Best Courses for Online Studies in South Africa

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Online education is one of the most popular methods of learning today. As of 2015, 49 percent of students stated that they had taken an online course in the last 12 months. South Africa may have been a little late to the game, considering it was only in 2007 that the country began to adopt the international trend of learning online. But online courses in South Africa has been a growing industry ever since. Apart from the online options at South African universities, many students also look abroad to study online degrees. Let’s see what studying online in South Africa entails.



Why Study Online?

Learning online has been a major development in many parts of the world, such as the U.S., India, South Korea, and China. But only within the last decade or so has South Africa become acquainted with the notion of online learning. South African students, like students everywhere, are interested in online learning as it gives them more options and benefits.



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Benefits to Studying Online



Variety of programs and courses:


From traditional four-year universities to completely online career colleges, to short online courses to online tutorials, online learning offers a variety of options on what and how long to learn.



Lower total costs:


Online programs tend to be less expensive than traditional on-campus courses. Also, studying online means you don’t need to worry about on-campus living, textbooks, and transportation costs.



More comfortable learning environment:


Students can learn in the comfort of their own home or pretty much anywhere they want. As long as they choose a non-distracting environment, listening or watching online video classes can be a more comfortable option for many.



Convenience and flexibility:


Online courses allow students to make their own schedules, giving them time for work, hobbies, etc.



Career advancement:


Students have the option of taking online courses while completing other degrees, in-between jobs, or while raising a family. This academic work will explain any discontinuity or gaps in a resume as well.



No traveling:


Not having to travel to classes can be a huge time-saver. “Attending” classes at home means you have more time for other things in your schedule.



Studying online has its caveats and it’s important to know how to succeed in a method of learning that requires discipline and responsibility. If you’re looking for tips on how to succeed in online learning, check out this article here.



The Education System in South Africa

Over one million South African students are enrolled in higher education institutions in the country. While that may be considered a good number, the education system is not without its pain points. There are holes in the system which could be improved in order to boost higher education success.


A study was done at the Stellenbosch University which found that the education system in South Africa has “critical educational factors,” including weak institutional functionality, uneducated teachers, and insufficient learning time, which were responsible for the poor state of the country. There’s a high dropout rate because of poor academic performance, teen pregnancy and crime.






The South African Human Rights Commission has found that 40% of children interviewed said they had been the victims of crime at school. Unfortunately, more than a fifth of sexual assaults on the children took place in schools. On the plus side, the Education Department and the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention initiated a program named Hlayiseka, in which the aim is to stop the epidemic of school violence in South African schools.


South Africa also has 11 official languages, the highest number of any country in the world. It’s only since the year 2009 that all schools teach English as a subject from grade 1 and all subjects are taught in English from grade 4.


Like many countries in the world, South Africa has its issues that need some correcting. And the education system’s flaws are commonly a reason why many students choose to take their learning online, in which the options are much wider and appealing to their interests.



Studying in South Africa

There are 23 public universities in South Africa in which 11 are traditional universities (theoretically oriented), 6 are universities of technology (vocationally oriented), and 6 comprehensive universities (both theoretical and vocational).



General Requirements


Universities in South Africa, like any other country, have their requirements for students when applying. The following are typical student application requirements:

  • A scan of your diploma (high school or Bachelor’s degree)
  • A transcript/record of your previous courses
  • A scan of your passport and/or birth certificate
  • Your CV
  • Testing scores
  • Evidence of scholarship or funding
  • Letters of recommendation (between 2-3)
  • Portfolio and/or writing samples





Tuition fees in South Africa can be considered low, compared to Western countries. Depending on the university and the degrees, tuition for a Bachelor’s degree can range from $1,676 to $3,662 annually. A Master’s degree can vary between $2,743 to $3,794 annually. And finally, a Doctorate degree can go from $2,116 to $2,759 annually.



Recognition of Degrees Internationally


Most, if not all, South African universities are accredited and thus internationally recognized. South Africa falls under a “10 Level Framework” in which all higher education (HE) qualifications are constructed and “mapped.” It’s essential for all South African students to enroll in HEQC-accredited higher education programs that are registered in the NQF. That way, if you move away or relocate for work, your hard-earned degree can be recognized and qualify in another country.



Online Alternatives


Aside from going the traditional route via universities and colleges, South Africans have the option of taking online courses through MOOC. MOOC is an online education platform that offers courses in a variety of subjects through providers like Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn.



