Top 10 Cheapest Universities in South Africa 2023 For International Students

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Top 10 Cheapest Universities in South Africa For International Students

Are you looking for affordable higher education options? If so, you might be wondering: What are the top 10 cheapest universities in South Africa 2023?

Pursuing higher education doesn’t have to be financially burdensome, especially if you’re an international student. South Africa, known for its diverse culture and stunning landscapes, offers a range of institutions that provide quality education without breaking the bank. In fact, you can study in any of the best online schools in South Africa.

In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 universities in South Africa that offer affordability without compromising on academic excellence. Education in South Africa holds immense value, and the country boasts a mix of prestigious universities and institutions dedicated to accessible learning. 

Whether you’re a local or an international student seeking budget-friendly options, read on to discover some of the most economical choices for higher education in South Africa. 

This list aims to guide you toward institutions that provide a valuable learning experience, helping you pursue your academic aspirations while managing your finances wisely.

Top 10 Cheapest Universities In South Africa For International Students

The selection criteria for these universities go beyond affordable tuition fees. These tertiary institutions have been chosen for their economic options and the quality of education they provide. 

Moreover, some universities have garnered recognition for their exceptional academic achievements. Here is the list of the top 10 cheapest universities in South Africa for international students:

1. Cape Town University

Cheapest universities in south africa - University of Cape Town
  • Tuition: Domestic tuition is 21,500 ZAR, International tuition is 75,000 ZAR

Founded in 1829, the University of Cape Town has traversed a remarkable journey. As the oldest university in South Africa, UCT boasts a low tuition fee and stands as a beacon of academic heritage.

Initially established as the South African College, this institution began as a boys’ secondary school. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that it ascended to university status. The influx of funds, driven by heightened mining activities in the area, facilitated its development and transformation into a tertiary institution.

UCT offers various degree programs spanning diverse fields such as Engineering, Architecture, Accounting, Medicine, Health Sciences, Economics, Historical Studies, Religious Studies, Law, Archaeology, Linguistics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Oceanography, and more.

Related: Top 20 Best High Schools In South Africa

What are the requirements to study at UCT?

For those aspiring to join UCT, specific eligibility criteria exist:

Bachelor’s Degree Study:

Prospective applicants must meet minimum eligibility requirements:

  • South African National Senior Certificate (NSC) holders need a minimum of 4 subjects with a rating of 4 (Adequate Achievement, 50-59%) or better in any four 20-credit NSC subjects.
  • South African Senior Certificate holders require matriculation endorsement.
  • Non-South African school-leaving certificate holders must qualify for a matriculation exemption certificate.

UCT’s rich history, cost-effective education, and commitment to academic excellence make it a coveted destination for learners seeking quality higher education in South Africa.

How many international students are at the University of Cape Town?

The University of Cape Town has over 5000 international students admitted into different faculties.

2. RHODES University

  • Domestic tuition is 30,705 ZAR, and International tuition is 37,990 ZAR.

Rhodes University, nestled in Grahamstown, is a publicly-run institution renowned for its diverse undergraduate and postgraduate programs. It is one of the best law universities in South Africa. Spanning disciplines such as Education, Law, Pharmacy, Sciences, and Humanities, it offers a comprehensive educational experience.

Established in 1904 with funding from Rhodes Trust, Rhodes University has deep historical roots, being one of the oldest universities in South Africa. Named after Cecil Rhodes, this institution was initially known as Rhodes University College. For decades, it operated as a component college of the University of South Africa until 1951, when it proudly emerged as an independent university.

Which courses are offered by Rhodes University? 

Rhodes University’s course offerings are extensive:

Undergraduate Programs:

  • Anthropology.
  • Biochemistry, Microbiology.
  • Accounting.
  • Afrikaans and Netherlandic Studies.
  • African Languages.
  • Biotechnology Innovation Centre.
  • Botany.
  • Business School.

What documents are needed to apply at Rhodes University?

Applying to Rhodes University requires the following documents:

  • Contact details of two referees.
  • Certified copy of ID if SA Citizen or Permanent Resident, or PASSPORT if International Applicant.
  • Proof of booking to sit the NMAT or the GMAT (results can be submitted later).
  • Certified copy of Transcripts of Academic Studies (NQF8 qualification required).
  • Certified Copy of Degree Certificate/s.
  • SAQA’s Certificate of Evaluation (if degree obtained outside South Africa).

Rhodes University’s rich heritage, with its expansive curriculum and commitment to academic excellence, establishes it as a prominent institution for higher education in South Africa.

