South African educational institutions and study programmes

Below, we explain what types of educational institutions and degree programmes there are in South Africa. We also explain how we check whether these are recognised and/or accreditation. We check the and to make sure that the quality is sufficient. We give the necessary information per educational sector.

Secondary education | educational institutions

  • General secondary education (for a National Senior Certificate, NSC) is offered at public and private secondary schools. The Independent Examinations Board (IEB) mainly conducts exams for private secondary schools in South Africa. The curriculum is of a more academic nature compared to the curriculum in public secondary education. The exams of both the IEB and those of the public schools lead to the same diploma, the NSC.
  • Vocational secondary education is offered by community colleges, private colleges and technical colleges. Among other things, students can obtain a National Certificate at these educational institutions.

Secondary education | diplomas

In case of secondary education, it is important to check that the diploma is issued by Umalusi.

Higher education | educational institutions

Higher education institutions in South Africa can offer both vocational and research-oriented study programmes. There are 2 types of higher education institutions:

  • public universities; and
  • private higher education institutions

Public universities

There are 3 types of public universities:

  • universities;
  • universities of technology;
  • comprehensive universities.


Universities are the traditional academic universities. They offer mainly research-oriented higher education.

Universities of technology

Universities of technology are non-university institutions (technikons) that turned into universities. These institutions offer vocational study programmes. When students do research, it is practice-oriented.

Comprehensive universities

Comprehensive universities are a combination of the traditional academic universities and universities of technology. They are the result of mergers of technikons and traditional universities. Comprehensive universities offer both vocational and research-oriented study programmes.

Private higher education institutions

Higher education is also offered by private higher education institutions. These institutions mainly offer vocational study programmes.

Checking the recogntion of higher education institutions

Higher education institutions need to be recognised in South Africa. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) provides 2 overviews of recognised higher education institutions:

Higher education | study programmes

Study programmes in higher education need to be accredited in South Africa. You need to check the accreditation of study programmes from private educational institutions. In case of study programmes of public universities, this is not needed. These study programmes are automatically accredited if the university is recognised.

Checking the accreditation of study programmes from private educational institutions

  • First, check if the private educational institution is recognised (see the information above). If this is the case, check the following:
    • Is the study programme mentioned under the column 'Qualifications' of this educational institution? In that case, the study programme is accredited.
    • Is the study programme not mentioned there? In that case, the study programme is probably not accredited.
  • Is the educational institution not recognised? In that case, its study programmes are not accredited either.

Higher education | diplomas

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) offers a register of recognised diplomas of public and private higher education institutions. You can search for diplomas in this registers in the following way:

  • After 'Qualification Title', type in (part of the) diploma name or field of study. You can add other search criteria as well.
  • Click on 'Go'.
  • If the diploma of the educational institution is displayed in the search results, you can click on the diploma name (after 'Title').
  • You can now check out more information about the diploma, such as the goal of the study programme, the and the .