How to apply for a South African Study Permit
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International students should apply for a Study Permit at the South African High Commission, Embassy, Consulate or Trade Mission in their country of origin.

If there is no South African representative, prospective students must apply to the South African High commission, Embassy, Consulate or Trade Mission nearest to their home country. It is imperative that students await the outcome of this application for a Study Permit in their own country of residence or origin.

Study permits are issued for a programme of study at a specific institution. International students should obtain a new permit only if they wish to change institutions.

Once you have confirmed your acceptance of the formal offer from the university or university of technology, you can make your application for a Study Visa. New South African legislation aimed at streamlining your application came into effect in 2003. Information is available on: and also on You should contact the South African Embassy for full details about applying for a Study Permit.

Prospective international students are advised to submit their Study Permit documentation as soon as possible. It normally takes at least six to eight weeks for applications to be processed. The institution (university or university of technology) in South Africa cannot register a student until a valid Study Permit has been produced. Passports with the valid study permit must be presented to the host institution during registration.

Minimum general entrance requirements

In terms of the current legislation and regulations, the minimum general admission requirements for first degree studies at public South African universities are: a Senior Certificate with a Matriculation endorsement issued by the South African Certification Council; or a certificate of complete or conditional exemption from the endorsement requirement issued by the Matriculation Board on behalf of the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors’ Association (SAUVCA).

Universities of Technology
The minimum entrance qualification for a public university of technology (previously technikon) course is a National Senior Certificate or equivalent as approved by the Committee of Technikon Principals. However, certain courses require additional entrance qualifications or a specified minimum level of achievement within the general entrance qualification.

Universities of technology are geared to respond to public demand for courses that are needed and will devise short courses specifically to meet such needs. Most universities of technology in South Africa offer degree programmes in various fields of study which have replaced many of the previous Advanced Diploma programmes. The minimum study period for the BTech is four years although in most cases there are exit points at lower levels enabling students to enter a career at an earlier stage of their study lives. Universities of Technology should be contacted to establish for which courses a National Certificate (after one year) and a National Higher Certificate (after two years) are offered as lower exit levels. The National diploma (after three years) still remains a major exit point in the University of Technology qualification hierarchy.

Note: Details concerning the latest matriculation endorsement requirements and regulations for the issue of certificates of exemption (including the fees payable and the application forms) are contained on the Matriculation Board website which can be visited at:

After some forty years of apartheid, of which South Africa’s former President and international hero Nelson Mandela spent 27 of these in prison, South Africans experienced a peaceful transition to democracy in 1994. Public Holidays in South Africa today are set around important and historical events that inform and speak of a free, fair and democratic nation. For example, the Day of the Vow, which celebrated the massacre of Zulus, is the Day of Reconciliation (16 December) and June 16, marking the student uprisings in Soweto that eventually led to liberation, is now celebrated as Youth Day. Human Rights Day is held on the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre on 21 March.

Public holidays in SA

  • 1 January - New Year’s Day
  • 21 March - Human Rights Day
  • April - Good Friday (Friday before Easter Sunday)
  • April - Family Day (Monday after Easter Sunday)
  • 27 April - Freedom Day
  • 1 May - Workers Day
  • 16 June - Youth Day
  • 9 August - National Women’s Day
  • 24 September - Heritage Day
  • 16 December - Day of Reconciliation
  • 25 December - Christmas Day
  • 26 December - Day of Goodwill

Travelling facts
Visas: Entry permits are issued free on arrival to visitors on holiday from many Commonwealth and most Western European countries, as well as Japan and the USA. If you aren't entitled to an entry permit, you'll need to get a visa (also free) before you arrive.

