South Africa is an attractive study destination for international students because of its world-class standards of education, affordable tuition, low cost of living, cultural diversity, and natural wonders. The country has gone through several reforms since the apartheid movement and studying in what we now know as the Rainbow Nation is sure to be an exciting and enriching educational experience.

If pursuing a degree in South Africa is something that interests you, this article would surely be of great help to you in deciding which course to take and where to enroll. Here are some of the best subjects to study in South Africa. We have also included a few insights on why we think taking these subjects would be beneficial to you as an international student as well as the top universities where you can take them.

Top Courses to Study in South Africa

1. Healthcare

The healthcare system in South Africa has been experiencing several challenges over the years such as overcrowded hospitals, poorly equipped facilities, and low doctor to population ratios. However, the government has been exerting several efforts and initiatives to improve the quality of healthcare services and healthcare education provided in the country. It has also increased government spending on structural improvement, skills development of healthcare professionals, and integrating innovative approaches to its healthcare education programs.

With healthcare being among the best subjects to study in South Africa, an uplifting and educational experience awaits international students because of their exposure to the realities, challenges, and developments in this developing country. Healthcare programs in the country provide a blend of traditional and modern teaching methods, from lectures to practical exercises, simulations, group projects, and interaction, assessment, and treatment of real patients.

Among the best universities in South Africa that offer excellent healthcare, programs is the University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria, and the University of Witwatersrand.

2. Zoology

South Africa is known for its rich and highly diverse wildlife. Its wide plains, vast forests, and wetlands are habitats for numerous land animals and plant life. Taking a zoology program in South Africa will allow you to study rare and exotic wild animals that are endemic to the region and will provide you with the unique opportunity to play an active role in addressing the country’s environmental issues.

Zoology programs are strongly focused on research and coursework for students to gain a deep understanding of the physical and internal functions of animals, how they behave and interact within their ecosystems, how human activities affect their natural habitats, and how they respond to different environmental phenomena such as climate change. They also cover mathematics, statistics, biochemistry, generics, and other relevant branches of science that would help students become well-rounded and competent individuals in their chosen careers.

Some of South Africa’s top-rated universities for studying zoology include the University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, Rhodes University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, and the University of the Free State.

3. Development Studies

Even though South Africa is one of the relatively more stable nations in the African continent, the country still has its fair share of developmental challenges that are yet to be overcome. Some of its most pressing issues include unemployment, overpopulation, poverty, and inequality. If you are interested in studying the social, economic, political, and cultural factors that drive a country’s progress, and would like to find ways to help improve people’s living conditions, then a degree in development studies is ideal for you. With South Africa as your case study, you will gain on-the-ground knowledge about the actual state of the country’s development and witness real-life situations of the communities rather than being an outside observer.

Universities in South Africa that offer development studies programs train students to think critically and dig into underlying causes to get to the root cause of different development issues. Students also collaborate with different institutions and members of communities in conducting workshops, focus group discussions, seminars, and other activities that contribute to disseminating knowledge, raising awareness, and promoting a deeper understanding of development matters to the public.

Development studies is a top subject to study in South Africa. Some of the most well-known universities that offer development studies in South Africa are the University of South Africa, the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Western Cape, Rhodes University, and the University of Fort Hare.

4. Media Studies

Having a history of oppression and hostility toward media professionals during the apartheid government, South Africa has come a long way in protecting and promoting press freedom, being among the top countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index. At present, the country has a flourishing media sector and is projected to continue growing in the coming years. With the rapid increase of internet users in the country, the media industry is also evolving from traditional forms of media such as newspapers and magazines to online media platforms. Consumer spending is also expected to increase as the demand for accessible, informative, authentic, and impactful content from audiences increases.

Media studies degrees in South Africa aim to develop students’ critical and creative communication skills and impart a deep understanding of the interconnectedness between media, communication, and society. They also seek to tackle different issues faced by the contemporary media industry and how mass media plays a significant role in a nation’s development.

Here are some of the leading universities for studying media studies in South Africa: the University of Cape Town, University of Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg, University of the Western Cape, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

5. Business

The second-largest economy in Africa, South Africa is home to approximately 50% of the companies in the continent generating more than $1 billion a year. A growing number of businesses see great potential in starting and expanding their operations in the country because of the many opportunities the country provides, including widening their customer reach toward sub-Saharan Africa. Business education in South Africa is also internationally recognized for its outstanding quality, with 3 of its business schools holding the prestigious Triple Crown status meaning they have been accredited by the three most respected international accrediting bodies for business schools, the AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS.

With business among the best subjects to study in South Africa, schools are providing a transformative learning experience for their students. Their instructors consist of business experts and executives, researchers, and leaders of organizations who play important roles in policy- and decision-making processes in their local governments. Students conduct case studies and research focusing on relevant business topics such as emerging markets, ethics, sustainability, and innovation.

Some of the business schools in South Africa known for providing top-notch business education are Rhodes Business School, Wits Business School, Gordon Institute of Business Science of the University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch Business School, and the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.


We hope that you found this article on the best subjects to study in Africa informative and helpful. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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