Extended Degree Programme: Your Ticket to University

by Shirley Erasmus

If you applied to a higher education institution but failed to meet the entry requirements, then taking an extended degree programme could be your key to getting into the university of your choice!

Before we dive into why an extended degree programme might be for you—and where you can apply for one—let’s take a look at what an extended degree programme actually is.

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extended degree programme

What is an Extended Degree Programme?

An extended degree programme, also known as a bridging course, is an intensive course designed for high school students who want to apply to a higher education institution but who do not meet the entry requirements needed to get in.

To help these students, some higher education institutions offer a bridging course in the form of an ‘extended degree programme’, which extends the length of time it takes for the students to complete their degree, turning a three-year degree into a four-year year degree.

The reason why universities or colleges offer these extended degree programmes is so that students have more time to complete their qualifications, and so that they can receive additional help and assistance along the way. 

Are All Extended Degree Programmes the Same?

Universities offer bridging courses in various forms of extended degree programmes, and they each will go by different names, meaning extended degree programmes are not all the same.

Each extended degree programme at a university is different and has various requirements and stipulations. For example, some universities offer courses that must be completed before you can start your actual degree, such as the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program offered at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

On the other hand, some universities offer extended degree programmes that will extend your degree by a year. The extended studies programmes often allow for a lower entry requirement and being a part of the programme will mean that you will complete your degree a year later than a degree would regularly take, but don’t let this scare you!

Extended studies programmes merely extend your studies, meaning your subjects are split up so that you have a lighter workload, and more time to pass each subject.

Which Universities Offer an Extended Degree Programme?

Keep in mind that some universities only offer an extended degree programme for certain degrees. Let’s take a look at some of the universities that offer an extended degree programme in South Africa. 

University of Pretoria (TUKS)

The University of Pretoria (TUKS) offers an extended bridge course called the Engineering Augmented Degree Programme (ENGAGE). This course helps students who are studying for a degree in engineering to adjust to university life and cope with the demands of engineering studies, which is a notoriously difficult and demanding degree.

The ENGAGE programme at the University of Pretoria runs for five years and the volume of work is gradually increased and academic support provided is then gradually decreased as the student progresses.

University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) offers a programme called GEMP: The Graduate Entry Medical Programme, which allows qualified candidates who meet certain minimum requirements into the third year of the MBBCh degree.

To qualify for the GEMP programme at the University of the Witwatersrand, you need to have already completed or be in the process of completing, your undergraduate degree—after which you can apply for GEMP at a third-year level.

The Wits GEMP programme allows undergraduate medical students to complete their degrees in a period of four years. Thereafter, the students can enter their internship and government-mandated community service period.

Students who are looking to be placed in the GEMP programme will need to write the Wits Additional Placement Test (WAPT). This test is only open to students who are invited to take the test and will determine whether or not the student is prepared to be allowed into Wits’ GEMP programme.

University of Johannesburg (UJ)

The University of Johannesburg (UJ)  offers a few extended degree programmes to prospective students looking to qualify for a Bcom degree. This is a great option for candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements for a regular BCom degree at UJ. In this course, the degree is extended by one year, in which the student will have one year of ‘foundation courses’.

The University of Johannesburg also offers various extended humanities degrees for students looking to qualify for a Bachelor of Arts qualification.

Rhodes University (RU)

Rhodes University (RU) offers students who do not meet the admissions requirements a place in the Extended Studies Unit, which allows the student to complete their degree over four rather than three years.

Students can be placed in the Extended Studies Unit for the following faculties at Rhodes University:

  • Commerce
  • Humanities
  • Science
students viewing an extended degree programme

Nelson Mandela University (NMU)

Nelson Mandela University (NMU) offers Extended Curriculum Programmes, which are designed to help students who don’t meet the minimum admission requirements with essential skills in order to succeed in their studies at NMU. 

Students who are admitted into the Extended Curriculum Programme at Nelson Mandela University must successfully complete the first two years of the programme to qualify for a full degree or diploma status.

The following options are available for completing a qualification in the NMU Extended Curriculum Programme:

Faculty of Arts

  • Diploma (Public Management)

Business and Economic Sciences

  • Bachelor of Commerce
  • Diploma (Economics)
  • Diploma (Human Resource Management)
  • Diploma (Logistics)
  • Diploma (Management)
  • Diploma (Marketing)
  • Diploma (Tourism Management)

Health Sciences & Science

  • Bachelor of Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc)


  • LLB

George Campus

  • Diploma (Agriculture Management)
  • Diploma (Forestry)
  • Diploma (Game Ranch Management)
  • Diploma (Management)
  • Diploma (Marketing)
  • Diploma (Nature Conservation)
  • Diploma (Tourism Management)
  • Diploma (Wood Technology)
  • Bachelor of Commerce (BCom)

University of Cape Town (UCT)

The University of Cape Town (UCT) offers a number of extended degree programmes and bridging courses across various faculties, including the following:


  • Accounting with Law or Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting/PPE/Information  Economics with Law/ Management Studies/ Information Systems/ Information Systems & Computer Science/  Economics & Finance/ Economics & Stats and Management Studies.


