University fees 2024: how much it costs to study in South Africa

 ·28 Jan 2024

There are over 20 public universities in South Africa, and tuition fees vary depending on their policy, the type and the length of studies.

According to Times Higher Education’s latest ranking, 12 of these local universities are also listed among the world’s top tertiary institutions for 2024.

The ranking looks into an institution’s global performance and judges research-intensive universities, with the full list comprising 1,904 universities across 108 countries and regions.

It is based on 18 calibrated performance indicators that measure an institution’s performance across five areas: teaching, research environment, research quality, industry, and international outlook.

The ranking showed the University of Oxford coming in the top position for the eighth consecutive year, with Stanford University in second place, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology jumped to third.

Locally, The University of Cape Town is the best university in South Africa, ranking 167th overall.

Stellenbosch University (2nd) and the University of the Witwatersrand (3rd) ranked in the same band of 301-350, while the University of Johannesburg (4th) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (5th) closed out the top five places in the country.

Studying at local universities is the most affordable option for South Africans looking for quality education. However, for those who have the means, the most popular countries to study in include the USA, the UK, Australia, and Germany, as reported by the education platform Erudera.

Overseas, the living costs alone cost, on average, upwards of R200,000 per annum, whereas students who choose local institutions typically pay almost half that, which includes tuition and residence.

Fees in 2024

According to data from Old Mutual, the average cost of sending a graduate to university in South Africa was R55,900 in 2023. This cost is expected to rise to R95,700 by 2030 and reach R177,200 by 2038.

BusinessTech looked at the cost of a year’s study at universities around the country.

The fees apply to first-year studies for 2024 and only act as an approximation; other costs, such as textbooks, travel, and residency, are excluded.

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).

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

A Bachelor of Science in Engineering is featured for institutions where no Bachelor of Engineering is offered.

University of Cape Town R71 400R66 140 to R98 140R78 500R72 570R80 750 to R84 060
University of the Witwatersrand*R49 430 to R65 100R54 800 to R74 370R45 430 to R70 430R41 820 to R73 000R60 060
Stellenbosch University R55 036R57 006R66 358R55 841R74 487
University of KwaZulu Natal R49 628R53 089R45 728 to R61 408R50 404R59 583
University of PretoriaR37 000 to R59 000R48 000 to R60 000R51 000 to R66 000R47 000 to R56 000R54 000 to R64 000
Rhodes UniversityR58 050R63 510R60 392R65 119N/A
University of JohannesburgR45 710 to R56 470R49 318 to R74 860R71 790 to R79 860R46 240 to R53 100R54 040 to R66 810
University of Free StateR55 470R55 830R49 555 to R74 620R45 390N/A
Note: These are 2024 fee estimates available on the respective website at the time of publication or on 2023 fees*. Some universities calculate their fees per module, require student registration, or do not provide an estimated value for the degrees by the time of publication.

Read: Top 4 most popular countries to study abroad for South Africans – and how much it costs

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