South Africa

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To view the virtual HE initiatives, go to the Virtual Initiatives in South Africa Re.ViCa page.

by Nikki Cortoos, with Tom Levec and Nick Jeans

For entities in South Africa see Category:South Africa


Partners and Experts situated in South Africa

  • Herman J. van der Merwe, North West University, South Africa
  • Ariellah Rosenberg, ORT SA
  • Laura Czerniewicz, Director of the Centre for Educational Technology (CET) at the University of Cape Town.

South Africa in a nutshell

Map of South Africa

The Republic of South Africa (also known by other official names) is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. South Africa's coast borders both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north of South Africa lie Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland, while the Kingdom of Lesotho is an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory.

South Africa is known for its diversity, and eleven official languages are recognised in its constitution. English is the most commonly spoken language in official and commercial public life, however it is only the fifth most spoken home language.

South Africa is ethnically diverse, with the largest Caucasian, Indian, and racially mixed communities in Africa. Although 79.6% of South Africa's population is Black, this category is neither culturally nor linguistically homogeneous, as they speak a number of different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status.

Population (2010): 49.99 million. Composition--black 79.4%; white 9.2%; colored 8.7%; Asian (Indian) 2.7%. (2010 Mid-Year Population Estimate Report at This makes it quite large compared with the typical European country.

The main Cities are: Capitals--administrative, Pretoria; legislative, Cape Town; judicial, Bloemfontein. Other cities--Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth.

(Above section adapted from and

Education in South Africa

In recent history, South Africa has seen major changes, both in governments, society and education as the Apartheid only came to a halt in 1994. Apartheid was a government-enforced system of racial segregation which had a very limiting impact on the everyday life, living areas, job opportunities and education of coloured people in South Africa. An example of this is the Bantu Education Act of 1953 (No. 47) which enforced racial segregation in education. The Apartheid lasted from 1948 to 1994, after which the Constitution was established and the educational system was revised to improve racial diversity and equality in education.

Document of relevance:

The Bill of Rights, contained in the Constitution, 1996, even mentions the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices (Section 29. Paragraph 2.3 ).

The Bill stipulates that everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and further education, which the State, through reasonable measures, must progressively make available and accessible: 28. Children: Every child has the right (...) not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that ­(...) place at risk the child's well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development; 29. Education:

  1. Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education; and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible."
  2. Everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. In order to ensure the effective access to, and implementation of, this right, the state must consider all reasonable educational alternatives, including single medium institutions, taking into account equity; practicability; and the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices.
  3. Everyone has the right to establish and maintain, at their own expense, independent educational institutions that do not discriminate on the basis of race; are registered with the state; and maintain standards that are not inferior to standards at comparable public educational institutions.
  4. Subsection (3) does not preclude state subsidies for independent educational institutions.

Sources & Related Documents:

The Council for Higher Education (CHE) has also published the Ministry of Education's Language Policy Framework for South African Higher Education (PDF) in 2001, which has the promotion of multilingualism as a central aspect. It also affects the language of each qualification certificate and transcript issued to a student within the South African higher education system, as stated in the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF) (PDF), 2007.

The National Education Policy Act, 1996 (Act 27 of 1996), empowers the Minister of Education to determine national norms and standards for education planning, provision, governance, monitoring and evaluation. The South African government is divided into departments instead of what we call Ministries. Department of Education is responsible for formulating policy, setting norms and standards, and monitoring and evaluating all levels of education and also in funding Higher Education Institutions through subsidies and by providing financial support to students through National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

The government puts its focus on equity, quality of teaching and learning and literacy. As the Department of Education states on its site:

"Our vision is of a South Africa in which all our people have access to lifelong education and training opportunities, which will in turn contribute towards improving the quality of life and building a peaceful, prosperous and democratic society" and part of its mission is "creating a vibrant further education and training system to equip youth and adults to meet the social and economic needs of the 21st century."

In 1994 The government-in-waiting’s commitment to increasing access to education through the use of distance education methods was evident in the 1994 Policy Framework for Education and Training (ANC Education Department, Johannesburg):

The development of a well-designed and quality distance education system based on the principles of open learning is the only feasible approach to meeting the needs of the vast numbers of our people who were systematically deprived of educational opportunity in the past, while at the same time providing opportunities for the youth coming up through the educational system at present. It will allow people access to education and training and the ability to determine where, when, what and how they want to learn (ANC, 1994:78).
Source: Designing and Delivering Distance Education: Quality Criteria and Case Studies from South Africa. Section One (PDF - EN - 17 pages, by Tessa Welch and Yvonne Reed with NADEOSA Quality Criteria Task Team

Formal education in South Africa is categorised according to three levels – General Education and Training (GET), Further Education and Training (FET) and Higher Education (HE). By mid-2007, the South African public-education system had 12,3 million learners, 387 000 educators, 26 592 schools, 2 278 Abet centres, 50 public FET institutions, 4 800 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and 23 HE institutions.

