issued by a university of technology

Entrance exams required: Matriculation endorsements are required for admission to first degree studies at university level and senior certificates for first degree studies at university of technology or college level.

Foreign students admission

Admission requirements: Prospective students coming from a non-South African schooling system must, for benchmark purposes, hold qualifications that must be at least equivalent to the local system. For university studies, candidates apply to the university which will forward the application to the Matriculation Board which issues a certificate of exemption in terms of other specified provisions. Conditions must be satisfied on completion of degrees in the case of foreign conditional exemption certificates.

Entry regulations: Students must hold a valid passport, a duly completed B1-159 application form that is available from the Department of Home Affairs, a standard letter of provisional acceptance to a South African institution, a letter of motivation and proof that the student is in a situation to pay the tuition fees and has adequate means of support.

Language requirements: Students must be proficient in English or Afrikaans.

Application procedures:

Apply to individual institution for entry to: Institutions of higher education

Recognition of studies & qualifications:

Studies pursued in home country (System of recognition/accreditation): A Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) functions within the Council on Higher Education (Tel.: +27(12) 392-9132, Fax: +27(12) 392-9120, Email: singh.m@che.ac.za, Website: http://www.che.ac.za). It promotes quality assurance in higher education, audits quality assurance mechanisms and accredits higher education programmes.

Studies pursued in foreign countries (bodies dealing with recognition of foreign credentials):

Higher Education South Africa (HESA)

Head: Piyushi Kotecha, CEO (Acting)

Administrative officer: Cobus Lötter, Director, Matriculation Board

PO Box 27392
Pretoria 0132
South Africa

Tel: +27(12) 4812842

Fax: +27(12) 4812843/ 4812850

EMail: cobus@he-enrol.ac.za

WWW: http://www.hesa.org.za

Deals with credential recognition for entry to: University

Services provided & students dealt with: Local and international students

References to further information on foreign student admissions and recognition of studies

Title: Study SA - The guide to South African tertiary education - 4th edition

Publisher: International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA)


Main student services at national level

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

Private bag XI
Plumstead 7801
South Africa

Tel: +27(21) 7978161

Fax: +27(21) 7978131

EMail: info@nsfas.org.za

WWW: http://www.nsfas.org.za

Category of services provided: Social and welfare services

National student associations and unions

South African Students' Representative Council (SAU-SRC)

Private Bag
Students' Union. University of Cape Town
Rondebosch 7700
South Africa

Tel: +27(21) 6509111

Fax: +27(21) 6502138

WWW: http://www.uct.ac.za

Student expenses and financial aid

Student costs:

Home students tuition fees: Minimum: 4000 (Rand)

Maximum: 25000 (Rand)

Publications on student services and financial aid:

Title: Guide to Distance Education in South Africa

Publisher: HSRC Publishers

Title: Guide to Higher Education in South Africa

Publisher: HSRC Publishers

Title: Study Abroad 2006-2007

Author: UNESCO

Publisher: UNESCO Publishing

Year of publication: 2005


Principal national bodies responsible for dealing with international cooperation and exchanges in higher education:

Higher Education South Africa (HESA)

Head: Piyushi Kotecha, Chief Executive (Acting)

Administrative officer: Tessa Yeowart, Executive Manager

PO Box 27392
Sunnyside, Pretoria 0132
South Africa

Tel: +27(12) 4812842

Fax: +27(12) 4812843/ 4812850

EMail: admin@hesa.org.za

WWW: http://www.sauvca.org.za

International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA)

Head: Roshen Kishun, Director

PO Box 65099
Reservoire Hills
Durban 4090
South Africa

Tel: +27(31) 2603077

Fax: +27(12) 2602967

EMail: aieasa@ukzn.ac.za

WWW: http://www.ukzn.ac.za/und/ieasa


Usual grading system in secondary school

Full Description: Marking is alphabetical or expressed as a percentage. The usual pass mark in all higher grade subjects is 40% (with 2 exceptions). The pass mark in all standard grade subjects is 33%.

Highest on scale: A 80-100%

Pass/fail level: E 40-49%

Lowest on scale: F 33-39%

Main grading system used by higher education institutions

Full Description: Classification at some universities: 1st class (75-100%); 2nd class division 1 (70-74); 2nd class division 2 (60-69); 3rd class (50-59); fail (below 50). Other universities only distinguish: Distinction (75-100%); Pass (50-74%).

Highest on scale: 1st class

Pass/fail level: 3rd class

Lowest on scale: F


Data for academic year: 2005-2006

Source: IAU from Higher Education South Africa (HESA), South Africa, 2006

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