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.
|University||Location||No. of students|
|University of South Africa (UNISA)
|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|
|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.