University fees in 2017: how much it costs to study in South Africa

South African universities have come under constant scrutiny for the high cost of education across the board, but could not escape hiking fees in 2017.

Following a fee increase freeze in 2016 due to widespread student protests, 2017 once again saw fees hiked at tertiary institutions.

BusinessTech looks at how much SA students at some of the top universities in South Africa will need to cover their chosen Bachelor’s costs for the first year of study.

The fees sourced include the following undergraduate degrees:

  • Bachelor of Commerce (BCom);
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA);
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc);
  • Bachelor of Law (LLB, undergraduate);
  • Bachelor of Science/Engineering (BEng).

The fees listed below give a range in which various bachelor degrees in the respective faculties fall. The fees are applicable to first year studies for 2017.

Fees are typically charged per module needed to make up the credits of a given degree, thus the fees represented below give the broader idea of the cost of a single year of study, rather than a comprehensive overview.

For institutions where no Bachelor of Engineering is offered, a Bachelor of Science in Engineering is featured.

University BA BCom BSc LLB BEng
University of Cape Town R49 440 R53 340 –
R73 720
R54 000 R50 200 R55 460 –
R57 180
University of the Witwatersrand R36 330 –
R46 790
R44 910 –
R46 810
R44 610 R48 550 R43 580 –
R50 360
Stellenbosch University R35 387 R35 332 R42 783 R42 374 R52 057
University of KwaZulu Natal R33 540 –
R46 700
R39 170 R30 940 –
R39 340
R36 500 –
R38 728
R37 110 –
R40 000
University of Pretoria R33 000 –
R39 000
R39 000 –
R45 000
R32 000 –
R60 000
R36 000 –
R38 000
R41 000 –
R51 000
Rhodes University R40 176 R43 956 R41 796 R45 068 N/A
University of Johannesburg R34 500 –
R38 800
R35 000 –
R40 000
R33 000 –
R55 000
R31 800 –
R36 500
R37 200 –
R46 000
North-West University R34 245 R37 205 –
R40 065
R35 435 –
R43 665
R37 205 R43 270

Residence fees

South Africa’s universities also offer different residence options, both on and off campus – self-catering and with food options.

Prices for residences vary depending on location, size (single or double) and gender (men and women have different fees).

Below are the price ranges students can expect at the various universities.

  • Rhodes University: R51,900 – R54,500
  • University of Cape Town: R42,200 – R52,300
  • University of Pretoria – R34,200: R53,100
  • University of the Witwatersrand: R33,030 – R72,635
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal: R35,686
  • Stellenbosch University: R25,020 – R44,960
  • University of Johannesburg: R24,024 – R31,668
  • North-West University: R17,630 – R23,950

Fight for free education

South African students have taken to the streets across the country in two consecutive years protesting the high cost of university in South Africa. With each protest, more pressure is being put on government to realise its promises of free education for all.

However, concessions have been made, with higher education minister Blade Nzimande acknowledging that free education for all is not a realistic goal, as someone has to pay.

This has pushed the government, and the ANC as the ruling party in particular to address the needs of the poorest students, as well as those who fall into what is called the “missing middle” – the group of students who are too ‘rich’ to qualify for student aid, but still cannot afford to go to university.

To this end,  one of the key resoultions and recommendations to come out of the ANC’s recent national policy conference was for the party to continue to strengthen measures that will improve access to higher education for this group.

The ultimate goal, the ANC said, is to achieve free higher education for these students.

“This should not be limited to the role that NFSAS play but should also include the role of private sector in this regard,” the party said.

Some universities have come to the party by only increasing fees for 2017 for those students who can afford it. Students who fall into the missing middle would pay the same fees as in 2016 (or 2015, as it were).


Read: UCT still South Africa’s top university – but there’s a new number two

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