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Are you interested in knowing about the cheapest universities in South Africa? If so, then you are on the right page. Feel relaxed and make sure you read the article to the end.


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!


South Africa is noted for its diversity and multiculturalism. Following the end of apartheid and the establishment of equal rights for all individuals, all areas of the economy and society began to flourish. South Africa has a mixed economy with a high GDP compared to other countries in the region and is currently designated as a “newly industrialized country,” even though it still has some difficulties to address.

It is interesting to note that South Africa offers a very high standard of education even at very cheap rates. Aside its cheap educational system, it is also a beautiful and fun-filled place to be if you’re an international student.

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.

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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.

TOP 5 Cheapest Universities In South Africa

As always, the criteria with which these Universities were selected is not limited to just cheap tuition. These tertiary institutions listed here also offer quality education, and in addition, some of them have made a name for themselves through remarkable academic strides.

cheapest universities in South Africa

1. RHODES UNIVERSITY: RHODES University is one of the oldest Universities in South Africa. It was established in 1904 through funds from Rhodes Trust, and named after a woman called Cecil Rhodes. At that time, it was called Rhodes University College. It was a component college of the University of South Africa, from 1918 until 1951, when it finally became a self-standing University of its own.
Rhodes University is publicly-run and is located in Grahamstown. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Education, Law, Pharmacy, Sciences, Humanities, etc.

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For undergraduate students, the tuition fee ranges between approximately 27,000 – 31,000 Rand. For foreign students who wish to study in the University, the tuition fee ranges between 36,000 and 38,000 Rand.

cheapest universities in South Africa

2. UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN: The University of Cape Town has come a long way since 1829 when it was founded. It not only has a low-priced tuition fee but also stands as the oldest University in South Africa.

It started out as the South African College; then a standard secondary school for boys. It was in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century that it was finally upgraded to the status of a University. This was made possible due to the increased mining activities within the area, which accelerated the channeling of funds to the University. It was with these funds that the much needed development was made, thereby making it eligible for the status of a tertiary institution.

It offers degree programmes in many fields of study including; Engineering, Architecture, Accounting, Medicine, Health Sciences, Economics, Historical Studies, Religious Studies, Law, Archeology, Linguistics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Oceanography, etc.

The estimated tuition fees for undergraduate students and postgraduate students are 22,000 Rand and 60,000 – 64,000 Rand respectively. As for foreign students, tuition fees amount to 75, 000 Rand. This University also stands out on the list of best Universities globally in an impressive No. 120.

cheapest universities in South Africa

3. NELSON MANDELA METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY: Located in Port Elizabeth, a South African coastal city, Nelson Mandela University is one of the higher institutions with low tuition in the country.

The University has a long and somewhat complicated history. The beginnings of the institution can be traced back all the way to 1882, when Port Elizabeth Art School was founded. Much later, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University was formed from a fusion ofgwo institutions; the University of Port Elizabeth, and the Port Elizabeth Technikon in the year 2005. It was later renamed the Nelson Mandela University, its present name, in 2017.

Especially in recent years, it has attracted a horde of foreign students from various countries including; other African States, Belgium, France, China, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, etc.

Nelson Mandela University has distinguished itself as an institution with advanced study techniques and options, and opens its doors to new ideas in terms of creativity, innovation and technology. It challenges its students to face problems head-on, tackle them, and find solutions that are long-standing and beneficial.

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Nelson Madela University offers both undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes. The tuition fee for undergraduate courses is about 94,000 Rand, while tuition fee for postgraduate courses ranges from 18,000 – 20,000 Rand.

Courses offered in the University include; Economics, Law, Psychology, Architecture, Accounting, Languages, Medical Sciences, Computer Science, in addition to managing the Nelson Mandela Business School.

cheapest universities in South Africa

4. UNIVERSITY OF FREE STATE: The University of Free State was founded in 1904 and situated in Bloemfontein, in Free State, South Africa. It attained the status of University in 1950, and was given the name, ‘University of Orange Free State’. It was in 2001 that its current name was adopted.

They offer quality education at affordable rates. They also have favourable policies for international students although the fees for indigenous students differ from theirs. Tuition fees for indigenous undergraduate is about 17,000 Rand, while international students pay a tuition fee of about 20,000 Rand.

Courses offered in the University include; Humanities, Law, Education, Sciences, etc.

Tuition fees for indigenous students also differ from that of international students in this University. Indigenous undergraduates pay about 19,000 – 45,000 Rand, while international students pay 26,000 – 45,000 Rand. Postgraduate students on the other hand pay tuition fees of 12,500 – 22,000 Rand.

5. UNIVERSITY OF FORT HARE: University of Fort Hare was once an institution overcome by apartheid policies. However, it later became an instrument of higher education for Africans, adopting the Western learning styles and policies mostly used for the education of the majority of the Sub-Saharan part of Africa. Right from 1916 when the apartheid hold on it was overturned, it has schooled and produced many reputable men and women of the society.
Tuition fees for indigenous students also differ from that of international students in this University. Indigenous undergraduates pay about 19,000 – 45,000 Rand, while international students pay 26,000 – 45,000 Rand. Postgraduate students on the other hand pay tuition fees of 12,500 – 22,000 Rand.

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