There are also policy frameworks in South Africa that focus on inclusion such as the Policy Framework on HIV and AIDS in October 2008, which was adopted by the Minister of Education (Naledi Pandor in 2009), and the 23 public sector higher education institutions in South Africa. HEAIDS is South Africa’s nationally co-ordinated, comprehensive and large-scale effort designed to develop and strengthen the capacity, the systems, and the structures of all HEIs in managing and mitigating the causes, challenges and consequences of HIV/AIDS in the sector and to strengthen the leadership role that can and should be played by the HE sub-sector.

Source: Higher Education South Africa (HESA) > HEAIDS, Strategic framework 2006-2009 and beyond (PDF).

Related document: HESA > Press Release > SA higher education adopts policy framework to mitigate HIV and AIDS at institutions (PDF), Oct. 2008

Councils and advocacy groups:

Related Documents:

South Africa education system

The Constitution has vested substantial power in the provincial legislatures and governments to run educational affairs (other than universities and universities of technology), subject to a national policy framework. The national Department of Education is responsible for formulating policy, setting norms and standards, and monitoring and evaluating all levels of education. It also funds HE institutions through subsidies and by providing financial support to students through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Source: South African Government Information - National and Provincial Departments

Formal education in South Africa is categorised according to three levels:

  1. General Education and Training (GET): consists of the Reception Year (Grade R) and schooling up to Grade 9 and the equivalent Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) qualification.
  2. Further Education and Training (FET): consists of grades 10 to 12 in schools and all education and training from the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels 2 to 4 (equivalent to grades 10 to 12 in schools), and the N1 to N6 in FET colleges. After completion of level 1 of the NQF, a learner could achieve a GETC and after completion of level 4 of the NQF, an FETC.
  3. Higher Education (HE): consists of a range of degrees, diplomas and certificates up to and including post-doctoral degrees

Educational levels

Band Age School grade NQF Level Qualification Type
Higher Education and Training 21 8 Post-doctoral research degrees (Postgraduate Diploma, Bachelor Honours Degree at Exit Level 8)
Masters degrees
20 7 Professional Qualifications / Post Graduate Certificate
Honours degrees (Advanced Diploma, Bachelor\'s Degree at NQF Exit Level 7)
19 6 National first degrees
Higher diplomas (Advanced Certificate, Diploma at NQF Exit level 6)
18 5 National diplomas
National certificates (Higher Certificate at NQF Exit Level 5)
Further Education and Training 17 12 4 National certificates
16 11 3
15 10 2
General Education and Training (ABET Level 4) 14 9 1
13 8
12 7
11 6
10 5
9 4
8 3
7 2
6 1
5 0/R Grade R (reception year)
Legenda Compulsory education
  • The age of a child entering grade 1 is age five turning six by 30 June in the year of admission.
  • Grade R (reception year) or grade 0, the age is four turning five by 30 June in the year of admission.
  • Grade 12 is the year of matriculation: the final exams of high school are administered by the government and are called "matric exams" so students in the final year of high school (grade 12 or the matriculation grade) are known as "matrics" and if they pass these exams they are called matriculants or it's said that they "matriculated". Becoming a matriculant is required (with certain minimum conditions) for tertiary education. Some private schools also offer a post-matric "sixth form" year which allows students to sit for A-level examinations.

Source: Plan of Action Improving access to free and quality basic education for all (PDF), June 2003 by the Department of Education

Teacher-student ratio

There is usually some correlation between class size and fees. The average teacher-to-pupil ratio in state schools is 1:33, as compared with 1:18 in private schools. At those state-aided schools where parents pay for extra teachers by way of school fees, and at the more expensive private schools, the maximum number of pupils is usually about 30. At poorer schools this is often higher, with as many as 40 to 50 children in a classroom.


Distance education in primary education

OLSET is a provider of Open and Distance Learning in South Africa specifically for primary school children. Committed to the goal of 'Education for All', OLSET, a South African-based NGO working in collaboration with the country's National and Provincial Departments of Education, actively supports the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through the considerable geographic outreach of its Interactive Radio Learning Programme. In 2008-9 OLSET's English In Action Radio Learning Programme reached over 1.8 million learners and 52,000 teachers in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. A highly-regarded education provider, OLSET has worked and works in collaboration with, inter alia, South African Provincial Departments of Education, South African Broadcasting Corporation, UNICEF/Operation Lifeline Sudan, UNESCO IICBA, the British Council, DFID and the BBC.


The Department of Education established the Thutong portal, with the aim to aims to improve learning in the country through appropriate use of technology. It offers free educational resources, policy information, and interactive services concerning all aspects of the South African Schooling Sector. Source:

There are organisations that are trying to enhance education with digital resources and connectivity such as the e-Schools' Network, founded in 1993 is a non-profit, self-funded, organisation that provides 1700 schools and the FET College community e-services such as SchoolMail, (a mailbox for each learner and educator in a school), connectivity and communication solutions and training support. Source:

The Further Education & Training (FET) institutions were affected by restructuring as they were reduced from 152 to 50 institutions.

