University fees 2018: how much it costs to study in South Africa

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President Jacob Zuma’s free education plan has caused quite a bit of chaos since its announcement in December 2017, which has caused some confused around the costs of studying, who qualifies for free education, and when things will get implemented.

Under the new plan, government intends to cover the full cost of education for working class (household income under R350,000 pa) students, while also subsidising the 8% increase in tuition fees for those in the ‘missing middle’ (household income up to R600,000 pa).

For 2018, universities were again generally capped at implementing an 8% increase in fees for the year – though not every institute has adopted it. This has led to a muddle of fees being presented to the public, with no real clarity on who is paying what.

In effect, students who qualify for the new department of higher education funding scheme – ie the ‘missing middle’ – should still be paying the same rates as 2015, after fees increases were blocked in 2016, and the 8% increases in 2017 and 2018 only applied to those above the R600,000 threshold.

Starting in 2018, and following an implementation period to 2022, the government will come up with a plan to pay for NSFAS and ‘missing middle’ students through a bursary programme.

At the same time, however, Universities South Africa has granted universities an 8% increase for 2018, saying that tertiary institutions can no longer wait for a plan, as budgets need to be set.

Fees for 2018

The University of Cape Town has published a 2018 fee schedule incorporating the 8% it was granted – but other institutes, like the University of KwaZulu Natal, have not made any announcement on whether they would hike fees, amid calls from student bodies to scrap any increases.

UKZN’s fee schedule for 2018 reflects similar prices to 2017, showing that it decided to keep rates fairly flat. Some changes are present, though, with the approximate costs of an engineering degree rising – while the cost of a BCom have dropped.

The University of Johannesburg said it will “maintain the status quo” of 2017 – specifically, no fee increases for the ‘missing middle’. According to UJ, the R600,000 threshold represents about 86% of the students at the university. For the other 14% of students that come from families that earn above that threshold, an 8% increase will apply.

The University of Pretoria said it was taking the same approach.

North West University has not yet published it fee schedule for 2018, but provided BusinessTech with data from which the averages were derived.

The fees listed below give an approximation of costs of various bachelor degrees in the respective faculties. The fees are applicable to first year studies for 2018, taking into account universities’ stance on the 8% increase.

The fees sourced include the following undergraduate degrees:

  • Bachelor of Commerce (BCom);
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA);
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc);
  • Bachelor of Law (LLB, undergraduate);
  • Bachelor of Science/Engineering (BEng).

Fees are typically charged per module needed to make up the credits of a given degree, thus the fees represented below give the broader idea of the cost of a single year of study, rather than a comprehensive overview.

Where ranges are given, the average was taken. For institutions where no Bachelor of Engineering is offered, a Bachelor of Science in Engineering is featured.

The fees in parentheses represent the 8% increase on 2017 rates for students whose household income is above R600,000 per annum, for UP and UJ.

University BA BCom BSc LLB BEng
University of Cape Town R53 440 R64 890 R58 400 R54 350 R61 220
University of the Witwatersrand R44 890 R46 795 R47 920 R43 640 R61 810
Stellenbosch University R39 696 R41 030 R48 096 R47 270 R55 296
University of KwaZulu Natal R38 500 R36 580 R38 300 R37 758 R44 700
University of Pretoria* R36 000
(R38 880)
R42 000
(R45 360)
R44 000
(R47 520)
R37 000
(R39 960)
R46 000
(R49 680)
Rhodes University R43 390 R47 472 R45 140 R48 673 N/A
University of Johannesburg* R36 650
(R39 580)
R37 500
(R40 500)
R44 000
(R47 520)
R34 150
(R36 880)
R41 600
(R44 930)
North-West University R39 300 R39 300 R42 600 R46 100 R49 900

* 2017 fees with adjustments

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