Related: Top 20 Hardest Degrees In the World

3. University of Free State

  • Domestic tuition is 18,248 ZAR, and International tuition is 27,372 ZAR.

Founded in 1904 and nestled in Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa, the University of Free State has cultivated a rich legacy. Originally known as the ‘University of Orange Free State,’ it transitioned to its present name in 2001 after attaining university status in 1950.

Distinguished by its commitment to offering quality education at affordable rates, the University of Free State also extends favorable policies for international students. However, it’s worth noting that fee structures for indigenous students differ from those for international counterparts.

How many points do I need to apply to the University of Free State? 

For aspiring students seeking admission to the University of Free State, the matric certificate should reflect eligibility for a bachelor’s degree. 

A minimum of 30 admission points (AP) is requisite. However, applicants boasting higher AP scores (35+) are more likely to secure a place in their desired programs. Refer to the provided table for AP score calculation guidance.

Which Courses are Offered by the University of Free State

A wide spectrum of courses awaits at the University of Free State:

  • Health Sciences.
  • The Humanities
  • Economic and Management Sciences.
  • Education.
  • Law.
  • Natural and Agricultural Sciences.
  • Theology and Religion.

Embracing a diverse array of disciplines, the university is dedicated to providing a comprehensive education that prepares students for success in various spheres.

The University of Free State’s rich history, commitment to accessible education, and an array of courses position it as a cornerstone of higher education in the region.

Also Read: List of Public Universities in South Africa

4. Nelson Mandela University

  • R23,000 to R50,000

Situated in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela University stands as a beacon of accessible higher education in South Africa.

With a history stretching back to 1882, when the Port Elizabeth Art School was founded, the institution’s journey is intricate and noteworthy. Emerging from the fusion of two entities, the University of Port Elizabeth and the Port Elizabeth Technikon, 2005 was christened Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Subsequently, in 2017, it took on its present name, Nelson Mandela University.

Drawing students from various corners of the globe, including other African states, Belgium, France, China, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden, the university has transformed into an international hub for learning.

Nelson Mandela University boasts advanced study techniques and a commitment to embracing new ideas in creativity, innovation, and technology. The university equips students with a world of possibilities by encouraging them to confront challenges head-on and craft enduring solutions.

Spanning a diverse array of disciplines, the university offers courses such as Economics, Law, Psychology, Architecture, Accounting, Languages, Medical Sciences, Computer Science, and management programs at the Nelson Mandela Business School.

  • How much is the Nelson Mandela University application fee? 

Application fees for Nelson Mandela University differ based on nationality. South African students are exempt from application fees, while international students are required to pay an application fee of R500.

  • What is Nelson Mandela University Ranked in the World? 

Globally, Nelson Mandela University holds the 1243rd spot in the Best Global Universities Rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Garnering an overall score of 4.7 stars in student reviews on StudyPortals, the university’s commitment to academic excellence and student experience is evident.

Nelson Mandela University, perched on the shores of Port Elizabeth, continues to be a destination where learning, innovation, and global perspectives converge.

Also Read: Top 15 Free Online Courses In South Africa With Certificates

5. University of Fort Hare

Cheapest universities in south africa - University of Hare
  • R50, 000 – R80, 000. 

Once marred by apartheid policies, the University of Fort Hare has transformed into an instrument of higher education for Africans. It embraced Western learning styles and policies that have shaped education across the Sub-Saharan region. Since the reversal of apartheid’s grip in 1916, the university has nurtured and produced countless esteemed individuals who’ve contributed significantly to society.

Related: Top 10 Best Nursing Colleges In South Africa

  • How much is the registration fee for the University of Fort Hare 2023?

Paying for a Fort Hare application is facilitated through various methods, including M65 forms, cheques, direct deposits, internet payments, debit and credit card transactions, international payments, debit orders, addressing outstanding fees, and managing credit balances.

For the 2023 academic year, the registration fee for Fort Hare stands at a minimum of R3500.00, ensuring students meet the requisite payment for registration.

  • Where is the University of Fort Found? 

The main campus of the University of Fort Hare graces the fertile valley, approximately 120 kilometers to the west of East London. It is nestled adjacent to Alice, a small town within a rural setting, serving as the capital of Nkonkobe Municipality.

The University of Fort Hare’s journey from adversity to being a catalyst for education underscores its commitment to fostering learning and progress. The institution’s legacy endures through the contributions of its students, echoing the resilience and determination that define its history.

6. Cape Peninsula University

Formed through the amalgamation of the Peninsula Technikon and the Cape Technikon, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology emerged in 2005. This merger paved the way for a new institution that stands as a testament to the synergy of educational excellence. 