Source: South African Government - Information about Education:

Schools in South Africa

All South Africans have the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and further education. According to the Bill of Rights of the country's Constitution, the state has an obligation, through reasonable measures, to progressively make this education available and accessible. Under the South African Schools Act of 1996, education is compulsory for all South Africans from the age of seven (grade 1) to age 15, or the completion of grade 9. General Education and Training also includes Adult Basic Education and Training.

School life spans 13 years or grades, from grade 0, otherwise known as grade R or "reception year", through to grade 12 or "matric" – the year of matriculation. Grades 1 to 9 are compulsory, and classified as General Education and Training. Grades 10 to 12 are considered to be Further Education and Training. Grade 12 is the year of matriculation, which is required (with certain minimum conditions) for tertiary education. Some private schools also offer a post-matric "sixth form" year which allows students to sit for A-level examinations.

The Ministry of Basic Education focuses on adult basic education and training in addition to primary and secondary education. The central government provides a national framework for school policy, but administrative responsibility lies with the provinces. Power is further devolved to grassroots level via elected school governing bodies, which have a significant say in the running of their schools. Private schools and higher education institutions have some autonomy, but are expected to fall in line with some government policies – no child may be excluded from a school on grounds of his or her race or religion, for example.

The Further Education and Training (FET) branch is responsible for the development of policy for grades 10 to 12 in public and independent schools, as well as in public and private FET colleges. It monitors the integrity of assessment in schools and colleges, and offers an academic curriculum as well as a range of vocational subjects. FET colleges cater for out-of-school youth and adults. It also oversees, coordinates and monitors the system’s response to improved learner participation and performance in maths, science and technology. It also devises strategies aimed at the use of information and communication technology (ICT), and supports curriculum implementation through the national educational portal, Thutong (Setswana, meaning "place of learning").

The breakdown of schools includes 26 065 ordinary schools and 9 166 other education institutions – including special schools, early childhood development (ECD) sites, public adult basic education and training (ABET) centres, public further education and training (FET) institutions and public higher education (HE) institutions.

The total of 26 065 ordinary schools comprised 15 358 primary schools, with 6 316 064 pupils and 191 199 teachers; 5 670 secondary schools, with 3 831 937 pupils and 128 183 teachers; and 5 037 combined and intermediate schools, with 2 253 216 pupils and 74 843 teachers.

Other educational facilities include 2 278 ABET centres, 50 public FET institutions, 4 800 ECD centres and 23 HE institutions.

In state-funded public schools, the average ratio of pupils to teachers is 31.5 to one, while private schools generally have one teacher for every 17.5 pupils.

Compared with most other countries, education gets a large proportion of public spending – usually around 20% of total state expenditure. The greatest challenges lie in the poorer, rural provinces like the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Schools are generally better resourced in the more affluent provinces such as Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Illiteracy rates currently stand at around 18% of adults over 15 years old (about 9-million adults are not functionally literate), teachers in township schools are poorly trained, and the matriculation pass rate remains low.

A small selection of schools is:

  • Secondary schools involved in the NEPAD e-schools Initiative:
    • Isiphosethu High School
    • Thozamisa High School
    • Lomahasha Secondary School
    • Ipetleng Secondary School
    • Hendrick Makapan High School
    • Maripe Secondary School
  • Secondary schools involved in the iSchoolAfrica:
    • Thuto-Lesedi Secondary School, Vosloorus
    • Sunward Park High School, Boksburg
    • Tembisa Secondary School
    • Unity Secondary School, Daveyton
    • Germiston High School
    • Lethulwazi Secondary School, Vosloorus
    • General Smuts High School
    • Jeppe High School for Girls, Kensington
    • National School of the Arts, Braamfontein
    • Buhlebuzile Secondary School , Thokoza
    • Alabama Combined School, Klerksdorp
    • Are Fadimeheng Secondary, Klerksdorp
    • Technical High School, Klerksdorp
    • Sacred Heart College
    • Zonkizizwe Secondary, Katlehong
    • Kingsmead College, Rosebank
    • BEDU Schools
    • Khanya: Western Cape Education Department Technology in Education Project Sponsored Schools:
    • Wynberg High School
    • Cedar High School
    • Hatlani Muyexe Secondary, Muyexe
    • Dysselsdorp Secondary, Dysselsdorp

Further and Higher education

The Wikipedia List of universities in South Africa is informative at a general level as well as for details. It also provides comprehensive listings of the many other providers both domestic and foreign.

Public universities in South Africa are divided into: traditional universities, which offer theoretically-oriented university degrees; universities of technology, which offer practically-oriented diplomas and degrees in technical fields; while the list on Wikipedia also makes a distinction for comprehensive universities (indicated with a star), which offer a combination of both types of qualification.

There are also a large number of other educational institutions in South Africa - some are local campuses of foreign universities, or foreign HEIs that conduct classes for students who write their exams at the distance-education University of South Africa while other institutions offer unaccredited diplomas.

In 2004 South Africa started reforming its higher education system, merging the (university and non-university) HEIs into larger, regional unitary institutions which also caused a renaming of the so-called Technikons to Universities of Technology.

