If there’s any nation most welcoming to students of different backgrounds, it is the Republic of South Africa. The country is often called the “rainbow nation” because of its cultural diversity that remained strong from the apartheid days until the present.

Besides a multicultural environment, South Africa is also known for its mineral-rich soils and varied natural wonders, home to rich and diverse wildlife. The region boasts cosmopolitan cities like Cape Town, where students enjoy cultural sites, world-class restaurants, and state-of-the-art universities. Putting all these reasons together, the country has become one of the most ideal study destinations for international students. In this article, we will be looking at the best universities in South Africa for international students.

Top Universities in South Africa for International Students

1. University of Cape Town (UCT)

The University of Cape Town is the best university in South Africa regarded for its cutting-edge teaching and research with a multinational community. It offers degrees in six faculties, which are the Sciences, Engineering, and Humanities, and the especially high-ranking Medicine, Law, and Commerce. It is also the only African university in the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF) which consists of only 26 top higher education institutions in the world.

The UCT campus sits on the Rhodes Estate where students can see a majestic part of the Cape Town mountains and a top tourist site, the Devil’s Peak. The beautiful campus welcomes nearly 30000 students, with 17% international learners, researchers, faculty, and staff. The UCT academic community is committed to creating African-based solutions to relevant global problems like climate change and urbanization.

2. University of the Witwatersrand

The University of the Witwatersrand, commonly known as Wits University, is a public research institution in Johannesburg city. It was first established as the South African School of Mines in 1896 and has since managed provincial heritage sites, museums on geosciences, and research and excavation activities. Nonetheless, Wits University performs strongly in a variety of disciplines, including humanities, health sciences, and commerce, law & management. The former president Nelson Mandela studied law in the university.

This top university in South Africa is located in the country’s largest city and one of the biggest urban centers in the world. Students, researchers, and the faculty have many opportunities to engage in collaborative programs as the several industry sectors are within reach.

3. Stellenbosch University (SU)

Stellenbosch University is one of the oldest universities in South Africa, which received a full university status at the same time as the University of Cape Town. It is organized into ten faculties and manages over 40 research centers and institutions. International students coming to SU have a variety of study areas to choose from. These are the sciences, arts & social sciences, economic & management sciences, agrisciences, education, engineering, theology, and law.

Stellenbosch University promotes multilingualism with its Language Policy to increase equitable access on the campus. Classes are held in Afrikaans and English, and students can submit their school works in any of the two languages. Furthermore, SU’s campus includes several libraries, a botanical garden, a conservatory, and sports facilities to provide a holistic academic experience.

4. University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)

The University of KwaZulu-Natal, one of the best universities in South Africa for international students, is state-funded and known as the second most productive institution of research output. It comprises four colleges: Humanities, Health Sciences, Law & Management Studies, and Agriculture, Engineering & Science. The university collaborates with over 250 international institutions for academic projects at a global scale.t also has links to several industry sectors locally, showing its commitment to improving the community.

UKZN provides a dynamic teaching and innovation environment in all its five campuses in the region. Learning takes place, not just in lecture halls, but in the university’s extensive cultural, sporting, and extramural activities.

5. Durban University of Technology (DUT)

Durban University of Technology was formed from a merger of the ML Sultan and Technikon Natal, two institutions known for inclusive education. From then on, this top university in South Africa has offered exemplary degree programs across six faculties, including applied sciences, health sciences, management sciences, engineering, accounting, and arts & design. DUT also launched its Business School in 2021, where it offers short-learning courses to MBA programs.

DUT has five campuses spread out in cities Durban and Pietermaritzburg. These campuses house modern teaching, research, and recreational facilities. Students also have access to entrepreneurial centers and social incubators for them to develop sustainable enterprises for the community.

FAQs about Studying in South Africa

Is South Africa Good for International Students to Study In?

South Africa has some of the world’s leading universities offering internationally recognized degree programs. The country has 11 official languages, another enriching experience for any foreign national. One of these official languages is English, which is the primary medium of instruction in South African universities.

Studying in South Africa is more affordable than in other conventional locations like the UK or the US. Fees may vary per institution, and international students pay double the amount compared to local students. Nonetheless, they only need to prepare around 3000 USD to 3600 USD per study program at the undergraduate level and between 1400 USD to 3900 USD per year at the master’s level.

Can International Students Work in South Africa While Studying?

Having a job immerses students to the culture of South Africa, that’s why many foreign nationals wish to take employment while they finish their degrees. The extra wages can also help them with their study needs. Fortunately, international students in the country can work during their studies as long as their student visas are valid. However, they may only work up to 20 hours per week. The conditions of their employment must strictly be “part-time” only.

Can International Students Stay in South Africa After Graduation?

International graduates who wish to stay in South Africa need to obtain another form of residence visa to replace their student visa. Foreign nationals have many options, such as a Relatives’ visa or Exchange visa for cultural purposes. But university graduates apply for a General Work Visa or Critical Skills work visa depending on their field of expertise. Both of these permits are valid for five years.

After five years, foreign nationals are eligible to apply for permanent residency. Another five years after this, they can become citizens of the country through naturalization. More information can be found at the Department of Home Affairs website.


We hope that this article on the best universities in South Africa for international students was helpful! If you’re interested in studying abroad, make sure to 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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