Health: Malaria is mainly confined to the eastern half of South Africa, especially on the lowveld (coastal plain), Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) is also found mainly in the east but outbreaks do occur in other places, so you should always check with knowledgeable local people before drinking free water or swimming.
Time: GMT/UTC +2
Dialling Code: 27
Electricity: 220/230V, 50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric

“ Ingwe Health Plan: Unique medical cover for international students”

Ingwe Health Plan offers appropriate private healthcare cover to visiting international students and is endorsed by Alexander Forbes, the appointed healthcare advisors of IEASA. The South African Department of Health supports the Department of Home Affairs’ directive requiring all international students to have appropriate medical cover, whilst studying in South Africa. To ensure that international students will not be dependant on the South African public health services, it is imperative that the medical cover provides for all medical categories, and not merely hospital care.

Ingwe Health plan is administered by African Life Health, which offers many years of combined expertise in healthcare administration and funding. The plan is specifically designed and focused on the needs of international students with low premiums and includes the following comprehensive benefits:

  • R 500 000 private hospital cover per annum country-wide
  • Contracted accredited doctors and dentists close to all academic institutions
  • Chronic and acute medicine as prescribed by contracted doctors
  • Optical benefits including a selection of frames and lenses
  • Blood tests and X-rays at contracted doctors
  • Emergency ambulance services.

The following additional benefits also form part of the package:

  • Free medicine bag
  • 24 Hour toll-free medicine advice line
  • Wellness benefits.

Medical cover is a complex matter. We appreciate the fact that studies are the student’s main concern and that healthcare needs should not have a negative impact on their studies. We therefore advise all international students to contact a consultant from Alexander Forbes to obtain more detailed information to assist in making informed decisions. Interested parties are also welcome to visit the Ingwe Health Plan’s website on for more information and contact details.

Alexander Forbes contact details:
Stanley Masina
Tel +27 11 269 0439
Fax +27 11 263 0168
Maxwell Mahuma
Tel +27 11 269 1960
Fax +27 11 263 0802

South Africa – the land and its people

South Africa is a country where various cultures merge to form a unique nation, proud of its heritage. South Africans come from many cultural traditions, but belong to one nation.

The country boasts some of the world's most breathtaking scenery, featuring an amazing display of bird and wildlife species which include the well-known Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.

South Africa is often called the cradle of humankind, for this is where archaeologists discovered 2.5-million-year-old fossils of our earliest ancestors, as well as 100 000-year-old remains of modern man.

Today, this country is the powerhouse of Africa, the most advanced, broad-based economy on the continent, with infrastructure to match any First-World nation.

The phones work, and they dial abroad while cellular phone users are ever-present and growing by around 9 000 every day. Visa and Mastercards can be used almost everywhere and banking can be done by ATM or online. There’s a sophisticated financial sector and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is the world’s 15th largest in terms of market capitalisation.

The legislative capital is Cape Town, the administrative capital is Pretoria, and the biggest city is Johannesburg. The second-biggest city is Durban, a fast-growing port on the eastern coast, and the supply route for most goods to the interior. A good rail, road and airline system links all major centres.

This is one of earth’s great treasure troves. South Africa is the world’s leading producer of gold (20% of the world total), and other minerals, while some of the most spectacular diamonds come from South Africa.

South Africa offers the lowest industrial electricity rates in the world.

It is a big and beautiful country with a glorious climate. The long coastline has glorious beaches with sub-tropical forests in the east and desert in the west. Inland, spectacular mountains contrast with the open plains of the highveld, the vast Karoo scrubland and Mediterranean-like Western Cape.

South Africa is a great place to study.

South Africa: position and climate

The total land area of South Africa is slightly more than 1.2 million square kilometres, measuring some 1 600km from north to south and approximately the same from east to west.

South Africa is famous for its sunshine. The climate is mild – warm to hot most of the year round with sporadic cold weather in winter months. Sunshine averages vary from 7.5 to 9.5 hours a day, depending on the season. Average annual rainfall is 464mm- against a world average of 857mm. Since much rain evaporates and only a tenth reaches rivers, water is scarce.

Inland, South Africa shares borders with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho, yet by far its biggest neighbour is the ocean – in fact two oceans which meet at the south-western corner.

