List of Public Universities in South Africa 2023

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List of Public Universities in South Africa

Hey there! Are you curious about the list of public universities in South Africa? Well, you’re in luck! In this article, I’ll give you a straight-to-the-point rundown of the 23 public universities spread across the country. 

South Africa boasts a wide range of public universities, each with its own unique offerings and specialties. From bustling urban campuses to serene rural settings, there’s something for everyone. 

These institutions are dedicated to providing high-quality education and research opportunities to both local and international students. So, whether you’re pursuing a degree in engineering, humanities, sciences, or any other field, you’ll find a university that aligns with your interests and goals.

Quite recently, we’ve shared the top 10 best online schools in South Africa. Does any of the public universities listed on this page provide online learning opportunities? Let’s find out.

With a rich cultural heritage and a commitment to academic excellence, South Africa’s public universities have become hubs of knowledge and innovation. They foster a vibrant learning environment, encouraging students to explore new ideas, engage in critical thinking, and collaborate with fellow scholars. 

public universities in South Africa - SA

From cutting-edge research facilities to a diverse and inclusive student body, these universities offer an enriching experience that goes beyond the classroom. So, get ready to embark on a journey through the 23 public universities in South Africa. Discover their unique strengths, campus life, and the opportunities they provide.

Whether you’re a prospective student, an academic enthusiast, or simply curious about higher education in South Africa, this comprehensive list will give you a glimpse into the world of public universities that shape the intellectual landscape of this remarkable nation. Let’s begin our exploration together!

List of Public Universities in South Africa 

Of all the universities in South Africa, here is a list of Public Universities in SA:

1. Durban University of Technology

For a government-backed education in South Africa, the Durban University of Technology is a notable institution to consider. With a focus on excellence and innovation, the university boasts experienced and qualified academic staff who provide quality education in various fields. 

As a member of the International Association of Universities, the university offers numerous opportunities for students to excel in globally recognized industries. The Durban University of Technology is dedicated to preparing graduates for success in the modern job market.

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2. University of KwaZulu-Natal

The University of KwaZulu-Natal is an esteemed educational institution that prioritizes innovative research and breakthrough discoveries. The university is guided by values such as greatness, honesty, accountability, honor, and freedom. 

It offers a wide range of undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees, with a focus on providing students with a supportive and inclusive learning environment. With its commitment to academic excellence, the University of KwaZulu-Natal equips graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in their chosen fields.

3. University of Pretoria

The University of Pretoria (UP) is one of South Africa’s best and largest educational institutions, renowned for its high-quality research and academic programs. With a vision to address global issues through academic research, UP offers over 1,000 academic programs across various disciplines. 

The university provides a flexible learning environment, offering classroom, online, and hybrid learning options. With its global outlook and commitment to producing globally competent graduates, the University of Pretoria is a premier choice for higher education in South Africa.

4. University of Cape Town 

The University of Cape Town is widely regarded as one of the top-performing public universities in South Africa. Established in 1829, it has a long-standing reputation for academic excellence and research contributions. 

The university attracts exceptionally talented instructors, students, and researchers who are dedicated to making a positive impact through education.

UCT is known for its inclusive and research-intensive environment, addressing the challenges and concerns of society. With renowned scientists and researchers, UCT consistently ranks among the leading educational institutions in the country.

5. Stellenbosch University

Public universities in South africa - Stellenbosch University

Established in 1918, Stellenbosch University is another top-ranked public university in South Africa. It is recognized for its research activities and renowned scientists. The university offers practical-based programs that prepare students for success in their chosen fields. 

It actively participates in international academic networks and collaborates with various institutions worldwide, particularly in science and technology studies. Stellenbosch University focuses on imparting global knowledge and producing graduates with values of integrity and professionalism.

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6. University of the Witwatersrand

The University of the Witwatersrand, founded in 1896, is a globally competitive public university in South Africa. It aims to have a significant impact on society through education and research. 

The university emphasizes social responsiveness and adaptability to evolving industry standards. With a century-long tradition of research excellence, Wits is renowned for providing innovative solutions to global problems. Graduates from the University of the Witwatersrand are well-equipped to excel in their chosen fields.

7. University of Johannesburg

Established in 2005 through the merger of three major universities, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has become one of the largest and most prestigious institutions for higher learning in South Africa. With over 50,000 students, including a significant number of international students, UJ offers a diverse and vibrant academic community. 

The university provides a wide range of programs and is committed to delivering high-quality education. UJ’s multidisciplinary approach and strong industry connections prepare students for success in a globalized world.