More information about this reform can be found on this page under the section on Higher education reform

Universities in South Africa

  1. Virtual University (VU5), (Knysna)
  2. University of Cape Town (UCT), (Cape Town)
  3. University of Fort Hare (UFH), (Alice), (East London)
  4. University of the Free State (UOVS), (Bloemfontein)
  5. University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), (Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Pinetown, Westville)
  6. University of Limpopo, (Polokwane, Ga-Rankuwa)
  7. North-West University (NWU), (Mafikeng, Mankwe, Potchefstroom, Vanderbijlpark)
  8. University of Pretoria (UP), (Pretoria)
  9. Rhodes University (RU), (Grahamstown)
  10. University of Stellenbosch (SUN), (Stellenbosch)
  11. University of the Western Cape (UWC), (Cape Town)
  12. University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), (Johannesburg)
  13. University of Johannesburg (UJ), (Johannesburg) *
  14. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), (Port Elizabeth) *
  15. University of South Africa (UNISA), (Pretoria - Distance Education) *
  16. University of Venda (Univen), (Thohoyandou) *
  17. Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science (WSU), (Buffalo City, Butterworth, Mthatha, Queenstown) *
  18. University of Zululand (Unizulu), (Empangeni) *

Universities of Technology (Polytechnics) in South Africa

There are 6 Universities of Technology (previously known as Technikons)

  1. Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), (Bellville, Cape Town)
  2. Central University of Technology (CUT), (Bloemfontein, Welkom)
  3. Durban University of Technology (DUT), (Durban, Pietermaritzburg)
  4. Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), (Durban)
  5. Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) (Pretoria)
  6. Vaal University of Technology (VUT), (Vanderbijlpark)

Relevant sources:

Colleges in South Africa

Notable provider

CIDA Foundation UK is a university that enables previously disadvantaged learners from taking up Higher Education. It depends on funding and sponsoring from companies and individuals and demands from its students that they go to their own communities and educate their peers. [..] The students to fully appreciate their education they all contribute financially towards tuition: £31 in total for year one, and £13 per month in years two to four. This is 6% of the cost of attending other universities in South Africa. [..] Students also help to run the campus by dedicating a minimum of five hours of their time each week. At the end of the course, rather than paying back a loan, students are encouraged to "pay it forward" by committing to funding another student from their hometown after they graduate and become employed.

Source: CIDA - About Us - Fees (web page)

Relevant document: Register of Private Higher Education Institutions, 13 July 2009 (PDF - EN), 2009, by the Department of Education

Education reform


The South African Schools Act (Act 84), passed by Parliament in 1996, aims to achieve greater educational opportunities for black children. This Act mandated a single syllabus and more equitable funding for schools.

While 65% of whites over 20 years old and 40% of Indians have a high school or higher qualification, this figure is only 14% among blacks and 17% among the coloured population.

The government is in particular targeting education for the poorest, with two notable programmes. One is fee-free schools, institutions that receive all their required funding from the state and so do not have to charge school fees. These have been identified in the country's most poverty-stricken areas, and made up 40% of all schools in 2007.

The other is the National Schools Nutrition Programme, which feeds about 7-million schoolchildren every day, including all those attending primary schools in 13 rural and eight urban poverty nodes. The programme was extended in 2009 to 1 500 secondary schools around the country, feeding 1-million secondary school pupils from grades 8 to 12. Under the programme, the Department of Education has also established almost 2 100 school gardens with the support of the Department of Agriculture, local government structures and a number of NGOs. In July 2010, the government announced plans to get more than 200 000 children between the ages of seven and fifteen enrolled in school by 2014 by increasing the number of no-fee schools, while widening feeding schemes.

Other priorities include early childhood development, HIV/Aids awareness programmes in schools, and adult basic education and training.

From 2010, all grade three, six and a sample of grade nine learners write annual national assessments that are independently moderated. In 2011, more than 19 000 schools participated.

Over the last 17 years, investment in education has doubled. Access to primary and secondary schooling has reached near universal enrolment figures. 98% of children from seven to 15 years are now enrolled in schools; 88% of six-year olds, and 70% of children aged four and five are in early childhood development centres.

The Department of Basic Education has set 4 targets to be achieved by 2014:

1. the number of Grade 12 learners who pass the national examinations and qualify to enter a Bachelor's programme at a university must increase from 105 000 to 175 000.

2. the number of Grade 12 learners who pass Mathematics and Physical Science must total 225 000 and 165 000 respectively.

3. the percentage of learners in grades three, six and nine in public schools who obtain the minimum acceptable mark in the national assessments for Language and Mathematics (or Numeracy) must improve from between 27% and 38% to at least 60%.

4. all children should have participated in a Grade R (Reception) programme before entering Grade One and at least 37% of children from birth to five years should have participated in an early childhood development programme. In 2009, more than 785 000 learners had access to a Grade R programme.

Starting from the 2011 academic year, government will introduce free education for the poor at undergraduate level. Students in Further Education and Training colleges who qualify for financial aid will not pay academic fees.


In 1997, the Education White Paper 3 was published with the central proposition to create a single national co-ordinated higher education system that is planned, governed and funded as a single system. To meet the transformation goals of this paper, a different HE system was necessary, as stated in the Towards a New Higher Education Landscape report (2002). This also meant that what fell under the jurisdiction of the provincial administrations was to be transferred to a national coordination.