Most of the country is situated on a high-lying plateau between these two very different oceans. The Indian Ocean on the east is warmed by the Mozambique or Agulhas Current which flows down from the tropics. The Atlantic on the west coast is cooled by the icy Benguela Current which comes up from the Antarctic. These two currents have a major effect on the country's climate.

South Africa: physical features, the plant and animal kingdom
South Africa has two major physical features: an interior plateau which stretches north to the Sahara and a long coastal strip of nearly 3 000 kilometres. The boundary between the two is the Great Escarpment which varies in height from 1 500 metres in the Cape to over 3 000 metres in the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg mountain range.

Though it has grasslands, savanna and forests, most of South Africa is thornveld and semi-desert. About 11% of the land is arable, the same as the world average. Agricultural potential varies from highly productive in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga to the arid regions of the Northern Cape and the North West.

South Africa has the third-highest level of biodiversity in the world and is the only country to contain an entire floral kingdom. Some 18 000 species of vascular plant (plants with vessels for bearing sap) occur within the country’s boundaries, of which 80% occur nowhere else.

It is also home to more mammal species than Europe and Asia combined; there are over 900 species of birds, over 100 types of snakes and some 5 000 species of spiders. The country’s 22 national parks and 200 or so provincial parks offer excellent accommodation and some of the best game viewing in the world.

South Africa’s people

The Traditional leader of the Khomani San, Dawid Kruiper (left), with the head of South Africa’s
Development Agency, Delani Mthembu, in the Kalahari. Members of the Khoi and the
San people also make up the population of South Africa.

South Africa's biggest asset is its people: a rainbow nation of over 44.5 million people of rich and diverse cultures. About 79% are black/African, 9,6% white; nearly 9% coloured (the local label for people of mixed African, Asian and white descent) and 2.5% are Indian/Asian. Just over half the population live in the cities.

The South African population consists of the following groups: the Nguni people (consisting of the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi); the Sotho-Tswana people, who include the Southern, Northern and Western Sotho (Tswana); the Tsonga; the Venda; Afrikaners; the English; coloureds; Indians, and those who have immigrated to South Africa from the rest of Africa, Europe and Asia and maintain a strong cultural identity. A few members of the Khoi and the San also live in South Africa.

Right: A young girl ties a rakhee – a colourful bracelet – around her brother’s wrist as a symbol of her love. In return, she will receive a gift to mark the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandan.
Left: Energetic, high-kicking dancers from the Iphi INtombi Maskanda group had the crowd of a cultural music festival held in KwaMashu outside Durban (KwaZulu-Natal province) leaping out of their chairs with their dynamic routine.

There are 11 officially recognised languages, most of them indigenous to South Africa. Forty percent of the population speak either isiZulu or isiXhosa. Yet many people speak or understand English. Road signs and official forms are in English, the President makes his speeches in English and English is the language of the cities, banking, road signs and official documents. Another major language is Afrikaans, a derivative of Dutch, which Northern Europeans find surprisingly easy to follow.

Almost 80% of South Africa's population follows the Christian faith. Other major religious groups are the Hindus, Muslims and Jews. A minority of South Africa's population do not belong to any of the major religions and regard themselves as traditionalists or of no specific religious affiliation. Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Constitution.

South Africa is a vigorous multi-party
democracy with an independent judiciary
and a free and diverse press. Here, the
Independent Electoral Commission
gives a press conference before
South Africa’s third democratic
election held in April 2004.

South African government and politics

Since 1994, South Africa has been engaged in dismantling apartheid social relations and creating a democratic society based on equity, non-racialism and non-sexism. Government policies and programmes have focused on improving the quality of life of all people by meeting basic needs, building the economy, democratising the state and society, developing human resources and nation building.

Until the remarkable transition of 1994, South Africa was internationally reviled for its harshly enforced apartheid policies. The country’s success in rising above centuries of racial hatred in favour of reconciliation has been internationally acknowledged as one of the major political achievements of the 20th century and has inspired similar peace attempts elsewhere in the world.

