In December 2017, hot on the heels of the #Feesmustfall campaign, then-president Jacob Zuma made the shock announcement that government will subsidise free higher education for poor and working class students who come from households with a combined annual income of R350,000 or less, starting in 2018.
Zuma also made provision for “the missing middle” students – those from households earning up to R600 000 annually – to have their 2018 fee increase paid for by the state through gap grant funding. While president Cyril Ramaphosa’s government grapples with the enormity and practicality of Zuma’s announcement, students whose combined family income exceeds R600 000 per year will unfortunately still have to pay for their tertiary education for the foreseeable future. Exactly how much will depend on your chosen course and institution.
Most universities and colleges have a detailed fees booklet that lays out the costs of your studies. Though fee structures can vary from institution to institution, here are some of the common costs of the first year.
The first-year tuition fees for different qualifications
Your annual tuition fees will depend on what and where you study. A diploma from a Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college could be cheaper than a diploma from a University of Technology, while a degree from a private institution could cost twice as much as the same degree from a traditional university.
Courses are also cheaper at distance-learning institutions, such as the University of South Africa (Unisa), than at the residential universities.
Generally, you don't pay per course, but rather per subject that makes up your degree or diploma. You could save money in your first year by choosing fewer courses, but this could end up costing you more.
Remember that the longer you extend your course, the longer you will have to pay for additional expenses such as accommodation and transport. It also means that you will have to wait longer before you qualify and start earning a salary.
To give you an idea of what first-year studies cost, we've compared the costs of some common degrees, diplomas and certificates from different public and private colleges and universities. Tap on a column to sort alphabetically or per fee (lowest to highest or highest to lowest).
Note: These fees are for 2018, and are for South African citizens only. Different fees apply for international students.