6 Cheapest Universities in South Africa for International Students

South Africa is well known for being a multicultural and diverse country. After fighting against apartheid and getting equal rights for all its citizens, all sectors of the economy and society started to thrive. Although they still have some issues to fix, South Africa has a mixed economy with a high GDP when compared to other nations in the region and is currently classified as a “newly industrialized country.

All of the above, along with recent changes in the education system and the quality of its universities, make South Africa the perfect study destination for those who want to know the marvels of the African culture! In this article, we will be looking at the cheap universities in South Africa for international students!

3 things you must know about higher education in South Africa

1. There are three types of higher education institutions.

In 2004, the government of South Africa started reforming the higher education system. As a result, multiple colleges and universities disappeared and were merged into bigger and more comprehensive universities. Nowadays, there are 23 public universities.

In South Africa, only public degree-granting institutions are called “universities”. Private degree-granting institutions are called colleges, business schools, or institutes, even if they grant degrees at all levels of higher education.

Along with traditional (theoretically focused) and comprehensive (theoretically and practically oriented) universities, there also are “technikons”. Technikons are basically universities of technology that offer degrees in the fields of applied sciences, engineering, technology, and natural sciences.

2. Be aware of the language of instruction when choosing a program.

As you may already know, English is widely spoken in South Africa and is their official language. However, it isn’t the only one. This country has 11 official languages and several recognized regional languages.

English is used as the language of instruction since grade 4 of primary school and most universities have it as the main language of instruction. Nonetheless, Zulu, Afrikaans, and Xhosa are the most spoken languages in the country. This is why many universities offer programs in Afrikaans, for example, or have certain degrees that are taught in English and another language.

We suggest that you carefully check the information of the major you’d like to pursue before applying.

3. Tuition fees are below USD 10,000.

Although you’ll pay more as an international student, you should budget between USD 2,500 and USD 7,000 for tuition fees at most public universities and some private colleges because there are many affordable universities in South Africa. Certain private colleges and business schools are significantly more expensive than that, so choose carefully.

Students that come from the SADC and other African countries pay lower tuition fees in most universities.

In the case of financial aid, most scholarships at public universities are given only to local students, so you may need to contact private institutions outside of the government to get some help.


Affordable Universities in Other Countries

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Cheap Universities in South Africa

1. Stellenbosch University (SU)

We start our list of cheapest universities in South Africa for international students with Stellenbosch University. Along with the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University (SU) is the oldest university in South Africa. With over 30,000 students, this university ranks as the third-best higher education institution in the country, having 427th place in the QS World University Ranking.

SU is a multilingual university that offers degree programs in both English and Afrikaans. Depending on the faculty, you’ll find programs that are fully taught in English or Afrikaans, and programs that are bilingual, with some courses being taught in either English or Afrikaans.

This university has ten faculties of arts and social sciences, law, education, agricultural sciences, economic and management sciences, medicine and health sciences, military science, theology, science, and engineering. It also has a business school and a music conservatory.

Other facilities include 34 student dormitories, a botanical garden, and several sports centers.

As for tuition fees, these depend on your country of origin. Tuition fees for students from the SADC are of ZAR 60,000 (South African Rands) per academic year. For those from other African countries, tuition fees are ZAR 83,940, and for everyone else, tuition fees are ZAR 110,700 per academic year.

2. University of Venda (Univen)

Located in the province of Limpopo, the University of Venda (Univen) is a comprehensive university that was founded in 1982. It is considered to be a “rural-based” university and was created to provide higher education in the region. However, the university currently hosts students from all over South Africa and the world.

Univen is divided into eight schools of law, agriculture, human and social science, mathematical and natural sciences, environmental science, health sciences, education, and management sciences.

This cheap university in South Africa also has different sports facilities, an art gallery, and 11 student residences.

Regarding tuition fees, they vary depending on the major and the academic year of the degree program. For the first year of the degree programs, tuition fees go from ZAR 25,000 to ZAR 50,000. International students must pay an additional registration fee.

3. Nelson Mandela University (NMU)

The Nelson Mandela University (NMU) came to life in 2005 after three higher education institutions were merged together: Vista University and the University of Port Elizabeth, and the PE Technikon, originally founded in 1882 as an Art School.

NMU is located in Port Elizabeth where it was six campuses. There is another campus in George.

With more than 27,000 students, NMU is divided into seven faculties of business and economic sciences, health sciences, education, humanities, science, law, and engineering, the built environment and technology. These faculties offer over 500 study programs.

Tuition fees for international students go from USD 1,900 to USD 4,100 for the first year of studies making this NMU a very cheap university in South Africa. Non-SADC students also have to pay a foreign administrative fee of USD 379.

4. Durban University of Technology (DUT)

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 2,500 and USD 6,000 Per Year

The Durban University of Technology (DUT) was founded less than 20 years ago, in 2002, after two technikons were merged together. It offers doctorate degree programs, something uncommon for technical institutes in Africa.

DUT is divided into six faculties of arts and design, accounting and informatics, engineering and the built environment, management sciences, applied sciences, and health sciences. It also has over 10 centers for excellence and research institutes.

It hosts more than 30,000 students every year and has student residences available.

The cost of your studies at DUT will depend on your country of origin. Those that come from countries of the SADC will pay the same tuition fees as local students. International students from any other country must pay twice the local fees. This includes tuition, accommodation, and administrative expenses, but with these expenses, DUT is still a very affordable university.

Tuition fees are calculated according to the classes you are taking. Each subject has a specific price, which could go from USD 70 to USD 750. Besides this, you’ll have to make a down payment upon enrollment of USD 600 approx. We suggest that you budget between USD 2,500 and USD 6,000, but you can check the exact costs of each course by reading the fees booklet.

5. University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits)

The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits) is one of the oldest and best-ranked universities in South Africa. It was founded in 1896 and has 400th place in the QS World University Ranking.

Wits is known for warmly welcoming international students. Out of 40,000 students, around 3,700 come from other countries. This is almost 10% of the student population!

With five campuses in the city of Johannesburg, this cheap university in South Africa is divided into five faculties of science, engineering, and the built environment, health sciences, humanities, and commerce, law, and management.  Wits also have 17 student residences.

Regarding tuition fees, SADC students pay local fees plus a registration fee of USD 400 approx. International students from the rest of the world pay two times the local fees. This means you’ll pay between USD 2,100 and USD 7,500 per academic year depending on your degree program and your nationality.

6. University of the Western Cape (UWC)

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 1,750 and USD 5,400 Per Year

We end our list of cheapest universities in South Africa with UWC. Founded in 1959, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is currently ranked as one of the best institutions in South Africa, having a place among the top 1000 universities in the QS World University Ranking.

UWC is known for its key role during the fight against apartheid. Its fight for equal rights continues until our days and an example of that is their organization Children Right’s Project.

It has seven faculties of community and health sciences, economic and management sciences, natural sciences, arts, dentistry, law, and education. UWC receives over 22,000 each year.

African and SADC students pay local fees, which means they’ll pay between ZAR 30,140 (USD 1,750 approx.) and ZAR 58,180 (USD 3,400 approx.) per academic year. International students from other countries will pay between USD 3,800 and USD 5,400 per academic year.


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Scholarships Page!