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Private Versus Public Institutions

by Staff Reporter

Private Versus Public Institutions.

Choosing where to study is a big deal. One of the things you need to decide is what kind of institution you want to study at.

For many families, the choice between attending a private institution and a public institution arises as part of this conversation.

In South Africa, students can study at private or public institutions. So how can you decide which option is better for you? 

Let’s take a look at the differences between private institutions and public institutions in South Africa.

How are Private and Public Institutions Different?

The most common difference between private and public institutions is that of funding.

As similar as private and public institutions may be, there is always one defining difference between them: a public institution is funded by the government, while a private institution is funded by a private group or individual (this is the same difference that exists between public and private schools).

In South Africa, we often hear more about public institutions than we do about private institutions. This is simply because public institutions are often a lot bigger and more affordable than private institutions. But this doesn’t mean that you should push the idea of applying to a private institution aside.

There are many private tertiary institutions in South Africa as compared to the 26 public institutions, and they are more widely spread out around the country. Because these private institutions are more widely spread out around South Africa, there is often a lot more freedom with regard to where and how you study.

private-versus-public-institutions

Major parameters to consider when choosing between private versus public institutions

There is no straight answer if you are looking for the pros and cons of private versus public college or university. As a student, you need to consider some major parameters to make a final decision:

  1. Funding Sources
  2. Tuition Fees & Costs
  3. Scholarships Offered
  4. Accreditation
  5. Qualifications Available
  6. Admission

Scholastics, fields of study and campus size are just a few of the numerous elements a student has to consider when searching for an institution to study at. In addition, the institution has to offer the specialization of one’s choice and help meet their scholarly and vocational goals.

Private Institutions

Private institutions are just that, private. They are not owned by the government, but rather by private organisations. This means that private institutions are often much smaller and more flexible than public institutions.

Private institutions are managed on a much more personal level – you might find that you prefer what they have to offer.

Benefits of Studying at Private Institutions

Private institutions are owned by private organisations or individuals, which means that they are not constricted by the government’s finances.

With smaller campuses and classes at private institutions, access to support and staff is vastly improved.

Private institutions are in control of their own funds and administrative matters, so a shortage of funds does not affect them.  

Public Institutions

Public institutions are funded by the South African government.

State funding is advantageous for an institution, except when that funding runs out or cuts are being made to the state budget. In such cases, the institutions suffer, which means their students suffer as well.

Benefits of Studying at Public Institutions

Public institutions benefit from state funds and subsidies. This means that they get support from the government when they need it. It also means that they can offer students state-sponsored bursaries! This is one of the greatest attractions public colleges hold for prospective students.

Going to a public institution isn’t the only way of getting credible, affordable qualifications. With the rapid growth of private higher education in South Africa, matrics now have a wealth of options when choosing what to study and where

Below is a table summarising the differences between private institutions and public institutions.

Keep in mind that picking an institution 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!

Point of distinctionPrivate InstitutionPublic Institution
Funded byPrivate organisations or peopleGovernment
Tuition FeesUsually higher than public institutionsLower due to government funding
Scholarships OfferedLimitedNot as limited
AccreditationHave to get accredited nationallyAll accredited with government
AdmissionLimited amount of students based on stringent criteria.Generally offer more seats with less strict criteria.
Qualifications AvailableSometimes limited to specific fields of studyUsually offers more
ClassesSmaller, interactive classesLarger classes with little one-to-one interaction
Distance learningFacilitates distance learningDoes not facilitate distance learning to the same extent.

Similarities Between Public and Private Institutions

Now that you are aware of the major differences between public versus private institutions, let’s explore their similarities as well.

Public and private institutions are more similar than you think.

Touching on the generic side, the key similarities between public and private institutions is they both offer a wide array of courses across fields, share a similar admission process and both need to be affiliated with a recognised education board.

There are many private institutions you can find which are quite similar to public institutions in terms of their expansion into colleges and universities along with following similar eligibility criteria and scholarships.

If you’re considering studying at a private institution, the idea that you’re giving up a real “university” student life might be one of your biggest concerns.

While private institutions are smaller than public institutions, they too are popular with students from all backgrounds.

Most private institutions have student councils that arrange social, sporting and cultural activities, creating a culture and traditions that are entirely unique to them.

Students outside

FundiConnect 2Cents

In reality, it all comes down to the individual institution in question.  The truth is that the choice to attend a private institution versus a public institution depends more on the individual student and family than any other factor.

Therefore, the most important thing you can do as you make this decision is to think carefully about your goals and needs to best evaluate which option is right for you.

Prospective students must ensure they investigate all their options – in the public sector, private sector, and course offering.

If you would like to view private institutions in South Africa, take a look at our list of Private Institutions.

In the end, the best thing for your child in both the near- and long-term is finding a place where he or she will thrive both academically and socially.

So make sure to find out more about your college or university of choice before you enrol!

If you need assistance with funding, Fundi is here to support you. We provide student financing for tuition costs, textbooks & study material, accommodation and more.

You can also find out more about our loan calculator.

Want to know more about funding options? Check out our article Top Options to Find Funding.

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