Effective in 2004, the South African higher education system experienced a significant reform that affected how students access free education. The government merged many colleges and universities into more comprehensive universities.
It is rare to come across a university in South Africa that would state its status as tuition-free, especially for an international student. The feasible way of attending a university in SA without paying tuition is through scholarships and grants as listed in platforms like Sholars4dev and Scholarsh
Still, only some South African universities are open to this. We have saved you the stress of checking one University’s official website to the other to find info about different scholarship/financial aid offered by creating this list of the best free universities in South Africa.
Top Free South African Universities
The truth is that scholarships in South Africa for international students are limited because financial aid is reserved chiefly for South African students.
Most public university scholarships are only available to local students regarding financial aid. Hence, engaging with private organizations outside of government educational assistance has remained an option for many.
You don’t have to go through any of these long processes to enjoy free education in South Africa if you target your application to these universities:
- Cape Peninsula University of Technology
- Northwest University
- University of the Witwatersrand
- University of Kwazulu Natal
- University of Fort Hare
- University of the Western Cape (UWC)
- Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
- University of Stellenbosch
- University of Free State
NOTE: These universities have their quoted tuition fees. But they are ranked as free because they offer scholarships and financial aid (most of which are restricted to local students). International students who want to receive such a scholarship to study free at any of these universities may have to approach private organizations.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
- Cape Peninsula University of Technology Admission Requirement Page
- Cape Peninsula University of Technology Free Tuition Details page
The coming together of The Peninsula Technikon and the Cape Technikon formed the ape Peninsula University of Technology.
The University is one of the cheapest in South Africa, with opportunities for students to study free of charge through special scholarships available to locals.
The Cape Peninsula University of Technology is a relatively young institution that opened its doors as a full-fledged university in 2005. The school is now the biggest in Western Capetown in SA, with more than seventy-course programs.
Another university in South Africa with free education possibilities is the North West University, where courses primarily on Medical Sciences, Engineering, and Business, among a few others, are offered.
Northwest University is based in Potchefstroom, Mahikeng, and Vanderbijlpark, where they train more than sixty-four thousand students. The tuition fee at northwest University ranges from 31,000 to 47,000 Rand but with financial aid options.
The aim of the University, as formulated by the South African government, is to improve the quality of learning in the country, hence the affordability.
University of the Witwatersrand
- University of the Witwatersrand Admission Requirement Page
- University of the Witwatersrand Free Tuition Details page
Students at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits) pay between $2,100 and $7,500 Per year as tuition fees. The school is one of South Africa’s oldest and best-ranked universities and has been running since 1896.
The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits), is home to more international students than local ones, given that many of the 40,000 students enrolled are from other countries.
The University trains its students in various courses through five facilities of Law and management, faculties of science, faculties of engineering, the built environment, health sciences, humanities, and commerce.
It presently has five campuses in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa.
University of Kwazulu Natal
- University of Kwazulu Natal Admission Requirement Page
- University of Kwazulu Natal Free Tuition Details page
The University of Kwazulu Natal was founded about a decade ago. Its main campus is in Pietermaritzburg, Pinetown, Kwazulu Natal, Durban, and Westville regions in South Africa.
The University is one of the cheapest options for students to consider, but also made up of four tertiary colleges and five campuses.
Here, students pay about 24,000 to 54,000 Rand for undergraduate programs, while postgraduate programs are charged between 31,000 and 45,000 Rand, including Master’s and Doctorate programs.
Still, specific scholarships and financial aid are offered to make life easy for students tuition-wise at the University of Kwazulu Natal.
University of Fort Hare
- University of Fort Hare Admission Requirement Page
- University of Fort Hare Free Tuition Details page
Indigenous undergraduates at the University of Fort Hare pay about 19,000 to 45,000 Rand, while international students pay 26,000 to 45,000 Rand. The scholarship opportunities at this University favor local students more, but all students pay tuition fees of 12,500 to 22,000 Rand for postgraduate programs.
The University of Fort Hare is one of the cheapest in South Africa; that started as an institution but evolved to adopt Western learning styles and policies.
University of the Western Cape (UWC)
- University of the Western Cape (UWC) Admission Requirement Page
- University of the Western Cape (UWC) Free Tuition Details page
Considered one of South Africa’s premier institutions, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has seven faculties on community and health sciences, arts, dentistry, Law, economic and managerial sciences, natural sciences, and education.
With over 22,000 applications annually applications from students, the University is one of the cheapest, with tuition-free possibilities.
Here, students from Africa and the SADC pay local fees of between 30,140 Rand and 58,180 Rand every academic year, while international students from other countries pay an average of $4,500.
The University started in 1959 and is famous for participating in the anti-apartheid movement. The school still reeks of its campaign for equal rights to this day.
Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
- Nelson Mandela University (NMU) Admission Requirement Page
- Nelson Mandela University (NMU) Free Tuition Details page
Next on our list of free universities in South Africa is Nelson Mandela University. It currently has more than 27,00 students studying more than 500 study programs through different faculties, including education, humanities, science, Law, engineering, the built environment, business, economic sciences, health sciences, and technology.
The University has six campuses in Port Elizabeth, with another in George. NMU is a very cheap university in South Africa that comes with free-tuition opportunities for indigenous students.
The average tuition fee at Nelson Mandela University is between $1,900 and $4,500
University of Stellenbosch
- University of Stellenbosch Admission Requirement Page
- University of Stellenbosch Free Tuition Details page
This University is an excellent option if your career path is toward the Medical Research line. The University of Stellenbosch, however, offers courses like Theology and African Studies.
It is a low-tuition institution and one of the major Universities in South Africa. With tuition-free opportunities, the school is also known for its academic excellence as a research institution.
It has a globally recognized finding on tuberculosis and is welcoming to international students, given that many students enrolling in this institution are from other countries.
University of Free State
- University of Free State Admission Requirement Page
- University of Free State Free Tuition Details page
Courses offered at the University of Free State include Humanities, Law, Education, and Sciences, among many others. It is one of the higher institutions in South Africa that offers a quality education at affordable rates.
The best part about this University is its favorable policies for international students. Still, the differences between local and international students’ tuition fees remain the same.
The University of Free State opened its doors in 1904 in Bloemfontein, in Free State, South Africa. It is one of the universities worth considering if you want to study in SA on a tight budget.
Now, What next?
We have walked through some of the best universities in South Africa today, where you can access higher education without paying tuition.
It is important to reiterate that there is a level of eligibility placed on these free education opportunities, especially ones that come in the form of scholarships.
If you have selected the particular University, you want to apply to, navigate to the provided link on their admission requirement to know how high your chances are of getting accepted into these universities.
We have also provided a reference to their free tuition details page that will expose you to more info about the eligibility to study for free in any of these South African universities.
Remember that English is the official language of South Africa and is extensively spoken. But this country has eleven other official languages, including Zulu, Afrikaans, and Xhosa.
Some private and public universities would offer Afrikaans programs or have degrees taught in English and another language.
So before applying, another thing to be sure of is the facts about the major you want to pursue.
- Language through which these courses are offered
- Nature of the degree programs offered
- Location of the University