How much it cost to study in Universities in South Africa

There are over 20 public universities in South Africa, and tuition fees vary depending on their policy, the type and the length of studies.

According to Times Higher Education’s latest ranking, 15 of these local universities are also listed among the world’s top tertiary institutions for 2023.

The ranking looks into an institution’s global performance and judges research-intensive universities, with the full list comprising 1,799 universities across 104 countries and regions.

It is based on 13 calibrated performance indicators that measure an institution’s performance across four areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

The ranking showed the University of Oxford coming in the top position for the seventh consecutive year, with Harvard University remaining in second place, while the University of Cambridge jumped from joint fifth last year to joint third.

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Locally, The University of Cape Town holds the title of the best university in South Africa, ranking 160th overall, climbing 23 places over the past year from 183rd.

Stellenbosch University and the University of the Witwatersrand ranked in the same band of 251-300, while The University of KwaZulu-Natal closed out the top five places in the country.

The 2022 list contained just 11 local institutions. However, the University of the Free StateRhodes University, the University of Fort Hare, and the University of Venda joined the rankings in the 2023 edition.

Along with a good education, for South Africans, choosing to study at local universities is also the most affordable option. However, for those who can afford it – the most popular countries to study include the USA, the UK, Australia and Germany, reported education platform Erudera.

Overseas the living costs alone cost, on average, upwards of R200,000 per annum, whereas students who choose local institutions typically pay almost half that, which includes tuition and residence.

Fees in 2023

According to data from Old Mutual, the average cost to send a graduate to university in South Africa is R55,900 in 2023, which is expected to accelerate to R95,700 by 2030 – and reach R177,200 by 2038.

BusinessTech looked at the cost of a year’s study at universities around the country.

The fees apply to first-year studies for 2023 and only act as an approximation and exclude other fees such as textbooks, travel and residency.

The fees sourced include the following undergraduate degrees:

  • Bachelor of Commerce (BCom);
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA);
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc);
  • Bachelor of Law (LLB, undergraduate);
  • Bachelor of Science/Engineering (BEng).

Fees are typically charged per module needed to make up the credits of a given degree. Therefore, the fees represented below give a broader idea of the cost of a single year of study rather than a comprehensive overview.

A Bachelor of Science in Engineering is featured for institutions where no Bachelor of Engineering is offered.

Some universities calculate their fees per module, require student registration, or do not provide an estimated value for the degrees by the time of publication.

University BA BCom BSc LLB BEng
University of Cape Town R68 300 R72 680 to R93 850 R74 500 R69 410 R66 260 to R80 380
University of the Witwatersrand R49 430 to R65 100 R54 800 to R74 370 R45 430 to R70 430 R41 820 to R73 000 R60 060
Stellenbosch University R50 692 R53 728 R63 470 R52 513 R72 393
University of KwaZulu Natal R49 630 to R64 180 R50 610 R43 592 to R58 540 R48 050 R56 800
University of Pretoria* R41 000 to R50 000 R46 000 to R51 000 R47 000 to R65 000 R45 000 to R54 000 R51 000 to R61 000
Rhodes University R55 233 R60 428 R57 461 R61 959 N/A
University of Johannesburg* R41 177 to R50 874 R51 851 R43 121 to R71 947 R41 661 to R47 837 R48 689 to R60 191
University of Free State R45 060 R49 040 R37 195 to R60 170 R35 045 N/A

* Fee estimates based on the information available at the time of publication or on 2022 fees. TUKS noted that once an applicant has registered at the university, a detailed statement of tuition fees will be made available on the Student Portal. However, one could assume a 10% increase for 2023.  

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