  • Bachelor of Fine Art or Bachelor of Music.


The University of Cape Town has an extended degree programme specifically for engineering students, called ASPECT: Academic Support Programme for Engineering. ASPECT creates a supportive environment for students who are particularly mindful of students’ academic, social and emotional needs, and is planned so that the degree should take five years to complete.

UCT also offers the Learn Accounting Programme, which is a programme that offers academic support to students studying accountancy. The programme is provided as multilingual video recordings on the key principles in financial reporting and management accounting. There are also video recordings of study skills which aim to assist first, second and third-year students who are busy studying for an accounting degree.

Stellenbosch University (Maties)

Stellenbosch University (Maties) offers a number of extended degree programmes in the following faculties: 

  • Arts and Social Sciences
  • Economic and Management Sciences (only BComm)
  • Health Sciences
  • Sciences
  • AgriSciences
  • Engineering

Stellenbosch University also hosts the SciMathUS programme, which is a 10-month programme which aims to assist learners from disadvantaged communities to prepare to enter higher education in Economic and Management Sciences by providing an opportunity to rewrite matric.

student applying for extended degree programme

University of the Free State (UFS)

The University of the Free State (UFS) has a very unique bridging course called the University Access Programme. The year-long programme is aimed at students who are from historically disadvantaged communities and gives them access to higher education in three fields of study: Economics and Management Sciences, the Humanities, and Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

After the successful completion of the University Access Programme at the University of the Free State, students can continue their studies at the Bloemfontein Campus of the University.

Walter Sisulu University (WSU)

Walter Sisulu University (WSU) has brought on three extended degree programmes for students looking to qualify for a BSc degree. The Walter Sisulu University’s extended degree programmes are designed to equip students who do not meet the minimum admission requirements with the skills which will help them to be successful in their studies.

WSU requires students to do the National Benchmark Test (NBT) before applying to its extended degree programmes.

University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN)

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has two extended degree programmes available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds: The Alternative Access Programme (AAP) and the Academic Support Programme (ASP).

Alternative Access Programme (AAP)

The Alternative Access Programme (AAP) was created with the purpose of identifying candidates who have the potential to succeed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The Alternative Access Programme (AAP) contains the following qualifications for prospective students:

College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES)

  • BSc Engineering: Extended Programme, or BSc four-year Augmented Curriculum:

Students who successfully complete the one-year BSc Engineering Extended Programme will be allowed to enrol in the College of Engineering at an undergraduate level. Students gain access to the programme by meeting the academic requirements at the Grade 12 level.

College of Humanities AAP

  • BSocSc Augmented Curriculum:

The BSocSc Augmented Curriculum at UKZN gives students from disadvantaged backgrounds access to Humanities and Social Sciences through a bridging course option.  The curriculum is structured to allow successful students the possibility of graduating with a BSocSc degree.

College of Law & Management Studies AAP

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Extended Curriculum) (B Com 4 General) or Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting (Extended Curriculum) (B Com 4 Acc):

Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) of a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting (BCom Accounting) are both three-year degrees that are extended over four years.  These programmes provide a foundation year that follows a full foundational model.

Academic Support Programme (AAP)

The Academic Support Programme includes access and foundation programmes, which are restructured first-year courses or additional courses that provide students with essential skills—such as communication and academic writing.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal also offers Academic Support Programmes in the Science fields, which includes the following programmes for students:

  • BSc Augmented Curriculum

The BSc Augmented Curriculum course is a four-year degree with an extended support programme for students from disadvantaged schools, and the first-year study is spread over two years.

  • BSc Foundation Curriculum

The BSc Foundation Curriculum is an undergraduate foundation programme for students from disadvantaged schools. Completion of the course leads to any qualification in the science field, including, Science, Agriculture, Engineering or Health Science. Applicants will be required to write an entrance test.

  • The Science Foundation

The Science Foundation programme is a one-year access programme for students from disadvantaged schools who do not meet the entry requirements to go directly into any qualification in the science field such as Science, Agriculture, Engineering or Health Science.  After successfully completing the programme, the student can enter into Science, Agricultural or Health Sciences.

Fund Your Extended Degree Programme with Fundi

Now that you know what an extended degree programme is and how it can help you further your studies, it’s time to think about getting funding for your qualification!

Fundi offers student loans that cover a range of educational costs, including everything from accommodation and textbooks to tuition fees and devices. 

Check to see if you qualify for a Fundi loan with the Fundi calculator and start applying today!

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