Ten years into its new democracy and with its international isolation a thing of the past, South Africa plays an important international role, most notably on the African continent, where it has shown leadership in the formation of the new African Union. Several major world conferences have been held in South Africa in recent years, reinforcing the country’s increased profile on the world stage.

South Africa's constitution, acknowledged as one of the most progressive in the world, underlies the country's political and legal systems. Racism is outlawed and individual human rights are guaranteed in a far-reaching Bill of Rights. The separation of legislative, judiciary and executive powers is protected by the Constitutional Court. The country is a vigorous multi-party democracy with an independent judiciary and a free and diverse press. The constitution protects both citizens and visitors. You may not be locked up for shouting out your legitimate opinions, but be careful about smoking cigarettes outside designated smoking zones!

South Africa's electoral system allows for two ballots – one for the national parliament and the other for provincial parliaments. General elections are held every five years. Local government elections are run separately. The national Parliament has a House of Assembly with 400 members and a National Council of Provinces (upper house) with 10 delegates per province. There are nine provincial parliaments, each with 20-80 members, depending on population. Interestingly, South Africa has one of the world's highest proportions of women in parliament.

South African food

South African cuisine is world-renowned for its unusual variety, derived from the culinary traditions of its diverse population. Many restaurants specialise in some form of authentic traditional food such as Cape Dutch, Malay, African, Indian, Chinese, French, Italian or Portugese, and there are also many restaurants serving Thai, Vietnamese and other cuisine. Of course the ubiquitous American fast food outets have sprung up in every city, town and suburb, but the best value for money are still the local dishes like bunny chow (curry in a half-loaf) or bobotie (curried mince with onions and eggs). Seafood such as crayfish from the Cape West Coast and prawns from Mozambique is always in plentiful supply, but perhaps the most South African of foods is the braai, a barbecue with steaks, chicken and boerewors (spicy sausage). To wash it all down, South African wines are among the best in the world, with wine tourism one of the country’s major growth industries, and the local beers are proudly drunk at every opportunity.

Above: Bunny Chow is a traditional Indian Meal enjoyed by South Africans – and visitors – with a taste for spicy food. The inside of a loaf of bread is removed and curry placed inside the bread. This is called a Bunny Chow. The curries for a Bunny Chow include lamb and mutton, chicken, vegetable and bean. Many restaurants have taken the basic dish and turned it into a ‘gourmet’ meal.

An adventurous spirit

A masterpiece created by sand artists
on one of cape town’s popular beaches,
Camps Bay. South Africa’s beautiful
beaches are just one of the many
highlights international students can
explore in their free time.

It is said that South Africa offers some of the best game viewing in the world. The Kruger National Park, part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a vast conservation area that occupies part of the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces and stretches into Mozambique, is home to a greater diversity of life forms than any other conservation area in Africa. There are several other parks where the 'Big Five' – as well as other large mammals such as cheetah, giraffe, zebra, hippos, crocodiles and a huge variety of antelope can also be seen.

Game viewing is but one aspect of South African tourism. For those who are prepared to backpack and venture off the beaten track, South Africa offers an amazing variety of opportunities. For those with lots of energy and a taste for adventure, extraordinary experiences lie in wait.

A search for ancient paintings in the hidden caves of the Drakensberg is one such adventure. KwaZulu-Natal’s uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site, is renowned for its spectacular escarpment where some 30 000 paintings by San artists – many created thousands of years ago – adorn the walls of over 500 rock shelters. Hiking to these sites, one may encounter herds of antelope and zebra or troops of baboons amongst the elevated grasslands, while in the mountain gorges dramatic waterfalls and hidden streams flow through shadowy glades adorned with tree ferns and other exquisite plants.

Another adventure would be to join a community-hosted pony ride or hike down the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, stopping off at estuaries and breathtaking waterfalls carved through the hillside and within a stone’s throw of the seashore.