Located in Western Cape Town, it is the largest university in the region, boasting an impressive portfolio of over seventy-course programs.

  • How much is the application fee for Cape Peninsula University? 

For those aspiring to join the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, an application fee of R100 is requisite upon submission of the application form. This non-refundable fee is essential for the consideration of your application.

While the window for late applications has closed, it’s important to note that exceptions exist for Full Research Masters and Doctoral programs, which will remain open for applications until March 15, 2023.

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s journey, marked by a merger of institutions and a commitment to academic diversity, continues to shape the landscape of higher education in the Western Cape region.

Related: Top 10 Best Primary Schools In Johannesburg

7. University of Kwazulu Natal

  • Tuition:31,710 ZAR

Established in 2004, the University of KwaZulu-Natal is a dynamic institution comprising four tertiary colleges and five campuses. These campuses are Pietermaritzburg, Pinetown, KwaZulu Natal, Durban, and Westville.

A product of the merger between the University of Natal and the University of Durban, UKZN is dedicated to offering quality education, focusing on affordable tuition fees. 

The university charges approximately 24,000 to 54,000 Rand for undergraduate programs, while tuition fees for postgraduate programs, including Master’s and Doctorate degrees, range from 31,000 to 45,000 Rand.

The university is a hub of academic diversity, offering various courses in Sciences and Arts, catering to various educational interests.

  • How much is the UKZN registration fee? 

For the year 2023, the required registration fees for UKZN are as follows:

  • Local students registering for tuition only: R 4,635.
  • Local students registering for both tuition and residence: R 8,050.
  • International students: 100% of the total tuition and residence fees in 2023.
  • What is the UKZN application fee? 

The application fees for the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2023 are as follows:

  • South African applicants: R120 (mandatory and non-refundable).
  • Foreign or international applicants: R250.
  • What is UKZN ranking in the world? 

Ranked as one of the top public universities in Pinetown, South Africa, the University of KwaZulu-Natal holds a prominent position in the academic landscape. It secures the #621-630 spot in the QS World University Rankings 2024.

  • What courses are offered by UKZN? 

The university’s course offerings span various domains, including Computer Science & IT, with programs like Computational Physics, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Data Science, Geography, Geology, Information Systems and Technology, and Information and Library Studies.

Related: The 10 Most Expensive High Schools in South Africa

8. University of Stellenbosch

  • Tuition: R34 272 to R70 038

Nestled in the scenic town of Stellenbosch in South Africa’s Western Cape province, Stellenbosch University (SU) stands as a beacon of academic excellence. 

As the oldest university in the country and the oldest existing university in Sub-Saharan Africa, it shares this distinction with the University of Cape Town, both receiving full university status on the same day in 1918. 

Stellenbosch University, often abbreviated as SU, has a rich history of groundbreaking achievements. Notably, it designed and produced Africa’s inaugural microsatellite, SUNSAT, which soared into space in 1999. 

The university is also honored to be the first African institution to endorse the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.

Also Read: Top 10 Private Schools in Gauteng

  • Does Stellenbosch University accept international students?

International students seeking admission to Stellenbosch University are welcome. Those who have received pre-registration clearance/verification from SU International are eligible for enrollment.

  • How much is the Stellenbosch University application fee? 

For the academic year 2024, aspiring students must submit a non-refundable application fee of R100 upon application. This fee is an essential step in initiating the application process at this prestigious institution.

9. University of Witwatersrand

  • Tuition: 44,910 ZAR

Renowned as the University of Witwatersrand or “Wits,” this esteemed institution has a storied past dating back to its inception in 1896. Originally established in Kimberly as the South African School of Mines, it found its permanent home in Johannesburg in 1920. It was subsequently rebranded as the University College of Johannesburg. 

This transformation culminated in its current name, a testament to its enduring commitment to education. Wits University is the preeminent academic institution, colloquially known as the “University for Wits.” 

Garnering immense recognition, it not only claims the title of the top university in South Africa but also secures an impressive 6th position on the African continent. Strikingly, amid such acclaim, it retains its status as one of the most economically accessible universities in the country.

  • What courses are offered at the University of Witwatersrand? 

The spectrum of courses offered at Wits University is vast and encompassing, catering to various educational pursuits. From Bachelor of Health Sciences and Clinical Medical Practice to Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Occupational Therapy, the range of possibilities is comprehensive and inspiring.

  • What is the hardest course to study at the University of Witwatersrand? 

