Here are South Africa’s 26 universities

While much is often written about South Africa’s traditional universities, it may come as a surprise to know that the country has 26 universities in total, following the launch of three new institutions since 2014.

The newest learning institution, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, located north of Pretoria, was unveiled in April 2015, adding to the two launched in 2014, namely Sol Plaatje University, in the Northern Cape, and the University of Mpumalanga.

South Africa’s universities accommodate in excess of 1 million students, with plans by government to add 500,000 to that total by 2030.

A tally of the most accurate figures shows that 25 of the 26 schools have a combined total exceeding 622,000, while Unisa, with 400,000 students, is the biggest tertiary institution in SA.

The country’s universities are divided into the following categories:

  • 9 universities of technology focused on vocationally oriented education;
  • 6 comprehensive universities offering a combination of academic and vocational diplomas and degrees;
  • 11 traditional universities offering theoretically oriented university degrees.

Pretoria, perhaps surprisingly, is home to as many as five universities, despite its relative size (2.1 million people), when compared to Johannesburg (9.4 million), and Cape Town (3.7 million).

Cape Town has three universities, with an additional university nearby in Stellenbosch. Johannesburg is serviced by three universities, while Bloemfontein and Durban each have two.

Read: Fastest growing cities in South Africa

University Location No. of students
University of South Africa (UNISA)
Pretoria 400,000
North-West University Potchefstroom 74,355
University of Pretoria Pretoria 50,000
Tshwane University of Technology Pretoria 50,000
University of Johannesburg Johannesburg 48,500
University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban and Pietermaritzburg 40,000
University of the Free State Bloemfontein 33,000
Cape Peninsula University of Technology Cape Town 33,000
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg 32,703
University of Stellenbosch Stellenbosch 30,150
University of Cape Town Cape Town 26,322
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Port Elizabeth and George 26,000
Walter Sisulu University East London and Mthatha 25,000
Durban University of Technology Durban and Pietermaritzburg 25,000
University of Limpopo Turfloop and Pretoria 20,000
Vaal University of Technology Johannesburg 17,000
University of Zululand Empangeni 16,100
University of the Western Cape Tygerberg, Cape Town 15,200
Central University of Technology Bloemfontein 13,534
University of Fort Hare Alice and East London 12,000
University of Venda Thohoyandou 12,000
Mangosuthu University of Technology Umlazi, Durban 10,000
Rhodes University Grahamstown 7,000
Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University Pretoria 5,060
University of Mpumalanga Mbombela 140
Sol Plaatje University Kimberley 135

Blade Nzimande, minister of higher education and training noted last week that the proportion of African students in universities has increased dramatically from 49% in 1995 and is estimated to 72% at present.

“We want our universities to become African universities in a developing country that has a history of racist and gender based, class exploitation. These universities, all of them, must shed all the problematic features of their apartheid and colonial past.

“To be Africanised means they must become universities capable of contributing in all respects (research, curriculum, etc) to the developmental goals of our country. They must be conscious of both backward and forward linkages in the task of transforming themselves and our country,” he said.

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Here are South Africa’s 26 universities