Online Universities in South Africa

Of the universities in South Africa, some are coming on board with the online trend. The following universities all offer fully online programs.



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University of Cape Town


The University of Cape Town is the oldest university in South Africa and is one of the leading research universities on the continent. It has over 25,000 students and 30% of them are postgraduate students. While the university is a traditional institution and mainly on-campus, it does offer free online programs through the Coursera platform.

  • Subjects offered: Commerce, Engineering & the Built Environment, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, and Science
  • Tuition costs: Free
  • Rankings: #114 in Best Global Universities and #1 in Best Global Universities in Africa



University of Witwatersrand


Also referred to as WITS Language School, the University of Witwatersrand recognizes the desire to study online and started offering fully online and accredited short courses. The school prides itself on the fact that it is internationally distinguished for excellent research, high academic standards and commitment to social justice.

  • Subjects offered: Management and Leadership, People and Communication, Marketing and Sales, Finance, IT and Digital, and Research Management
  • Tuition costs: From R12,000 to R18,000 ($827 to $1,241) per course
  • Rankings: #197 in Best Global Universities and #2 in Best Global Universities in Africa



University of Kwazulu Natal


University of Kwazulu Natal is one of the largest, oldest and most transformed universities in sub-Saharan Africa and it’s a teaching and research-led university. The university has been around for nearly 110 years. Being a traditional university and new to the online world, there are a few online options.

  • Subjects offered: The university offers a number of online courses in Visionary Leadership, Math, and Financial Literacy
  • Tuition costs: R2,200 to R3,030 ($151 to $209) per course
  • Rankings: #336 in Best Global Universities and #3 in Best Global Universities in Africa



Stellenbosch University


Stellenbosch University, a public research institution, is recognized as being a frontrunner in research and academic excellence. There are over 29,000 students.

  • Subjects offered: There are free online courses through the ClassCentral platform in Sports Coaching, Futurism and Business, and Teaching
  • Tuition costs: Free
  • Rankings: Rankings: #341 in Best Global Universities and #4 in Best Global Universities in Africa



University of Johannesburg


Despite being a very new university, UJ prides itself on its accessible excellence. After only 11 years it established itself as an institution of global excellence, offering internationally recognised academic programs. There are 49,500 students.

  • Subjects offered: Education, Public Health, Public Management, Accounting, Human Resources, Finance, and Logistics
  • Tuition costs: R180 to R374 ($12 to $26) fer course credit
  • Rankings: #397 in Best Global Universities and #5 in Best Global Universities in Africa



Online Courses From International Universities

Considering the fact that South African online learning is in its infancy, many students look towards international online programs for more variety and accessibility. The following are some of the best online programs of 2019, according to U.S. News and World Report.



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Best Online MBAs:

  • Indiana University–Bloomington
    • Cost: $1,330 per course credit
  • University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
    • Cost: $1,884 per course credit
  • Carnegie Mellon University
    • Cost: $2,063 per course credit



Best Online Computer Information Technology Degrees:

  • University of Southern California
    • Cost: $2,005 per course credit
  • New York University
    • Cost: $1,798 per course credit
  • Virginia Tech
    • Cost: $950 per course credit


Best Online Degrees in Education:

  • Clemson University (SC)
    • Cost: $460 per course credit
  • University of Florida
    • Cost: $518 per course credit
  • Utah State University
    • Cost: $418 per course credit


Best Online Engineering Degrees:

  • Columbia University
    • Cost: $2,018 per course credit
  • University of California–Los Angeles
    • Cost: $1,000 per course credit
  • University of Southern California
    • Cost: $2,005 per course credit


Best Online Nursing Degrees:

  • Johns Hopkins University
    • Cost: $1,639 per course credit
  • Ohio State University
    • Cost: $958 per course credit
  • St. Xavier University
    • Cost: $750 per course credit



University of the People

Seeing as how many of the top international programs are a bit on the pricey side, South Africans should consider the option of a tuition-free degree. University of the People is a fully online, US accredited, tuition-free university that offers students from all countries the opportunity to study from anywhere in the world. While we are tuition-free, exam fees do apply and exams can also be taken in your home country. Location is not an issue when it comes to studying at University of the People!


There are programs available at the Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s levels. Currently, there are degrees in Computer Science, Health Science, Business Administration, and Education are available. Sound interesting? See how earning a degree with UoPeople can change your life!