How much it costs to get your degree at university in South Africa

The recent, and in some cases on going protest against the high fees for tertiary education, has pushed all institutions in South Africa under the microscope.

The protest action by the country’s youth, led to president Jacob Zuma announcing a zero percent fee increase among universities in 2016, and has opened up the debate on whether or not tertiary education should be free for all.

The genuine concern raised by students was hijacked by all three of the country’s largest political parties in some shape or form.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader, Julius Malema, on Monday marched to the JSE to hand over memorandum.

Among the many terms within that memorandum, was the following:

“Each and every company in the JSE should adopt a minimum of 100 students and assist with their higher education and training programmes and bursaries from registration, tuition, residence, food, books, and transport money for their adopted students.”

It begs the question, how much does it cost for a student to attend university in South Africa, and how much would it cost companies on the JSE?

Much has already been written about the tuition costs at South Africa’s top universities, including an article published by BusinessTech in January.

Tuition for courses varies quite substantially, from R24,000 to as much as R64,500, for a Bachelor of Medicine (MBBCh) at the University of Cape Town.

BusinessTech assumes an average of R35,000 annually among the top institutions to study a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degree, Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree.

University of Cape Town guides international students of the costs associated with attending the university:

# Expenses Rand per month
1 Rent 4 000
2 Living costs 1 500
3 Food 2 000
4 Transport 1 000
5 Pocket Money 1 500
6 Books & Stationery (per semester) 7 000

This total above annually comes to an estimated R10,000 per month, without books, which alone costs an estimated R14,000 annually.

Similarly, the University of KwaZulu-Natal or UKZN warns its international students to take into account of a range of expenses, which they may have to meet, dependent on their particular course of study and needs, which may include:

  • Orientation
  • Text materials (issued by the University)
  • Field Trips
  • Books, stationery and equipment
  • Transport (off campus)
  • Sports clubs and societies (optional)
  • Pocket money
  • Incidental medical expenses

“As a guideline a total amount of at least R30,240 should be allowed for a full years study to cover the above,” it says.

Its university residence fees amount to R27,250 for accommodation fees, and R23,980 for meals, taking live in fees to R51,230.

With tuition fees at an average of R35,000, and adding the three totals, it costs an international student approximately R116,500 to attend UKZN.

For UCT, it may be as much as R150,000 for students who live away from campus, and assuming that they take vacation time.


Universities offer various housing and accommodation for students.

The University of Cape Town’s mountain views come at the greatest cost to students looking for accommodation, with a single residence (self-catering) costing R50,100 per student per year, with double rooms coming in at R35,800 per student per year.

On the opposite end of the scale, North-West University’s residences are less than half that, at R18,280 for a single room residence, and R17,630 for a double room sharing residence.

Wits res students can expect to pay R30,192 for single and R27,232 for double sharing accommodation – the second highest fees.

Stellenbosch students will pay approximately R35,000 (for girls) and R36,000 (for boys) and R29,000 – R30,000 for single and double residences, respectively.

If companies on the JSE are compelled to ‘adopt’ 100 students for an average of three years each, it could cost them anywhere between R35 million and R150 million at constant rates.

Earlier in the week, Trellidor became the 15th company to list on the JSE in 2015, taking the bourse’s overall total of listed companies closer to 400, including Main Board and Alt-X companies.

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How much it costs to get your degree at university in South Africa