The National Plan for Higher Education (NPHE) was set up to provide a framework for the White Paper and the National Working Group (NWG) advised the Minister of Education on the appropriate arrangements for restructuring the provision of higher education on a regional basis through the development of new institutional and organisational forms, including institutional mergers and rationalisation of programme development and delivery (the NWG warned to prevent an academic drift towards university-type programmes at the expense of technikon-type programmes). The NWG identified three main properties flowing from the principles, which it believes are critical to ensuring the “fitness for purpose” of the higher education system. These are equity, sustainability and productivity.

In 2002, The Restructuring Of The Higher Education System In South Africa elaborated in detail on the restructuring of the HEI landscape and how to merge the dispersed institutions and campuses into regional unitary institutions. It made the HEIs refocus their mission but also their campuses and programmes. Its purpose was to regulate the Higher Education System in a response to globalisation, the growing economy and the needs of South Africa. Some statements taken from the document:

  • The NWG believes that the implementation of its recommendations will result in the fundamental restructuring of the higher education system. It will transform the apartheid edifice of the higher education system and lay the foundation for a higher education system that is consistent with the vision, values and principles of our young and vibrant democratic order.
  • Distance education programmes at traditionally residential institutions should be strictly regulated as further in the document it was noted that one HEI outsourced the face-to-face guidance in its Learning Centers, therefore not ensuring quality education.
  • Apart from the one urban university and one urban technikon, and apart from the one comprehensive rural institution offering both technikon and university programmes, no other publicly funded higher education institutions should be allowed to offer programmes in the province (KwaZulu-Natal), with the exception of the new dedicated distance education institution.

The Ministry’s proposals would result in 23 higher education institutions and two National Institutes for Higher Education (outlined in Appendix 1), consisting of 11 Universities, 6 Universities of Technology (previously known as Technikons), 4 Comprehensive Institutions and 2 National Institutes for Higher Education.

The universities and technikons which were incorporated with others and thus no longer exist are listed at the end of the Wikipedia article List of universities in South Africa.

Sources and Relevant Documents:

Administration and finance


At about 5.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 20% of total state expenditure, South Africa has one of the highest rates of public investment in education in the world.

In the apartheid years, there was a separate government department for white children’s schools, black children’s schools and coloured children’s schools. The three departments had different funding available, different resources at their disposal and issued different exams.

The House of Representatives (HOR) was the department that handled coloured childrens schooling, the Department of Education and Training (DET) handled black children’s schooling and the white children’s schools were known as Model C Schools.

To this day former Model C schools still typically have the best facilities, best teachers and best educational opportunities for children. Former HOR schools, although not quite as sidelined as DET schools, still have relatively poor infrastructure and facilities. Former DET schools are by far the worst off even today.

All schools receive government funding, however former Model C schools are permitted to top up the funding with fees payable by the parents of the schools. Thus different Model C schools can have different budgets, different teacher to student ratios, and varying quality of facilities, all based on what the parents can afford.

Over and above these government funded schools are private or independent schools which receive no funding from the government and are funded entirely by fees paid by the parents.

Of the total enrolled pupils, 12 048 821 (85.0%) were in public schools and 352 396 (2.5%) were in independent schools. Of the pupils in other institutions, 761 087 (5.4%) were in public HE institutions, 320 679 (2.3%) were in public FET institutions, 292 734 (2.1%) were in public ABET centres, 289 312 (2.0%) were in ECD centres, and 102 057 (0.7%) were in special schools.


A 2004 document of the Ministry Of Education called A New Funding Framework: How Government Grants Are Allocated To Public Higher Education Institutions lists a broad summary of the ways in which funds flowed to public universities and technikons (now Universities of Technology) in South Africa:

  • 50% Government grants
  • 25% Student tuition & other fees
  • 25% Other private income

= 100% Annual funds for public higher education.

Source: > A New Funding Framework: How Government Grants Are Allocated To Public Higher Education Institutions (PDF, 2004)(Diagram 1 p. 2/20)

Funding to institutions

"South Africa has one of the highest rates of government investment in education in the world. Education was allocated R105,5 billion in 2007/08."

Source: South African Government Information - “About Education” web page

The South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) lists:

  • 5.7% Public Expenditure on Education as a % of Gross National Income (GNI)
  • 14.5% of Education budget allocated to higher education in (2008)
  • A Loan/Grant scheme is in place

Source: SARUA (2008) – Pillay report, referenced on the SARUA's South Africa web page

This table Allocation of MTEF Budgets 2006/7 to 2008/9 shows how the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budgets for the triennium 2006/07 to 2008/09 have been divided between the various categories of grant in the new funding framework:

South-Africa funding-budget.gif Source:Ministry of Education - Ministerial Statement of Higher Education Funding: 2006/7 to 2008/9 Quality Assurance (PDF), 2006

In the Department of Education's Higher Education Information Management System (HEMIS), the properties of a qualification determines the total number of units of state subsidy approved by the Minister of Education for that qualification. The record of subsidy units per qualification is an essential part of the determination of full-time equivalent student totals. In turn these enable the Department of Education to calculate the annual subsidy grant for each public higher education institution. Subsidy units are at present described for each qualification in terms of "approved total years", "approved formal years", and "approved experiential years".

