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Cost of Studying in South Africa

by Staff Reporter

Looking to further your studies in South Africa? Here is some guidance on the cost of studying in South Africa. Read more on Fundiconnect.

More than 45,000 international students choose to study in South Africa each year.

South Africa is home to some of the world’s top universities, which include the University of Cape Town, University of the Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch University – the top three universities in the country. 

There are many costs to consider when choosing to study in South Africa. Course fees for Higher Certificates, Diplomas, Bachelor’s, Masters and PhD degrees make up the majority of the costs, followed by accommodation costs, living expenses and travel expenses.

Read on to find out about all of the costs to consider when studying in South Africa, and any other factors. 

University tuition fees in South Africa

University tuition fees in South Africa vary significantly depending on your individual requirements, including your choice of course and university. 

Private universities are usually more expensive than public universities, however, this can vary depending on the course you choose and the qualification you can expect to receive. 

Let’s take a look at the general university programme costs of public and private universities in South Africa.

Tuition fees at public universities

Public universities in South Africa tend to cost less than private universities.

There are 26 public universities in South Africa and they are divided into three types:

  • 12 traditional universities – academic and research-focused in nature.
  • 8 vocational universities of technology
  • 6 comprehensive universities – offering a combination of academic and vocational qualifications.

Generally, students pay study fees for every course taken at public universities. 

Some public universities offer selected part-time undergraduate degrees, postgraduate programmes, short courses on a part-time and after-hours basis on the university campus, and a selection of online courses.

The average cost per course at public universities ranges between R4 500 to R20 000 for part-time programmes per year and R5 000 to R75 000 for full-time full-time programmes per year.

Keep in mind that these fees don’t usually include the costs of study materials or additional activities undertaken at university, such as sport, after-hours clubs and other groups. 

Tuition fees at private universities

Private universities in South Africa are typically more expensive than public universities or TVET colleges. Most private universities charge tuition fees on a per-semester basis, or upfront for a full year (for which you might receive a discount).

The tuition fee depends on the course’s level of qualification, influencing the expected salary range and overall marketability. For instance, an engineering course, with a more extensive qualification holding more weight and fetching a higher starting salary, costs more than a business course, which is typically less extensive and entry-level qualification fetching a lower starting salary. 

The average cost at private universities ranges between R6 600 to R50 000 for part-time programmes per year and R38 500 to R99 500 for full-time programmes per year.

What is the difference between public and private universities in South Africa? Check out our article Private Versus Public Institutions where we explain the major differences.

university lecture room

For more detailed information about the credit or program costs, it is recommended to contact the university of your choice, since tuition fees in South Africa vary among institutions. 

Extra study material and books are generally not included in the tuition fees.

Student financing, University scholarships, and bursaries

Public and private universities in South Africa may offer scholarships and bursaries, for which students will have to meet certain academic requirements and show any other important accolades and achievements. These requirements may differ between South African and international students. 

Another great option is student financing which helps cover tuition costs, textbooks, student materials, accommodation and more. As a leading education finance provider, Fundiconnect enables students to pursue their tertiary learning by providing student financing.

Our loan calculator can help you apply for a loan today and fund the studies for your qualification of choice.

Make sure you apply for scholarships early, as most university application deadlines are in July for funding in the next academic year.

Most affordable universities in South Africa

If you’re looking for the most affordable universities in South Africa, we’ve compiled the latest list below. Keep in mind that picking a university and the right course will all depend on the direction you want to pursue with your studies. Always do plenty of research before making a final decision!

Based on the most recent publications, these are some of the most affordable universities in South Africa indicating the average cost per year for cheaper courses:

University Name

Application Fee

Tuition Fee/Year

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

R500

R47,000

University of Cape Town

R300

R39 200

Rhodes University

R4,400

R50,700

University of Limpopo

R4,200

R49,000

North-West University

R650

R47,000

University of Forte Hare

R425

R45,000

University of Venda

R100

R38,980

University of Pretoria

R300

R66,000

Stellenbosch University

R100

R43,380

University of Kwazulu Natal

R200

R47,000

For a comprehensive list of universities in South Africa, check out our Complete List of Universities in South Africa.

cost-of-studying-in-south-africa

What is the most expensive university in South Africa?

South Africa is known to have some of the best universities on the African continent, no doubt. So, you need to expect high costs from some universities and be financially stable before considering studying in South Africa. Some of the most expensive universities in South Africa include:
  • University of Fort Hare.
  • University of Witwatersrand.
  • University of Johannesburg
Always keep in mind, that fees differ per module, per course, per field of study and the duration of the course!

Here's what popular degrees cost at South African universities.

What is the cost of a Higher Certificate in South Africa?

A higher certificate course can be done by anyone that has obtained their National Senior Certificate (N.S.C) and meets the basic requirements. Once a student completes their Higher Certificate it allows you to further your education by applying for an Advanced Certificate or a Diploma Course.

The cost depends on the qualification and the number of modules you choose. The average student registers for between 4 and 6 modules per year at a cost of between R1 750 and R6 750 per module.