Navigating the academic landscape, certain courses at Wits University stand out for their rigor. “Biomed” emerges as a prime example, acknowledged as one of the most demanding undergraduate programs due to the diversity of its courses and the complexity they entail.

Related: Full List of Nursing Schools In Nigeria

  • Does the University of Witwatersrand accept international students? 

Wits University extends a warm embrace to international students, cementing its stature as a favored global study destination. With integration programs designed to provide a high-quality and transformative educational journey, the university thrives as a sought-after hub for international academic collaborations.

From its humble beginnings to its exalted ranking, Wits University stands as a beacon of accessible education, excellence, and global engagement. Its legacy continues to shape minds and futures, propelling learners toward success on the world stage. 

10. University Of Johannesburg (UJ)

Cheapest universities in south africa - University of Johannesburg
  • Tuition: R102,280 – R110,330

Established in 2005, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) is a public institution located at the heart of South Africa in Johannesburg. The university’s inception resulted from the merger of three prominent institutions, propelling it to become one of the nation’s largest and most cost-effective centers of higher learning. 

Today, UJ hosts a vibrant student body of over 50,000, including over 3,000 international scholars. Through the years, UJ has remained steadfast in its 2023 vision, aspiring to be an “international University of choice, anchored in Africa, dynamically shaping the future.” 

This mission, characterized by inspiring its community to catalyze transformative change through innovation and collaborative knowledge pursuit, is grounded in four values: conversation, imagination, ethical foundation, and regeneration.

Named after South Africa’s largest city, the University of Johannesburg encompasses seven faculties, providing many choices for aspiring scholars. This diverse range of faculties equips students with an enriching learning environment, offering the resources necessary for a holistic academic journey.

UJ’s legacy of low tuition fees empowers students from all backgrounds to access exceptional education. These students, drawn from diverse socioeconomic spheres, unite in a dynamic academic ecosystem that not only shapes their futures but influences the trajectory of nations.

UJ consistently delivers skilled professionals to the global stage. Its reputation for excellence extends to fields such as Engineering, Biomedical Technology, Radiotherapy, Optometry, Chiropractic, and beyond.

Related: Top 10 Best High Schools in Randfontein

  • Does the University of Johannesburg accept international students? 

UJ warmly embraces international students, providing essential support throughout their educational sojourn. The International Admissions and Welfare Office serves as a dedicated resource to ensure international scholars thrive during their studies at UJ.

With its rich history, pioneering spirit, and commitment to transformative education, the University of Johannesburg is a beacon of affordable excellence. Its impact reverberates across disciplines and borders, inviting ambitious learners to join the ranks of change-makers and visionaries. The path to knowledge, innovation, and global influence is illuminated at UJ.

FAQs About the Cheapest Universities In South Africa 

Is it affordable to study in South Africa?

Studying in South Africa can be cost-effective, especially compared to other international study destinations. On average, annual tuition fees range from 14,000 Rand to 34,000 Rand. This affordability makes pursuing higher education accessible to a diverse range of students.

Can I work while studying in South Africa? 

If you possess a South African student visa and are enrolled in tertiary-level studies, you can work part-time for up to 20 hours per week during term time. Moreover, during academic breaks and vacations, you are allowed to work full-time. If you wish to exceed these stipulated working hours, obtaining a work visa within South Africa is required.

Which universities in South Africa offer affordable tuition fees? 

 Many universities in South Africa offer cost-effective tuition fees, making higher education accessible to a diverse range of students. Some affordable options include the University of Cape Town, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Stellenbosch University. These institutions strike a balance between quality education and budget-friendly fees.

Can international students benefit from the low tuition fees at South African universities?

 Yes, some South African universities also extend their cost-effective fee structures to international students. Universities like the University of Johannesburg and Cape Peninsula University of Technology offer affordable options for international scholars. However, verifying the fee structure for international students and exploring any available scholarships or financial support is crucial.

Related: Top 15 Degrees that Guarantee a Job

Top 10 Cheapest Universities in South Africa (Summary) 

Pursuing higher education is a transformative journey that should be within reach for all aspiring scholars. The top 10 cheapest universities in South Africa exemplify this principle, offering a pathway to quality education without imposing exorbitant financial constraints. These institutions are beacons of accessible excellence, welcoming students from diverse backgrounds to immerse themselves in a world of learning, innovation, and personal growth.

With their commitment to providing cost-effective tuition fees, these universities empower local students and extend their reach to international learners seeking an affordable education. As the academic landscape evolves, these institutions continue to demonstrate that pursuing a degree doesn’t have to come at the expense of financial stability.

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