Source: The Higher Education Qualifications Framework - Higher Education Act, 1997 (Act No. 101 of 1997), October 2007

Related Documents on Funding:

Bursaries for students

"In 2007/08, government allocated R1,8 billion to FET colleges. Over 25 000 students registered in newly developed technical and service skills-related programmes. Some R600 million was provided for bursaries to FET college students."

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is responsible for, among other matters, allocating loans and bursaries to eligible students in public HE.

Source: South African Government Information - “About Education” web page

Furthermore there are also several scholarship options for South African students, for example the scholarships of the Medical Research Council of South Africa (MRC)

Related Documents:

Quality assurance, inspection and accreditation


The Independent Quality Assurance Agency (IQAA) provides quality assurance through evaluation of schools, and encourages internal self-evaluation in schools. It is based in Cape Town, South Africa and operates throughout the Southern African region.


The South African Council on Higher Education (CHE) is an independent statutory body responsible for advising the Minister of Education on all matters related to higher education policy issues, and for quality assurance in higher education and training. Its statutory responsibility for the promotion and assurance of quality in higher education is carried out by one permanent sub-committee, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC). The HEQC is responsible for evaluating and reporting on the effectiveness of the quality management systems of higher education institutions in relation to assessment, short courses, certification arrangements, and recognition of prior learning (RPL).

The Higher Education Act of 1997 (reference: Higher Education Act 101 of 1997) states that the functions of the HEQC are to:

  • promote quality in higher education
  • audit the quality assurance mechanisms of higher education institutions
  • accredit programmes of higher education

National Qualifications Framework

In 2007 the Minister of Education published the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF) (PDF) as set out in the Schedule as policy in terms of section 3 of the Higher Education Act, 1997 (Act No. 101 of 1997). It recognized that separate and parallel qualifications structures for universities and technikons have hindered the articulation of programmes and transfer of students between programmes and higher education institutions. The HEQF is designed to facilitate vertical, horizontal and diagonal progression and provides the basis for integrating all higher education qualifications into the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and its structures for standards generation and quality assurance.

South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) is a body of 29 members appointed by the Ministers of Education and Labour with two major functions: to oversee first of all the development of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), and second of all the implementation of the NQF

Accumulation of credits towards qualifications

Matriculation Board is a project from Higher Education South Africa (HESA) and strives to administer the Matriculation Board regulations as required by law for the 2006 and 2007 Senior Certificate examinations, and entry into public HE in 2007 and 2008, and via HESA it advises the Minister of Education on the minimum general admission requirements for first bachelor’s degree studies.

Credit accumulation and transfer (CAT) is the process whereby a student's achievements are recognised and contribute to further learning even if the student does not achieve a qualification.

The framework has nine qualification types mapped onto the six levels of the NQF occupied by higher education qualifications. Some levels have more than one qualification type. The framework comprises the following qualification types:

  1. Undergraduate
    1. Higher Certificate (primarily vocational, or industry oriented and minimum entry requirement is National Senior Certificate)
    2. Advanced Certificate (primarily vocational, or industry oriented and minimum entry requirement is Higher Certificate)
    3. Diploma (primarily professional, vocational or industry specific and minimum entry requirement is National Senior Certificate or alternate the Higher Certificate or Advanced Certiticate in a cognate field]
    4. Advanced Diploma (minimum entry requirement is an appropriate Diploma or Bachelor's Degree)
    5. Bachelor's Degree (often referred to as "professional" Bachelor's Degrees, minimum entry requirement is the National Senior Certificate)
  2. Postgraduate (postgraduate specialisation, minimum entry requirement Bachelor Honours Degree)
    1. Postgraduate Diploma (minimum entry requirement is an appropriate Bachelor's Degree)
    2. Bachelor Honours Degree (minimum entry requirement is a Postgraduate Diploma)
    3. Masters Degree (minimum entry requirement is a Bachelor Honours Degree or alternate a "professional" Bachelor's Degree with a minimum of 96 credits at level 8 or a Postgraduate Diploma)
    4. Doctoral Degree (minimum entry requirement is a Master's Degree)

The minimum requirement for admission to a higher education institution from 1 January 2009 is the National Senior Certificate, whose specifications were approved by the Minister of Education (in the document National Senior Certificate - A qualification at level 4 on the National Qualifications Framework published in the Government Gazette, Vol. 481, 1\10. 27819, July 2005). Given the diversity of programmes and qualifications in higher education, the Minister has declared as policy the Minimum Admission Requirements for Higher Certificate/ Diploma and Bachelor's Degree Programmes (published in the Government Gazette, Vol. 482, No. 27961, August 2005) requiring a National Senior Certificate. These minima must be met by all applicants to entry level higher education qualifications. Applicants with different qualifications may only be admitted in they are judged equivalent by the designated equivalence-setting bodies.