8. University of the Free State

The University of the Free State is renowned for offering high-quality programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. As a student-centered institution, it aims to build a community of learners who are ready to create research and solutions for society. 

Since its establishment in 1904, the university has prioritized the holistic development and well-being of its students. It provides a supportive and engaging environment that fosters growth and success. The University of the Free State is recognized as one of the top-performing institutions in the country.

Related: Top 10 Best Primary Schools In Johannesburg South Africa

9. University of Venda

Celebrating its 40th year, the University of Venda is highly regarded for its undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Over the decades, the university has produced quality graduates who have made significant contributions to the country. 

With exceptional teaching and research, the university aims to foster an active student community that values excellence in their respective fields. The University of Venda provides a supportive and stimulating environment where students can thrive in teaching, learning, and research engagement.

10. University of Fort Hare

The University of Fort Hare aims to provide quality tertiary education to instill confidence in South African students. With a focus on practical-based education, the university prepares students to tackle current challenges in various industries. 

It has established international alliances and linkages worldwide, participating in academic exchanges and conferences. The University of Fort Hare offers a well-rounded educational experience and equips graduates with the skills needed to succeed in their chosen careers.

Related: Top 10 Best Universities In Canada for International Students

11. University of the Western Cape

The University of the Western Cape fosters a dynamic and productive academic community that promotes innovative learning. Established in 1959, the university has a primary mission of serving the public and actively participates in numerous outreach programs and activities. 

It is committed to boosting the confidence of its students and helping them achieve their dreams through academic excellence. The University of the Western Cape also engages in cutting-edge research and encourages students to become active contributors to societal development.

12. North-West University

North-West University is a united and multi-faceted institution with campuses spread across South Africa. With a globally competitive teaching style, the university offers a balanced approach between theoretical knowledge and practical application. 

It aims to help students realize their full potential and prepare them for future careers. The university provides a wide range of programs in fields such as arts and design, science, humanities, and information technology. Through its commitment to excellence, North-West University equips graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in their chosen fields.

13. Rhodes University

Since its establishment in 1904, Rhodes University has maintained a well-established reputation for academic excellence. It is one of the top 10 Cheapest Universities in South Africa. Despite being considered a smaller university, it is dedicated to providing students with distinct and outstanding academic training. 

The university aims to produce leaders and professionals who are critical, compassionate, and wise, and who can contribute to the social and economic development of South Africa. Rhodes University is committed to nurturing a vibrant and inclusive academic community that fosters growth and success.

14. Nelson Mandela University

Operating under the principles and values of Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela University strives to change the world through education. The university is committed to helping individuals achieve their dreams and passions. With a diverse and inclusive academic community, it has attracted students from around the world. Nelson Mandela University emphasizes academic excellence, fostering a supportive environment for students to grow. 

Also Read: Top 20 Toughest Degrees In the World

15. Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Public universities in South Africa - Cape Peninsula University of Technology

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology is a renowned institution that offers transformative education to its students. By integrating technology into its curriculum while honoring the rich cultural heritage of South Africa, the university provides students with the knowledge and skills to excel both nationally and internationally. 

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology demonstrates enthusiasm and dedication to public service by delivering high-quality and relevant training to its constituents.

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16. University of Limpopo

The University of Limpopo is dedicated to meeting the needs of its students and society at large. Guided by the values of greatness, honesty, accountability, honor, and freedom, the university offers a range of programs across various disciplines.

With its roots in the merger of multiple higher education institutions, the University of Limpopo is particularly renowned for its high-quality healthcare programs. However, it also provides education in other areas such as agriculture, law, humanities, and management.

17. University of Zululand

Since its foundation, the University of Zululand has been committed to providing an education that meets the needs of South Africa’s job market. 

Through strategic partnerships with businesses and companies, the university ensures that its students acquire practical skills relevant to their chosen careers. 

The University of Zululand not only focuses on academic excellence but also promotes wellness by offering a wide range of extracurricular activities and sports facilities.

Related: Top 10 Best Universities in South Africa and Their Fees

18. Central University of Technology

The Central University of Technology is a vital institution in South Africa’s Central region. It prioritizes high-quality education through various activities and initiatives, including community engagement, problem-solving education, and entrepreneurship programs. 

With two campuses, the university caters to a diverse student population. Additionally, it boasts a large network of research centers dedicated to developing studies in areas such as food security, sustainability, and manufacturing.

