South Africa's universities
Many of South Africa's universities are world-class academic institutions at the cutting
edge of research in various spheres. Together, the country's 23 public higher education
institutions offer a range of study and research options for both local and international
South Africa began restructuring its higher education system in 2003 to widen access
to tertiary education and reset the priorities of the old apartheid-based system. Smaller
universities and technikons (polytechnics) were incorporated into larger institutions to
form comprehensive universities.
The so-called comprehensive universities, of which there are now six, offer a
combination of academic and vocational diplomas and degrees, while the six universities
of technology focus on vocationally oriented education. The 11 traditional universities
offer theoretically oriented university degrees.
Subsidised by the state, South Africa's universities are governed in terms of the
Education Act. They remain autonomous, however, reporting to their own councils
rather than to the government.
Here's a quick rundown of South Africa's 23 universities, arranged according to type of
Based in the Eastern Cape town of Grahamstown, Rhodes University is more than a
century old. The university has around 6 000 students, of which a quarter are
international students from 57 different countries. Nearly half the student body live on
campus, in residences.
Rhodes offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the faculties
of humanities, science, commerce, pharmacy, law, and education. It boasts the highest
academic staff to student ratio of any university in South Africa and is perhaps best
known for its journalism and media studies department.
North-West University was formed in 2004, with the merger of the Potchefstroom
University for Christian Higher Education and the University of North-West, formerly the
University of Bophuthatswana. It is now one of South Africa's biggest universities, with
about 32 000 fulltime and distance students.
It has three campuses in two provinces: the Mafikeng and Potchestroom campuses
are in the North West province, while the Vaal Triange campus is in Gauteng. It upholds
the promotion of multilingualism as a core practice, with key innovations in place to
meet the needs of its diverse student body.
University of Cape Town
South Africa's oldest university, founded in 1829, UCT has one of the most
picturesque campuses in the world, situated on
the slopes of Table Mountain’s Devil’s
Peak and overlooking Rondebosch in Cape Town.
The university is regarded as the top research institution on the continent, with
more "A" rated researchers than any other South African university. It is the highest
ranked African university in both the QS World and the Times Higher Education world
The university is home to Groote Schuur Hospital, where the world's first heart
transplant took place in 1967, and lists five Nobel Laureates among its alumni.
University of Fort Hare
The University of Fort Hare, dating back to 1916, is the oldest historically black
university in the country. It was the academic home of many of South Africa's most
prominent leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, and
Fort Hare has two Eastern
Cape campuses, in Alice and East London. It offers a
range of degrees and diplomas in faculties of science and agriculture, social sciences and
humanities, management and commerce, and at the Nelson R Mandela School of Law.
University of the Free State
The University of the Free State, which was established in 1904, has its main
campus as well as a second smaller campus in Bloemfontein. Its third campus is in
Qwaqwa, in the Eastern Free State.
With around 33 000 students, the university offers a full range of under- and post-
graduate degrees and diplomas in the faculties of education, health sciences, including a
medical school, the humanities, law, natural and agricultural sciences, theology, as well
as economic and management sciences, which also houses the UFS business school. All
classes are offered in Afrikaans and
Under the leadership of Professor Jonathan Jansen, the university is committed to
its vision of becoming an equitable multicultural and multilingual university.
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Incorporating the former Durban-Westville and Natal universities, the university
covers four campuses in Durban and one in Pietermaritzburg. With around 42 000
students, it comprises four colleges: agriculture, engineering and science; health
sciences, including schools of clinical medicine and nursing; humanities; and the college
of law and management studies.
University of Limpopo
The University of Limpopo has two main campuses: one at Turfloop, to the east of
Polokwane in Limpopo province; the
other at Ga-Rankuwa, just north of Pretoria. The
university represents a merger between the University of the North and the Medical
University of Southern Africa (Medunsa), which was incorporated as a full medical
Its other faculties are humanities; science and agriculture; and management and
law. The university focus is on finding solutions to meet the needs of African rural
University of Pretoria
Established in 1930, the university is one of South Africa's largest, offering around
1 800 academic programmes in English and Afrikaans. It has the highest research
output in South Africa, a position it has held proudly since 1997.
The university has nine faculties spread over seven campuses – economic and
business sciences; education; engineering; built environment and information
technology; health sciences;
humanities; law; natural and agricultural sciences;
theology; and a faculty of veterinary science at Onderstepoort, which is the only one of
its kind in South Africa.
Its business school, the Gordon Institute of Business Science, was established in
Johannesburg in 2000. GIBS was ranked as the top MBA in Africa by the Financial Times
University of Stellenbosch
Situated in the wine-growing region of Stellenbosch, 60km from Cape Town,
Stellenbosch University has four campuses: the main campus at Stellenbosch, which
hosts the faculties of arts and social sciences, science, education, agrisciences, law,
theology, economic and managements sciences, and engineering. The health sciences
faculty is at Tygerberg Hospital, while the business school is in Bellville, and military
sciences faculty in Saldanha.
The university, home to
around 26 000 students, is committed to using and
sustaining Afrikaans as an academic language in a multilingual context. So while
predominantly Afrikaans, many courses are lectured bilingually, and students are
allowed to write their assignments and exams in English. At postgraduate level, the
language of tuition is determined by the composition of the class.
University of the Western Cape
Originally established in 1959 as an ethnic college for coloured students, the
university now provides facilities for more than 12 000 students across 68 departments
and 16 institutes, schools and research centres.
