How can South Africans study abroad?

In January Universities South Africa warned that thousands of university students would be in for a tough and disappointing year, mainly because most tertiary institutions have seen too many applicants this year and there just isn’t enough space to go around.

Besides the lack of space, the unrest that occurred in 2016 due to the Fees Must Fall movement is still impacting campuses in 2017. Some students have still not completed their full year and this is adding to the backlog.

Financing is an issue in South Africa – with interest rates potentially on the increase banks are bound to tighten up their lending criteria. While students don’t have to be earning a salary at the point of their applications, they still have to find someone who’s willing to stand surety for them.

Students from poor and disadvantaged families are bound to benefit from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS’s) R1.3 billion (US$96 million) injection into public universities and technical and vocational education and training colleges, but NSFAS has in the past also been criticised for not helping to fund the ‘missing middle’ – students that don’t qualify for funding but are still not well off enough to afford university education comfortably.

So what are the options for students? If you are uncertain about what you want to study then taking a gap year can be an exciting adventure and an opportunity to gain some work experience (if the travel bug hasn’t already hit). But what if you do want to study?

Studying abroad is one alternative. “2016 was a volatile year for South African students, and there’s obviously uncertainty and nervousness about what lies ahead this year on campuses across the country. Many SA Matrics are exploring options further afield, especially because there are a growing number of reputable international institutions, such as Minerva Schools facilitating funding opportunities that place an extraordinary global education within their reach. Today, it is possible for high achievers and driven students to meet their educational aspirations at an affordable cost on a world stage,” Robin Goldberg, the chief experience officer at Minerva Schools.

Here Moneybags looks few tertiary institutions, agencies and programmes that offer South African students the opportunity to study abroad through bursaries, sponsorships or even through self-funding:


Minerva offers degrees in the five accredited majors of Arts and Humanities, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Business. Applications for this year close on 15 March 2017 with successful candidates beginning their studies in September 2017.

Funding can be achieved in various ways. There’s scholarships and grants – Funds from Minerva that are provided to students who demonstrate a certain level of need. This is money that students do not have to repay.

Work/study allows students to contribute to different teams at Minerva as interns. They are paid per hour for a limited number of hours per week as stipulated on their visa restrictions. The money they earn helps them to cover the cost of food and local transportation within the different cities they live and learn in.

Student loans are also available. Minerva provides guaranteed loans to both American and international students giving all an equal opportunity to access loans. The policy aims to ensure that Minerva students graduate with less than $20,000 (R268,301) in loans.

Monash South Africa

Monash South Africa (MSA) has an international network enables students to study a part of their degree abroad. Monash University has campuses in Australia and Malaysia, Italy and India, as well as partnerships with over 100 universities in worldwide.

WSAS Sport and Academic Services

WSAS Sport and Academic Services was founded in 1993. It assists students that would like to do undergraduate or post graduate studies internationally and it works in many different locations around the world to facilitate this. If you excel at sport WSAS enables both sportsmen and women to study abroad on a sports scholarship. The organisation also helps students to land South African bursaries.

Medical students studying abroad

Last month it was highlighted that because of the limited number of medical schools and places, aspiring South African doctors, nurses and surgeons are looking abroad to get their qualifications. South Africans are now studying in countries such as Mauritius, China and Cuba. However, the Health Professions Council of South Africa says the reason for this is also that some countries offer medicine in three years instead of the seven years it takes in South Africa. In China and Mauritius, however, the periods of study is five years.

If students want to return to South Africa to practice medicine, they then have to do a conversion course through the HPCSA which involves a theory and one practical test. They then have to intern for two years and go through a year of community service.

Be wary of fraudulent activity

But not all institutions, services and people are who they claim to be. What’s concerning is that fraudsters no longer come up with fake names or titles, instead they lure in unsuspecting people by claiming to be associated with government or reputable institutions.

Last month the Department of Higher Education had to distance itself from a message circulating on social media offering bogus international scholarships to students. It had to issue a statement saying that the information did not come from the government.

It highlighted that details of various international study opportunities are communicated via the department’s international scholarships website and official departmental communication channels. It added that the department has official Twitter and Facebook pages but not WhatsApp accounts and that communication is not issued via email.

The department did, however, admit that it partnered with a number of foreign governments to make scholarship opportunities available to South Africans to study abroad. It’s clear that if you get correspondence, particularly via social media, for unsolicited sources it’s important to check the facts with the institutions concerned before giving anybody money or signing contracts giving your personal information away.