Study in South Africa

South Africa is emerging as one of the world’s most exciting study destinations.  This is demonstrated in the rapidly increasing number of international students. Because of international exchange rates, South Africa offers real educational value for money.

South Africa’s entire educational system, from primary schools to tertiary institution, is in the process of being redesigned for the post-apartheid future. The result of this process will be a better, more efficient educational infrastructure.  South Africa is a nation at the cutting edge of change.  This is why it is one of the world’s most exciting places to be a student. 


International students should apply for a Study Permit at the South African High Commission, Embassy, Consulate or Trade Mission in their country of origin.

If there is no South African representative, prospective students must apply to the South African High Commission, Embassy, Consulate or Trade Mission nearest to their home country.  It is imperative that students await the outcome of this application for a study permit in their own country of residence or origin.

Study permits are issued for a program of study at a specific institution.  International students should obtain a new permit only if they wish to change institutions.

Once you have confirmed your acceptance of the formal offer from the university or technikon, you can make your application for a study visa.  You should contact the South African Consulate for full details about applying for a study permit. 

Prospective international students are advised to submit their study permit documentation as soon as possible.  It normally takes six to eight weeks for applications to be processed.  The institution (technikon or university) in South Africa cannot register a student until a valid study permit has been produced. Passports with the valid study permit must be presented to the host institution during registration.

  • Consular Requirements



In terms of the current legislation and regulations, the minimum general admission requirements for first degree studies at the 21 public South African universities are

  • a senior certificate with a matriculation endorsement issued by the South African Certification Council
  • or a certificate of complete or conditional exemption from the endorsement requirement issued by the Matriculation Board on behalf of the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors Association (SAUVCA).

The last comprehensive set of regulations was published on November 27, 1997 but the regulations were amended in 1998 and are likely to be amended annually until such time as the transitional phase lapses.  Please see Study Permits for more information.


The minimum entrance qualification for a technikon course is a National Senior Certificate or equivalent as approved by the Committee of Technikon Principals.  However, certain courses require additional entrance qualifications or a specified minimum level of achievement within the general entrance qualification.  Technikons are geared to respond to public demand for courses that are needed and will devise short courses specifically to meet such needs. Most technikons in South Africa offer degree programs in various fields of study which have replaced many of the previous Advance Diploma programs.  The minimum study period of the BTech is four years although in most cases there are exit points at lower levels enabling students to enter a career at an earlier stage of their study lives. Technikons should be contacted to establish for which courses a National Certificate (after one year) and a National Higher Certificate (after two years) are offered as lower exit levels. The National diploma (after three years) still remains a major exit point in the technikon qualification hierarchy.


Foreign candidates who wish to study at a South African university for first degree studies have to qualify for either a certificate of complete exemption or a certificate of conditional exemption to satisfy the minimum general admission requirements of the 21 South African public universities. 

For more information, please visit the website of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

Acceptance of foreign qualifications

Until 3 September 1992 the matriculation exemption regulations of the Joint Matriculation Board (JMB) contained some guidelines on the acceptance of some foreign school qualifications for admission to first degree studies at universities in South Africa.

When the Matriculation Board of the Committee of University Principals (CUP) accepted responsibility for administering the matriculation endorsement and exemption regulations on 4 September 1992, this list was extended in the amended set of regulations that was published on 2 December 1994.

A comprehensive list of foreign qualifications was again published in the latest set of comprehensive matriculation endorsement and exemption regulations in Government Gazette on 28 November 1997. This list is to be supplemented shortly by means of a notice in the Government Gazette and will continue to be supplemented on a regular basis.

The Higher Education Act, Act 101 of 1997, promulgated in December 1997, repealed both the Universities Act and the Technikons Act.

Section 74 of the Higher Education Act, however, determines that those statutory functions performed by the CUP, the Committee for Technikon Principals and the Matriculation Board will be retained for a transitional period.

Towards the end of November 1997 a booklet Foreign Qualifications and their Acceptance for Bachelors Degree Studies at South African Universities was distributed to all universities and a revised version with the same name was circulated subsequently to universities under cover of circular U2/98 of 22 January 1998.

The information presented in the booklet was in tabular format and indicated amongst others the acceptance of foreign qualifications for complete exemption, foreign conditional and mature age conditional exemption or, in some cases, the non-acceptance of certain foreign school leaving qualifications at South African universities.

It should be noted, though, that it was not possible to list all the possible qualifications and combinations of foreign qualifications that could be presented for university admission purposes, but the most general ones are listed according to the country of origin.

For more information, please click here.

Students Returning to South Africa