What are the Largest Universities in South Africa?

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Universities in south africa students population

South Africa has 26 public universities which 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 its 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 in excess of 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.

UniversityLocationNo. of students
University of South Africa (UNISA)
Pretoria400,000
North-West UniversityPotchefstroom74,355
University of Pretoria Pretoria50,000
Tshwane University of Technology Pretoria50,000
University of JohannesburgJohannesburg48,500
University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban and Pietermaritzburg40,000
University of the Free State Bloemfontein33,000
Cape Peninsula University of Technology Cape Town33,000
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg32,703
University of StellenboschStellenbosch30,150
University of Cape Town Cape Town26,322
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Port Elizabeth and George26,000
Walter Sisulu UniversityEast London and Mthatha25,000
Durban University of Technology Durban and Pietermaritzburg25,000
University of LimpopoTurfloop and Pretoria20,000
Vaal University of Technology Johannesburg17,000
University of ZululandEmpangeni16,100
University of the Western Cape Tygerberg, Cape Town15,200
Central University of Technology Bloemfontein13,534
University of Fort Hare Alice and East London12,000
University of Venda Thohoyandou12,000
Mangosuthu University of Technology Umlazi, Durban10,000
Rhodes University Grahamstown7,000
Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences UniversityPretoria5,060
University of MpumalangaMbombela140
Sol Plaatje UniversityKimberley135

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