Documents / web pages of relevance:

Information society

Organisations or Councils

  • SchoolNet SA is a non-profit educational organisation that creates learning communities of educators and learners who use ICT to enhance education in South Africa. Since 1997 SchoolNet SA manages a variety of projects covering all aspects of the use of ICTs, directed mainly at historically disadvantaged schools in South Africa.
  • The African Council for Distance Education (ACDE)(Kenya) is a continental educational organization comprising African universities and other higher education institutions, which are committed to expanding access to quality education and training through open and distance learning. Prof. Barney Pityana, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, Univ. of South Africa is Chairman of the board.

Umbrella institutions

Documents of relevance:

ICT in education initiatives

In all the different facets of the ICTs for education prism, South Africa boasts about two decades of accumulated experience from its wide range of projects and programmes pioneered by noteworthy champions across the stakeholder spectrum of communities, the private sector, civil society, donor, development, and government agencies.

ICT education policies are embedded within a broader national government economic, social, and development strategy which includes:

  • Attention at the highest level in government to the role of ICTs in the promotion of economic growth, job creation, social development, and global competitiveness
  • Linkages of South Africa’s strategy to a broader pan-African mandate as expressed in the commitment to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme and its dedicated project promoting e-schooling
  • Overhaul in the education and skills development system at all levels
  • A dedicated policy on the transformation of learning and teaching through the use of ICTs, particularly in the formal schools

Education Network and E-rate

The Department of Communications (DOC) leads all ICT initiatives in South Africa through its Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECA) of 2002, which is an extension of its Telecommunications Act of 1996 and 2001 and which promotes the establishment of a Universal Service Agency (now referred to as the Universal Service and Access Agency of Southern Africa (USAASA), a Universal Service Fund, an Education Network (EduNet), and an “e-rate,” all of which serve at least conceptually to support access to and use of ICTs in education institutions.

The Education Network is to be an entity that would network all public schools and education and training institutions. The e-rate allows discounted access to Internet services to education institutions in South Africa. Section 73 of the ECA states that Internet services provided to all public schools and all public further education and training institutions must be provided at a minimum discounted rate of 50% of the total charge levied by the licensee. The discount includes, but is not limited to, any connectively charges for access to the Internet, charges for any equipment used for or in association with connectivity to the Internet, and all calls made to an ISP.

E-education White Paper

Policy development on ICTs in education date back to 1995, with the establishment of the Technology Enhanced Learning Initiatives (TELI) which was followed by the Feasibility Study for the Establishment of a Dedicated Educational Channel. In 2001, the National Department of Education and the Department of Communication jointly released a Strategy for Information and Communication Technology in Education, which is believed to have laid the basis for the e-Education White Paper adopted in 2004.

The goal of the policy is that every learner in the primary and secondary school sectors should be ICT capable by 2013. To achieve this, schools are expected to be developed into e-schools consisting of a community of both teachers and learners. E-schools are further defined as having:

  • Learners who utilise ICTs to enhance learning
  • Qualified and competent leaders who use ICTs for planning, management, and administration
  • Qualified and competent teachers who use ICTs to enhance teaching and learning
  • Access to ICT resources that support curriculum delivery
  • Connections to ICT infrastructure

In such institutions, the teachers and learners are be able to function across three dimensions:

  • Operational – referring to skills to use ICTs
  • Cultural – developing cultures that support the practices of using ICTs
  • Critical – ability by teachers and learners to challenge assumptions embedded in the success stories about ICT

E-education is defined as much more than just developing computer literacy skills and the skills necessary to operate various types of ICTs. It is also the ability to:

  • Apply ICTs, access, analyse, evaluate, integrate, present, and communicate information
  • Create knowledge and information by adapting, applying, designing, inventing, and authoring information
  • Function in a knowledge society by using appropriate technology and mastering communication and collaboration skills

South Africa has a host of dispersed and unco-ordinated programmes and projects that promote education through the use of ICTs at various levels of the education system, particularly in the formal schools sector. A study by SchoolNet South Africa (2002) lists 34 different programmes and projects in the schools sector. Since then a few have fallen by the wayside and some have tended to collaborate more closely. The need for coordination remains. Some of the individual government departments of education have had their own provincial strategies, particularly in the schools sector. The major programmes in the schools sector currently underway in South Africa are listed below:

  • Community Education Computer Society (CECS) - NGO promoting access to training on ICTs in Southern Africa -
  • ICDL Foundation - Certified courses based on an end-user standard on ICTs training -
  • The AVOIR Project - The African Virtual Open Initiatives and Resources (AVOIR) Project, initiated by the University of the Western Cape (UWC), is a collaborative effort among several African higher education institutions. It attempts to create educational and business opportunities that contribute to the development of Africa through Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) development activities -
  • Sakai SA - Three South African universities, the University of Cape Town, University of South Africa and North-West University, are collaborating on the deployment and extension of the Sakai Collaboration and Learning Environment (CLE). Sakai is a global consortium of over 100 higher education institutions jointly developing an open source CLE which is used to support teaching and learning, ad hoc group collaboration, support for portfolios and research collaboration -
  • Media Works - Media Works is an established company that specialises in providing National Qualifications Framework-aligned training for Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) and learnerships. They provide both face-to-face classes and computer-assisted learning through multimedia programmes with workbooks and facilitator sessions -
  • Women’sNet - is an NGO that promotes gender equality and justice in South Africa through the use of ICTs by providing training and facilitating content dissemination and creation that supports women, girls, and women’s and gender organisations and networks to take control of their own content and ICT use -