19. Vaal University of Technology

The Vaal University of Technology is an excellent choice for students pursuing technological or engineering degrees in South Africa. With up-to-date programs and state-of-the-art facilities, the university ensures that its curriculum aligns with the requirements of the technological industry. 

It operates multiple campuses and specialized satellite centers that offer degrees and research opportunities relevant to the local job market. The university’s science and technology park, in collaboration with national and international companies, contributes to innovation and industry growth.

20. Walter Sisulu University

Named after the prominent activist who fought against racial segregation, Walter Sisulu University is an innovative institution dedicated to the development of its students. With four campuses specializing in different fields of knowledge such as healthcare, science, engineering, economics, and technology, the university offers comprehensive education and research opportunities. 

It actively engages in hands-on initiatives and research units that contribute to rural communities. Additionally, the business school at Walter Sisulu University offers entrepreneurship programs to foster entrepreneurial skills among students.

21. Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University

Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University is an advanced educational institution focused on developing South Africa’s healthcare industry. With a strong emphasis on science and technology courses, the university provides students with the tools and equipment necessary to support their research activities. 

Committed to becoming a center of excellence in teaching and learning, the university constantly adapts to meet the demands and standards of the industry.

22. Mangosuthu University of Technology

The Mangosuthu University of Technology aims to transform communities through academic excellence and sustainable learning. It strives to provide a fair and inclusive educational institution that promotes growth and harmony among individuals. As a technological and career-oriented university, it offers innovative solutions to societal problems and collaborates with various businesses and industries.

23. Sol Plaatje University

Sol Plaatje University, founded in 2014, is a young and vibrant institution committed to providing high-quality education. With a strong focus on humanities, education, and natural and social sciences, the university aims to develop critical thinkers and problem solvers. 

It prioritizes small class sizes, allowing for personalized attention and mentorship. Sol Plaatje University values community engagement and actively contributes to the social and economic development of the region.

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Types of Universities in South Africa

In South Africa, there are three main types of universities: traditional universities, comprehensive universities, and universities of technology. Each type has its own distinct focus and offerings, catering to a wide range of academic and professional interests.

Traditional Universities

Traditional universities in South Africa are known for their strong emphasis on academic research and theoretical education. They offer a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs across various disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and more.

These universities typically prioritize traditional academic disciplines and provide a foundation for advanced research and scholarship. They often have a long-standing history and are recognized for their contributions to knowledge creation and intellectual development.

Comprehensive Universities

Comprehensive universities combine academic excellence with a broader range of practical and professional programs. They offer a diverse selection of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in fields such as humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, business, education, health sciences, and more.

These universities focus on providing a well-rounded education that prepares students for both academic pursuits and real-world applications. They often have strong connections to industries and communities, fostering collaboration and experiential learning opportunities.

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Universities of Technology

Universities of technology, also known as “technikons,” specialize in applied sciences, vocational training, and technology-driven programs. They offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees focused on practical skills development, technical expertise, and professional disciplines such as engineering, information technology, design, business management, and more. 

These universities prioritize hands-on learning, industry partnerships, and preparing students for specific career paths. They often have state-of-the-art facilities and laboratories to support practical training and innovation.

It’s important to note that some universities in South Africa may have elements of more than one type, incorporating both theoretical and practical aspects in their programs. This diversity in university types allows students to choose an institution that aligns with their academic interests, career goals, and preferred learning style.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  • Which University is Better in South Africa?

The University of Cape Town is ranked as the best university in South Africa. 

  • Which is the Biggest University in South Africa?

The University of South Africa (UNISA) is the biggest University in Nigeria. 

  • Which University Graduates are Most Employable in South Africa? 

University of Cape Town (UCT) has the best employment outcome in South Africa. 

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List of Public Universities In South Africa (Bottom Line) 

The list of public universities in South Africa reflects the country’s commitment to providing diverse educational opportunities for students. Traditional universities offer a strong foundation in academic research and theoretical education, while comprehensive universities combine academic excellence with practical and professional programs.

Universities of technology focus on applied sciences and vocational training, equipping students with practical skills for specific career paths.

With this wide range of university types, students in South Africa have the flexibility to choose an institution that aligns with their academic interests, career goals, and preferred learning style.

Whether they are seeking a rigorous academic environment, a well-rounded education, or specialized technical training, South Africa’s public universities cater to a variety of needs. 

These institutions play a crucial role in fostering intellectual growth, research advancements, and producing skilled professionals who contribute to the country’s development. By offering quality education, fostering innovation, and establishing strong connections to industries and communities, South Africa’s public universities contribute significantly to the growth and progress of the nation.

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