For those who prefer wide open spaces, the road trip through the arid Karoo to the Northern Cape’s Augrabies Falls is well worth the effort. Here, 19 separate waterfalls cascade over a granite plateau, dropping nearly 200 metres into a 40m deep pool gouged out by the force of the water. Not far from here is the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park which continues into Botswana, and home of the rare black-maned lion.

For the botanically-minded, a hike through the Cape Peninsula National Park promises riches beyond compare. An entire floral kingdom exists here, with more plant species within its 22 000 hectares than in the British Isles or New Zealand. South Africa has the third-highest level of biodiversity in the world and it seems to be at its most concentrated here, amongst the hardy yet delicate ‘fynbos’ (fine bush) covering the mountainous finger that points from the back of Cape Town’s Table Mountain to the tip of what mariners call the Cape of Storms.

For the more sophisticated traveller, adventure enough might be a leisurely drive through the vineyards of the Western Cape, where the fertile valleys, fringed with mountains and blessed with a winter-rainfall Mediterranean climate, are home to the world-famous wine farms of Stellenbosch and the Wine Route.

Further up the Cape coast is the Garden Route, where a variety of adventures await the intrepid traveller, like bungee-jumping off the Gourits River Bridge or taking a fairy-like tour through the heights of the Knysna forest suspended on a network of cables that traverse the forest canopy. The Garden Route provides several spectacular coastal walks such as the legendary Otter Trail, a five-day hike along breathtaking ocean cliffs and long beaches, through deep forests and across deep river mouths.

For surfers, divers and anglers, the entire coastline presents opportunities for adventure. Famous surf breaks like Cape St Francis and Jeffreys Bay are safe and often crowded, but there are literally hundreds of lesser-known breaks and secret spots. Snorkelling and spearfishing enthusiasts will be drawn to the Wild Coast, where big gamefish and bags of crayfish are guaranteed, while scuba divers are more likely to head for the spectacular coral reefs off the Maputaland coast in the north-east of KwaZulu-Natal, near the Mozambique border.

Maputaland, a remote region of pristine wilderness, estuaries and coastal lakes, including the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park World Heritage Site and the Kosi Lake system, offers the true experience of Africa at its most elemental and unspoilt.

Local travel and adventure companies are geared to the needs of students and backpackers, and wherever there is something worth visiting there is likely to be some sort of lodge nearby. Most of these lodges are linked by a special backpacker bus service.

There is really no excuse for not taking advantage of the myriad travel and adventure opportunities that South Africa has to offer.

Action and adventure opportunities
In South Africa, you can do almost anything from ostrich riding to the world's highest bungee jump. There are excellent hiking trails, usually with accommodation. It's possible to cycle through some of the wildlife parks or enjoy safaris in South Africa's national parks and reserves. Airborne pursuits are highly popular: hang-gliding, ballooning and parachuting. Rafting and canoeing are popular and there is beautiful desert wilderness to glide through on the Orange River in the far north of the country. Bird-watchers and flower sniffers love it here: for diversity, colour and range of species, it's hard to beat. South Africa also has some of the best surfing in the world.

A feast of arts and culture

South African culture is alive and happening. The country's writers, artists and performers are actively engaged with the challenges of the 21st century, with the celebrations of 10 years of freedom and with shaping the next phase of South Africa’s democracy.

Drawing from their African roots and absorbing cultural inputs from all over the world, they are creating new fusions of dance, theatre, film, music, literature, art and fashion.

Visit the buzzing Newtown cultural precinct in Johannesburg and you will find yourself in the midst of an unrivalled creative ambience – theatres, jazz clubs, dance and music workshops, fine art and printmaking collaboratives, craft markets, museums and libraries, coffee bars and trendy hangouts. Similar cultural centres are found in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria and other cities.

The weekly arts supplements found in most newspapers list a variety of theatrical and musical happenings, art exhibitions and events, from the most commercial to the most avant garde. South African publishing, once a contested area of censorship and conflict, now offers a wide range of literature on every aspect of South African society.