NEPAD e-schools Initiative South Africa is home to the NEPAD e-schools Initiative, a transnational ICT technology and skills enhancement initiative by the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, the ICT arm of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) which is based in Pretoria. It initiated ICT schooling in 16 countries in Africa through the demo NEPAD e-Schools Demonstration Project. The South African secondary schools involved in the demo are:

  • Isiphosethu High School
  • Thozamisa High School
  • Lomahasha Secondary School
  • Ipetleng Secondary School
  • Hendrick Makapan High School
  • Maripe Secondary School

Mobile learning According to a survey of high-school learners in South Africa by the Youth Research Unit at the University of South Africa (UNISA) 98-99% of high school learners across all school types owned a cell phone. In South Africa, Robinson in 2010 estimates conservatively that are approximately 10- to 12-million WAP-enabled cell phone users in SA, and Goldstuck (2010) reports that for 450 000 users cell phones are the primary form of access to the Internet. According to one study by two youth marketing agencies (Student Village & Interact RDT) 78% of SA students access the internet via their cell phones.

Source: 'Mobile Is My Soul': More About Cell Phones in the South of Africa' , Laura Czerniewicz, e-Literate blog,, July 2011

Virtual initiatives in schools

iSchoolAfrica is an Apple project which supports a Youth Press Team in each participating school with hardware and software. iSchoolAfrica provides the schools with 1 mobile classroom containing 12 MacBooks with preloaded software, 12 video cameras and 1 projector, allowing learners to make movies, music, websites etc. The Youth Press Team involves teams in more than 20 schools across South Africa using the project to create newsworthy video content for TV. The Press Team project started with the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. For a list of participating schools, see iSchoolAfrica.

Thuthong Education Portal Offers a wide range of resources on teacher development, curriculum, legislation, educational policy, administration, links to external web resources on the internet and more. Requires (free) registration.

Mindset Network Mindset delivers free educational material via satellite broadcasts, with supporting multimedia material in print and on the internet. It focusses on high school, primary school and health care workers. Video content is broadcast on Mindset Learn to 1 000 high schools and over a million homes in southern Africa.

The Learning Channel Coming out of an educational series on SABC television, the Learning Channel offers free downloadable workbooks for matric subjects, as well as interactive video tutorials in a comprehensive list of subjects for sale. There are also resources in an archived site.

M-Web Learning This site requires M-Web, Tiscali or Iafrica membership and offers resources for school-goers of all ages: textbooks, past exam papers and school projects, while learners can use forum boards to ask questions of a panel of experts.

South African History Online This offers alternative perspectives of history, focusing on untold stories and giving learners a chance to construct their own oral histories. The Classroom section has comprehensive content for grades 4 to 12. There's also plenty of information for teachers, and a well-illustrated section on arts and culture. SA History Online aims to "break the silence on the historic and cultural achievements of the country’s black communities" and to celebrate the achievements of all those who "fought for the realisation of a common humanity, the building of a non-racial democracy and the celebration of our cultural diversity". ( The website is linked to a school and community-based outreach programme. Other components of the programme, which is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and Ireland Aid, include an annual history competition using television, print and radio to encourage the public to record their histories

Internet Biology Education Project The University of the Western Cape's botany department, the Western Cape Schools Network and the Western Cape education department collaborate to improve the teaching and learning of biology with online assistance. The site hosts mailing lists and newsgroups, and contains a wide range of learning and teaching materials.

South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement

Saasta, part of the National Research Foundation (NRF), aims to promote public understanding and awareness of science, engineering and technology (SET), and to make science accessible and exciting to all South Africans. It seeks to build the quantity and quality of mathematics and science outputs at school level to expand the number of learners who will become scientists and innovators. South Africa was ranked very low in the 1993 and 1998/9 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, so the work done by SAASTA’s Education Unit is seen as important in encouraging young people to become scientists and engineers. Its work can be divided into three areas:

School science support, which includes educator and learner programmes, science enrichment projects and competitions.

SET careers, which exposes learners to career opportunities in science, engineering and technology.

Science resources, which includes resources to support the school science curriculum; enrichment materials; web-based materials; and online learning.

SAASTA derives its core funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

SABC Education The SA Broadcasting Corporation's education division provides information on the SABC's various educational programmes, plus details on school competitions, school TV, games and colouring-in exercises for kids.

For further information on ICT initiatives in South Africa, follow the following websites:

Virtual initiatives in post-secondary education

To view the initiatives, go to the Virtual Initiatives in South Africa Re.ViCa page.

Lessons learnt

General lessons

Notable practices


Web sites

Documents on the government’s information and DoE web site

Documents on other web sites

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