What is the cost of a Diploma in South Africa?

As with all qualifications, the costs of diplomas depend on the programme you wish to take. On average, diplomas cost around R 30 000 per year.

What is the cost of an Advanced Diploma in South Africa?

An advanced diploma is an optional diploma that is completed in the fourth year of studying and averages R48 000 to R 78 000 for the year, depending on the chosen qualification.

What is the cost of a Bachelor's Degree in South Africa?

Bachelor’s degrees in South Africa are completed within three years of full-time studies. Very popular majors on a Bachelor’s level include studies in social sciences, natural sciences, development or health-related studies.

Students can expect to pay between R21 500 and R 75 000 when they first gain admission from available data.

What is the cost of a Master's Degree in South Africa?

Master’s degrees in the South African education system last between one and two years, depending on your major. Master’s degrees in South Africa combine theoretical and practical approaches and aim for academic excellence. 

Note that Master’s degree fees in South Africa can be slightly different. So, you might want to confirm with your university of choice based on the course you want to study.

Average Fees R39 900 to R76 950 depending on the university and programme.

What is the cost of a Doctorate in South Africa?

South African PhDs generally take between two to three years to complete if you are in full-time study, with a minimum of 4 years if you are studying part-time.

PhD programme fees can vary depending on the type of PhD programme (thesis only or coursework and thesis), the university and the subject area. 

For example, at Wits University, PhD programmes in Engineering are on average R31,450 per year and PhD programmes in Sciences are on average R23,900. 

PhD fees at the University of Cape Town are generally the same for all subjects, averaging around R22,240 per year.

university graduate

What is the cost of university applications / applying to universities?

When applying at a university, you will find that in most cases the institution requests that you pay an application fee, to secure your application. Depending on the university, this could range from being free to R300. 

It’s always a good idea to check the university requirements before applying.

Which universities are free in South Africa?

Universities are not free in South Africa, however, there are student funding schemes that can make tuition more affordable or free in some instances (usually as a bursary). Students have to meet specific criteria to be eligible.

As a leading education finance provider, FundiConnect enables students to pursue their tertiary learning by providing student financing.

Our loan calculator can help you apply for a loan today and fund the studies for your qualification of choice.

Find out more.

group of university students on campus

Student living costs in South Africa

Structuring the right budget can allow you to live affordably as a student in South Africa

Student living costs include accommodation, groceries, transportation, internet, and additional budget for recreational or entertainment-related activities. 

There are other living costs to factor in like general utilities, internet, clothing, gym and more.

Let’s take a look at them.

Average cost of student accommodation in South Africa

Student accommodation is available to university students in South Africa, either in the form of on-campus accommodation or off-campus accommodation.

When choosing from the different student accommodation options available, there are many different factors to consider such as proximity to your campus and transport routes, available facilities and utilities such as laundry, access to medical facilities, entertainment, internet and more.

If you decide to stay in off-campus student accommodation, you can expect accommodation options such as large private residence setups, to smaller private flats and smaller shared student houses (known as digs)

For student accommodation in South Africa, prices will depend on the location and type of accommodation, but will generally cost between R3 500 and R8 500 per month. Separate independent rooms within off-campus accommodation can cost upwards of R9500. 

Be prepared to factor in the cost of basic utilities such as water, electricity and internet (sometimes included) on top of this.

student apartments in south africa

On-campus Accommodation

On-campus accommodation is very popular and convenient, as it is located on the university’s campus or within a short walking distance If you live in university accommodation known as a residence, you will usually share a room with a roommate in a large shared student house. Here, you would usually have access to your own room and share a small common area and a bathroom. With on-campus accommodation, you may expect to have access to dining halls, study halls, entertainment areas, and other on-site facilities.

Single rooms in a dormitory will cost you around R3 850 to R5 000 per month, while shared double rooms around R3 580 per month. In addition, you will also have to factor in the budget for the university’s meal plan, and small additional costs for laundry and possibly additional data if you are a heavy internet user. 

It is worth mentioning that it can be challenging to find a spot in university accommodation, and your marks will have to be high enough to compete with students around the country that are applying for on-site accommodation.

Off-campus accommodation

You can also choose to live off-campus in shared private accommodation, or alone in a private flat.

Off-campus accommodation exists in many forms, from student accommodation offered by private companies (sometimes university affiliated), and student digs to private flatshares and rental of garden cottages and other lower-cost accommodation options.

Rooms in shared private accommodation will cost anywhere from R6000 – R8500 and usually include certain amenities, such as on-site laundry or entertainment facilities.

Living in a private residence off-site (digs) will cost about the same per month, in some cases cheaper, whereas renting a private flat alone can cost from R7000 – R10 000+ p/m depending on the size and location of the apartment.

Students may also be able to find garden cottages or share flats for cheaper, but it will involve some hunting using popular student rental platforms.

We have compiled this list of private student accommodation in South Africa.