Annual events
The full ambit of South African arts and culture, with an emphasis on the performing arts, is on display at the annual Grahamstown National Arts Festival in June/July. Other multi-disciplinary festivals are the Arts Alive Festival in Johannesburg in September, the Macufe Festival in the Free State and the Klein Karoo Festival in Oudtshoorn. The offerings premiered at these festivals move on to more than 100 active theatre spaces around the country. Film festivals are held across the country every year. The University of KwaZulu-Natal University's Durban campus has a particularly active creative arts centre that hosts international poetry, dance and writers' festivals.

Musically, South Africa has a uniquely recognisable voice and the best way to hear it is at the music festivals. Awesome Africa, held in KwaZulu-Natal in September, specialises in world music with a particular focus on Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. In Gauteng the Oppikoppi and Woodstock festivals, in August and September respectively, offer rock and various styles of dance music, while KwaZulu-Natal’s Splashy Fen Festival in April offers mainly local acts. Jazz lovers can hear top-notch musicians at the Joy of Jazz Festival in Gauteng in September and at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Cape Town in March.

Musically, South Africa has a uniquely recognisable voice and today,
South Africans celebrate their hard-won democracy by enjoying music together.

Developing arts and culture
Universities and universities of technology play a vital role in arts and culture development and a number of celebrated authors, artists and musicians are based at academic institutions. Several institutions have impressive visual art collections, as well as galleries and theatres which play an important role in the cities and towns where they are located. University and university of technology departments or programmes in the fine arts, cultural and media studies, the performing arts and music provide a cradle for the development of a national critical discourse, through conferences, collaborations, research and publications.

The provinces have their own arts councils, each with their own artistic and cultural agendas. Nationally, the Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage is responsible for national monuments, museums and commemorative structures, and for the promotion of arts and culture generally. A key focus area is the development of economic opportunities in the arts, particularly through the commercial application of traditional crafts and idioms. Music and film are also seen as important areas of economic growth. The Arts and Culture Trust (ACT), Business Arts South Africa (BASA) and the National Arts Council (NAC) are national funding agencies backed by both the public and private sectors, and their work is complemented by active international arts funding.
Useful contact details


International Education
Association of South Africa (IEASA)

P.O. Box 65099
Reservoir Hills
Durban 4090 South Africa
Tel: +27 31 260 3077
Fax: +27 31 260 2967

SA Universities Vice-Chancellors Association (SAUVCA)
P O Box 27392
Sunnyside 0132
Tel: +27 12 481 2842
Fax: +27 12 481 2850

Committee of Technikon Principals (CTP)
Private Bag X680
Tel. 012-3261066 or 3239944
Fax: 012-3257387


The South African Government
Private Bag X745
Pretoria 0001 South Africa
Tel: +27 12 314 2377
Fax: +27 12 323 383

National department of education
Private Bag X895
Pretoria 0001 South Africa

national department of foreign affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria 0001 South Africa


South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
Postnet Suite 248
Private Bag X06 WATERKLOOF 0145
Tel: +27 (0) 12 431 5036
Fax: +27 (0) 12 431 5116

Suite 16 Private Bag x65
Halfway House 1685 South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 312 0671/4
Fax: +27 (0)11 312 0664

Council on Higher Education (CHE)
PO Box 13354
The Tramshed
Pretoria 0126 South Africa
Tel: 27 12 92 9119
Fax: 27 12 392 9110


National Research Foundation (NRF)
P.O. Box 2600
Pretoria 0001
South Africa
Tel: + 27 12 481 4000
Fax: +27 12 349 1179

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Private Bag X41
Pretoria 0001
South Africa
Tel: + 27 12 3022 999
Fax: +27 12 326 5362

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
P.O. BOX 395
Pretoria 0001
Tel: + 27 12 841 29 11
Fax: +27 12 349 1153

medical research council (MRC)
Private Bag X385
Pretoria 0001
South Africa
Tel: +27 12 339 8500
Fax: +27 12 339 85 91

Some useful websites for prospective students and travellers

Travel and tourism in South Africa

South Africa general


Media and broadcasting

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