South Africa has 26 public universities that are distributed within all nine provinces of South Africa.
Each province has at least one university, with Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape provinces having just acquired their own institutions during 2014/2015.
Pretoria is home to as many as five universities, despite its relative size (2.1 million people) when compared to Johannesburg (9.4 million), and Cape Town (3.7 million).
Cape Town has three universities, housing the best university in South Africa and Africa at large, which is UCT. Cape Town has an additional university nearby in Stellenbosch.
Johannesburg is serviced by three universities, while Bloemfontein and Durban each have two.
South Africa’s universities accommodate over 1 million students, with plans by the South African government to add 500,000 to that total by 2030.
A tally of the most accurate figures shows that 25 of the 26 schools have a combined total exceeding 622,000.
That said, what is the largest university in South Africa?
The largest university in South Africa in terms of student population is the University of South Africa (UNISA) with over 400,000 students.
The country’s universities are divided into the following categories:
- 9 universities of technology focused on vocationally oriented education;
- 6 comprehensive universities offering a combination of academic and vocational diplomas and degrees;
- 11 traditional universities offering theoretically oriented university degrees.
The table below lists the public universities in SA and their student population.
|University||Location||No. of students|
|University of South Africa (UNISA)||Pretoria||400,000|
|University of Pretoria||Pretoria||50,000|
|Tshwane University of Technology||Pretoria||50,000|
|University of Johannesburg||Johannesburg||48,500|
|University of KwaZulu-Natal||Durban and Pietermaritzburg||40,000|
|University of the Free State||Bloemfontein||33,000|
|Cape Peninsula University of Technology||Cape Town||33,000|
|University of the Witwatersrand||Johannesburg||32,703|
|University of Stellenbosch||Stellenbosch||30,150|
|University of Cape Town||Cape Town||26,322|
|Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University||Port Elizabeth and George||26,000|
|Walter Sisulu University||East London and Mthatha||25,000|
|Durban University of Technology||Durban and Pietermaritzburg||25,000|
|University of Limpopo||Turfloop and Pretoria||20,000|
|Vaal University of Technology||Johannesburg||17,000|
|University of Zululand||Empangeni||16,100|
|University of the Western Cape||Tygerberg, Cape Town||15,200|
|Central University of Technology||Bloemfontein||13,534|
|University of Fort Hare||Alice and East London||12,000|
|University of Venda||Thohoyandou||12,000|
|Mangosuthu University of Technology||Umlazi, Durban||10,000|
|Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University||Pretoria||6,558|
|University of Mpumalanga||Mbombela||1400|
|Sol Plaatje University||Kimberley||1350|
Frequently asked questions
How many universities are in South Africa?
South Africa has 26 public universities. They are distributed within all nine provinces of South Africa. Each province has at least one university, with Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape provinces having just acquired their own institutions during 2014/2015.
Which university has the most students in South Africa?
The University of South Africa, UNISA has the most number of students with over 400,000 student population. UNISA is followed by North-West University with 74,000 students.
What is the number 1 university in South Africa?
The University of Cape Town is the number 1 university in South Africa. Most of the rankings out there confirm that the University of Cape Town is the top university in South Africa. UCT has maintained the highest rank spot for several years now in a row.
What is the oldest university in South Africa?
University of Cape Town, UCT is South Africa’s oldest university. It was founded in 1829. It has a picturesque campus in the Western Cape Province, on the slopes of Table Mountain’s Devil’s Peak.
Which university is the most expensive in South Africa?
The average full cost of study at all the universities from 2019 preliminary came from data collected from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, and how much the scheme is paying for a full cost of study for students across institutions.
The top five institutions, out of the 26, that rank high in terms of the full cost of study according to the data are:
|Universities in SA||Fees|
|1||University of Cape Town||R148,159|
|3||University of Pretoria||R113,593|
Which is the cheapest university in South Africa?
Here is a list of the Cheapest Universities in South Africa according to the 2019 data from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
|1||University of Limpopo||R67,425|
|2||Vaal University of Technology||R54,502|
|3||Central University of Technology||R54,402|
|4||Durban University of Technology||R53,161|
|5||University of South Africa||R14,833|
How many university students are there in South Africa?
The total number of university students in South Africa exceeds 1 million. 25 of the 26 schools have a combined total exceeding 622,000. 700,000 students are registered at more than 50 higher education training colleges (TVET colleges). An additional 90,000 students can be found at various private institutions. The SA government plans to add 500,000 to that total by 2030.
What is the biggest university campus in South Africa?
The University of Pretoria has the biggest university campus in South Africa. It has seven campuses across the city. Main (Hatfield) Campus, Hillcrest Campus, Groenkloof Campus, Prinshof Campus, Onderstepoort Campus, and Mamelodi Campus.