Let’s take a look at the different types of private student accommodation.

inside of student accomadation

Other Living Expenses for Students in South Africa

Budgeting for all costs of living is vital when living as a student, and it builds knowledge and skills for later life. 

General month living costs range from necessities such as groceries, clothing, internet, laundry, electricity and water, to funds for entertainment, eating out, and other recreational activities. 

Here’s a breakdown of the average costs of living – excluding accommodation – in South Africa.

Meals & Groceries

When budgeting for meals during an average month, you should try and estimate a weekly cost for groceries and eating out. 

The average monthly food budget in South Africa is anywhere from R2,000 and R4,000 + per person, depending on the products purchased and restaurant prepared meals.

While a reasonable meal may cost something around R120, a mid-range restaurant may cost R400 for a meal for two and you can expect to pay around R25 – R30 for your morning coffee if it’s at your local coffee shop.

Some universities offer weekly meal plans at an average cost of between R15 000 and R25 000 per month, depending on your residence and meal provider, while other universities may include their meal plan costs into their accommodation fee. 

If you’ve chosen on-campus accommodation and picked a meal plan, you may only need to budget for drinks and meals on the weekends.

students having lunch

Utilities & Amenities

Students will also need to budget for utilities, depending on their accommodation setup. 

Within an on-campus residence, electricity, water, refuse, laundry facilities and even internet access (within certain data limits) are more likely to be included within your accommodation costs. 

However, off-campus accommodation is more likely to include less covered utilities, with private flats and private accommodation requiring that you budget for electricity, water, refuse, internet laundry and other expenses. 

In a private residence setup, it is common for electricity, water and WiFi may be included, but with completely separate living on your own, you will need to budget for any required utilities and amenities.

The good news is that utilities and amenities aren’t necessarily difficult to budget for.

Internet and electricity will usually cost an additional R600-1000 per month, depending on the internet package you opt for.

Private flats without fibre may require fibre installation which can cost between R1500-2000 as a once-off fee, which is often waived should you sign a year contract with the provider. Installation time is approximately two weeks depending on your area.

students with counsellor

Transportation costs

Getting to and from your classes is a unique challenge for every student.

For some, it involves having a car on hand and having parking available within their accommodation setup. For others, public transport and making use of the train, commuter busses and university shuttles are the way to go.

In the major cities, you’ll find cheap and extensive public and commuter bus networks which make getting around easy enough. Shared taxis – both cars and minibuses – are also available both within cities and on routes connecting towns.

Private taxis are also available, along with Uber in some major South African cities, and tend to be a more convenient option to travel shorter distances.

The average monthly cost for transport is as low as R500–R650 for buses and trains. 

Some universities might require you to travel a bit further, and Metrorail trains are also a viable way to get you across or out of the city quickly. They work on kilometre ranges and are priced on a single, weekly, or monthly ticket basis. This option costs around R150 – R300 per month depending on whether you choose the MetroPlus or regular Metro service.

smiling students on public transport

Also take a look at our article on Living Costs at University.

Other Costs to Consider when Studying in South Africa

There’s always something we forget! Apart from average study/tuition and accommodation costs, there are other costs to consider.

Let’s take a look at some of the other costs to consider when studying in South Africa.

Textbooks

Similar to high school, your college or university will require you to purchase textbooks that form part of their curriculum for the modules you study. University textbooks can be expensive and range anywhere from R500 to upwards of R3 000 if they are purchased new.

 A more affordable option is getting your textbooks in second-hand groups, where students may offer their pre-loved textbooks for purchase after graduation or completing a specific year of their studies. Often these groups are open and can be found on Facebook. Second-hand books are also prominent on sites like Gumtree, which could be worth a look. You can also ask your university if they have any resources for students looking to buy second-hand textbooks.

Laptops / Netbooks

A laptop or netbook will also be a vital component for your course work. However, this doesn’t mean you have to fork out thousands of Rands for the latest devices.

This is largely unnecessary unless you’re a design student and a laptop in the region of R8 000 to R12,000 would likely be completely suitable to the needs of most college students.

 It’s also a wise idea to get your hands on an external hard drive or backup your important documents to a cloud service – you don’t want to lose all the work you’ve spent countless hours on!

Entertainment

Budgeting accurately for entertainment and costs related to recreational activities is really important. It’s one of the easiest areas to blow your budget when you’re out and having fun with new friends and exploring South Africa.

The costs of activities in South Africa will vary depending on the activity. To provide you with a general idea, you can expect to pay around R30 for a beer; R95 for a ticket to watch a film in the cinema; R380 for a ride up the famous Table Mountain cable car, to R800 for a live music festival.

Final Thoughts

You can manage the cost of living as a student in South Africa by creating a comprehensive budget and tweaking it according to your circumstances each month. Budgeting apps like 22Seven can also be useful for setting and tracking your spending.

If you need assistance with funding, we can help! FundiConnect offers student financing that covers a range of costs such as tuition, textbooks & study material, accommodation and more. Try our loan calculator to learn more.

Now, that you have all the details you need, you are ready to start your tertiary learning journey.

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