South Africa colleges and universities

In the modern world many careers require a tertiary education qualification like a diploma or degree to begin. This is because for many industries there are specialised skills and knowledge that those working in them require. These careers do also tend to pay better meaning obtaining these qualifications can lead to a better quality of life. 

That is why many matric graduates want to obtain a tertiary education qualification. To obtain these qualifications in South Africa colleges and universities are the educational institutions you will need to attend. However, with over 26 public universities and 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in South Africa finding the right one for you can be challenging.

That is why we decided to take a closer look at the tertiary education institutions in South Africa, colleges and universities. To help students find the best institutions to help them achieve their career goals and make their dreams a reality.

College vs University

Before we get to the best colleges and universities we have to understand the differences between them. In South Africa, colleges and universities are both tertiary education institutions that are regulated by the Department of Higher Education and Training. The primary difference is the level and focus of the qualifications. 

College qualifications are more vocational in nature, meaning they are aimed at equipping students with the skills they will need to perform a certain job. Universities on the other hand are more academically focused providing students with a wealth of knowledge in their fields. There is also a difference in the level of education offered as college qualifications go up to a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 6, which is a certificate or diploma. While universities offer qualifications from NQF level 7 to 10, which starts with a bachelor’s degree and goes up to a doctorate degree. Ultimately deciding which is better between colleges and universities will depend on your career goals. Especially as South Africa has many good colleges and universities to offer.

Best South African colleges and universities

Now that we have a better understanding of the different tertiary education institutions in South Africa, colleges and universities. We can take a look at the best institutions in the country.

The University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is the oldest university in South Africa founded in 1829 as a high school for boys before developing into a university between 1880 and 1900. Since then they have grown to boast an impressive 30 392 students in 2021. It is a public research university and is the highest internationally ranked university in Africa, ranking 160th in 2023. UCT is especially known for their courses in infectious diseases and immunology with international rankings of 24th and 51st respectively. On top of these, they offer courses across a wide range of faculties including Commerce, Humanities, Law and more ensuring that they have something for everyone. This is by far the best tertiary education institution in South Africa colleges and universities included.


One of the best colleges in South Africa is Damelin College. They are a private institution that has provided quality career-focused education since 1943. Over the past 80 years, they have built a reputation for their commitment to academic excellence. They offer a range of qualifications including degrees, diplomas, and certificates across their four faculties. These faculties are Commerce, Science and Technology, Education, and Humanities, ensuring they offer a program to suit your aspirations.  In South Africa colleges and universities strive to deliver outstanding tertiary education, and Damelin college achieves this and more. This is thanks to its professional lecturers who concentrate on individual learning experiences to produce knowledgeable and competent graduates.

The University of South Africa

Next on our list is the University of South Africa (UNISA) which is a distance-learning university, meaning there are no in-person lectures. It is the largest university in Africa, by student numbers, offering study opportunities to almost 400 000 students across the world. They have been providing tertiary education since 1873, meaning they have 150 years of experience in the field. They offer qualifications ranging from certificates to degrees across a wide range of disciplines. These include Education, Economics and Management Sciences, Human Sciences, and more. UNISA was ranked 821 in a global ranking of universities in 2023 showing how universities in South Africa rank in the world. This is the most productive tertiary education institution in South Africa colleges and universities included accounting for 12.8% of all degrees  obtained in the country. UNISA strives to embrace change as it views change as the driving force of progress. With its distance learning offerings, it truly is a good university striving to create a better future for all.


These are our picks for the best colleges and universities South Africa has to offer. We hope this has helped you find the right institution to suit your aspirations and career goals. Any of these tertiary education institutions will provide you with a quality education you can be proud of. Allowing you to achieve your goals and make your dreams a reality.

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