Study in South Africa

Education in South Africa is governed by two national departments, namely the department of Basic Education (DBE), which is responsible for primary and secondary schools, and the department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), which is responsible for tertiary education and vocational training. Prior to 2009, these two departments were represented in a single Department of Education.

The DBE department deals with public schools, private schools (also referred to by the department as independent schools), early childhood development (ECD) centers, and special needs schools. The public schools and private schools are collectively known as ordinary schools, and comprise roughly 97% of schools in South Africa.The DHET department deals with further education and training (FET) colleges, adult basic education and training (ABET) centers, and higher education (HE) institutions.The nine provinces in South Africa also have their own education departments that are responsible for implementing the policies of the national department, as well as dealing with local issues.

In 2010, the basic education system comprised 12 644 208 learners, 30 586 schools, and 439 394 teachers. In 2009, the higher education and training system comprised 837 779 students in HE institutions, 420 475 students in state-controlled FET institutions and 297 900 in state-controlled ABET centers.

(Structure of South Africa’s Educational System)

Academic Year: January to December
Primary School: Reception to grade 6
Secondary School: Junior Secondary Grades 7-9, Further Education and Training (10-12)
Higher Education:
Certificates and Diplomas (generally 1-2 years of study)
Bachelors’ Degrees (from 3 years to 6 years of study, depending on course)
Honor’s Degrees (1 further year of undergraduate study, requiring a thesis)
Master’s Degree (2 years of post-graduate study)
Doctorate (variable in duration with a minimum of 2 years, following a Master’s)

Top University

  • University Of Cape Town (UCT), Cape Town.
  • University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), Johannesburg.
  • Stellenbosch University, Western Cape.
  • Rhodes University, Eastern Cape.
  • University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.
  • University Of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.
  • University Of Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town.


South Africa – Inspiring New Ways