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Country Handbooks


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South Africa
| Education


EDUCATION SYSTEM

With the exception of professional programs such as medicine, law, engineering, and architecture, most undergraduate degrees in South Africa require 3 years of study. Admission into a graduate program in entails completion of an Honors Program, and a pass rate of 68% in the final year of a 3-year degree. Graduate degrees, depending on the program, are typically runs from one or two years.

Masters Degrees in most fields consist of a Dissertation/Thesis and depending on the program range in length from 1 to 2 years.

Higher Education Reform

Like many other sectors in South Africa, higher education has undergone enormous post-apartheid changes. Acting on a 1975 Report by the National Commission on Higher Education, as well as the 1997 White Paper, the country embarked on articulating the vision of phasing out a fragmented past, to a single, coordinated tertiary system that would meet the country’s development needs. Since the mid-1990s, South Africa’s government-financed tertiary institutions have been open to students of all races.

In 2004, South Africa started reforming its higher education system, merging and incorporating small universities into larger institutions, and renaming all higher education institutions "university", while incorporating several technikons (technical universities). As of January 2011, South Africa has 11 traditional universities, 6 technikons and 6 “comprehensive” institutions, which offer a mix of academic and vocational courses.

Restructuring higher education through mergers has laid the foundations for future change, and with government strategies to deliver the first four goals of access, equity, diversity, and growing research it will drive South African higher education in the future.

Academics

South African academic institutions follow the European tradition, with a mixture of lectures and seminars with individual laboratory time and library work. Students specialize early and study one or two disciplines for three or four years. In most subjects, assessment is based on continuous evaluations with assignments, orals, presentations, one mid-semester test and a concluding examination. Regular class attendance is compulsory. Please note that students who make travel arrangements that clash with their lectures, tests and examinations, will not receive a final mark for their courses or an academic transcript to take back to their home institution.