Based in Tygerberg, just north of Cape Town, the university has faculties of arts,
community and health sciences, dentistry, economic and management sciences,
education, law, and natural sciences. UWC is dedicated to the research and
development of free and open-source software. It is the only African member of the
Open Courseware Consortium.
University of the Witwatersrand
Based in Johannesburg, Wits University is one of the country's leading research
institutions, attracting students from across Africa. Wits has produced more than 120
000 graduates across a range of disciplines since being granted full university status in
The university, with about 28 000 students, offers degrees in the faculties of
engineering and the built environment; science; the humanities; health sciences; as
well as commerce, law and management. The highly regarded Wits Business School is
one of the oldest in South Africa.
Wits is also home to one of the largest fossil collections in the southern hemisphere
and its Institute for Human Evolution is dedicated to
University of Johannesburg
Established in 2005, the University of Johannesburg incorporates the former Rand
Afrikaans University, Technikon Witwatersrand, and Vista University's Johannesburg
campuses. It offers both technical and academic programmes to around 50 000
There nine faculties spread over five different campuses: art, design and
architecture; economic and financial sciences; education; engineering and the built
environment; health sciences; humanities; law; management; and science.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
The university, with its 25 000 students, has five campuses in Port Elizabeth in the
Eastern Cape and one in George in the Southern Cape. It incorporates the former PE
Technikon, University of Port Elizabeth, and Vista University's Port Elizabeth campus.
As a comprehensive university, it offers vocational and professional training across
the faculties of arts; business and economic sciences; education; engineering, the built
environment and information technology; health sciences; law; and science.
University of South Africa
Unisa is one of the largest open distance-learning institutions in the world and has
more than 300 000 students in 130 countries. Its roots stretching back more than 130
years, a “new Unisa” was formed in 2004 when it merged with Technikon SA and Vista
University's distance education division. Based in Pretoria, but with regional offices in all
nine provinces, it offers distance
education programmes – both academic and technical.
University of Venda
Established in 1982, the University of Venda for Science and Technology is in
Thohoyandou in Limpopo. It offers academic, professional and career-focused
programmes in the fields of education; environmental sciences; agriculture; health
sciences; human and social sciences; law; management sciences; as well as
mathematical and natural sciences.
University of Zululand
The University of Zululand is a rural-based comprehensive university, with its main
campus in Kwadlangezwa, just south of Empangeni, a second campus in Richards Bay,
as well as other off-campus centres. With just under 9 000 students, it offers career-
programmes and courses that have been structured with potential employees
and employers in mind. It has four faculties: arts; commerce, administration and law;
education; and science and agriculture.
Walter Sisulu University
Billing itself as a “developmental university”, Walter Sisulu University’s location in
the Eastern Cape presents it with unique challenges and opportunities. Since its 2005
merger with the former Border and Eastern Cape technikons and the University of the
Transkei, the university has around 20 000 students spread across its campuses in East
London, Butterworth, Queenstown and Mthatha.
It offers a range of degrees, certificates and diplomas in four faculties (science,
engineering and technology; health sciences; business, management sciences and law;
education). It hosts an MBChB programme in
Universities of technology
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Incorporating the former Cape and Peninsula technikons, the university is the
largest in the Western Cape, with more than 32 000 students on four campuses in and
around Cape Town and a fifth in Wellington. CPUT emphasises in-service training, which
often comes in the form of a six-month internship.
Central University of Technology
Incorporating the former Technikon Free State and Vista University's Welkom
campus, the university is based in Bloemfontein. It has a regional learning centres in
Welkom and Kimberly in the Northern Cape. Almost 50 programmes are offered in three
faculties: management sciences; engineering,
information and communication
technology; and health and environmental sciences.
Durban University of Technology
Incorporating the former ML Sultan and Natal technikons, the university has major
campuses in Durban and Pietermaritzburg as well as satellite campuses in Umlazi. As a
university of technology, DUT focuses on applied research as well as on technological
It operates on five different campuses in Durban, and two in Pietermaritzburg,
offering tuition through its six faculties of accounting and informatics; applied sciences;
arts and design; engineering and the built environment; health sciences; and
management sciences. It also has a Business Studies Unit.
Mangosuthu University of Technology
Mangosuthu University of Technology was established as a technikon in 1979 by
Mangosuthu Buthelezi, then the chief minister of KwaZulu, a “homeland” created under
apartheid. It is based in Umlazi, 25km from Durban. Now a university of technology, it
has 10 000 students studying in three different faculties: management sciences,
engineering, and natural sciences.
Tshwane University of Technology
Incorporating the former Northern Gauteng, North West and Pretoria technikons,
Tshwane University of Technology offers masters and doctoral programmes in addition
to degrees, certificates and diplomas. It has campuses in four of South Africa’s northern
provinces and annual student enrolment is around 60 000 students. There are seven
faculties: engineering and the built environment; science; humanities; management
information and communication technology; arts; as well as economics and
Vaal University of Technology
The university has around 21 000 students spread across its main campus in
Vanderbijlpark, 60km south-west of Johannesburg, and four satellite campuses, which
include the Sebokeng campus of the former Vista University. It has four faculties:
engineering and technology; applied and computer science; human sciences; and
Source: SAinfo reporter, based on information available on university
websites, and MediaClubSouthAfrica.com: get free high-resolution photos and
professional feature articles from Brand South Africa's media
Reviewed: July 2012