South Africa - Country Commercial Guide
Education and Training
Last published date:


Pre-Covid-19, the number of South African students studying in the United States increased to 2040 students, placing South Africa 5th in the continent in terms of students studying in the U.S. With 17 percent of the total South African population aged between 17- 24 there is significant potential to increase this number

The South African education system is divided as follows: 

Pre - High School (Grade R to Grade 7 - 7 years): High School (Grade 8 - Grade 12 - 6 years)  Lower secondary (also known as the “senior phase”) lasts through grade 9 and is mandatory. Students typically begin lower secondary at age 12 or 13. The curriculum for lower secondary school includes the home language, an additional language, mathematics, natural science, social science, technology, economic and management sciences, life orientation, and arts and culture. Students receive 27.5 hours of classroom instruction per week. Upper secondary, also known as further education and training (FET), lasts through grade 12, and is not compulsory. Entry into this phase requires an official record of completion of grade nine. Just as in the intermediate and senior phases, this phase comprises 27.5 classroom hours per week. The Academic year calendar runs from mid-January to early-December.

Traditionally the recommended times for U.S. educational institutions to visit are May, July (Private Schools), August (Public Schools), and September.

Market Trends

The top five receiving states for South African students are New York, California, Massachusetts, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

South African students studying in the U.S.

2018  - 2040

2019 - 2079

2022 - 2375

The number of students in 2022 is broken up as follows:

Undergraduate: 1394

Post Graduate: 650

Non Degree/vocational: 331

Students in U.S. by U.S. Institution Type / percent

Undergraduates in 4 - year institutions / 87 percent

Undergraduates in 2 - year institutions / 13 percent

Public Institute vs Private Institute 50 percent / 50 percent

The Top three fields of study for South African students in the U.S. are as follows:

Business Management, Engineering and Liberal Arts. 

There is also a growing appetite in South Africa for capacity building of their institutions and they generally are very keen on partnering with international institutes regarding to the following areas: Student Development, Staff Development, Program, and Curriculum Development.

Digital Marketing Strategies

Most students in South Africa use social media platforms.  Social media has gained a lot of interest in the young population of the country and has become the go to tool for disseminating information. The most popular social media sites are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Snapchat.  These are the same platforms used by in-country schools and competitor countries to reach and recruit students.  Facebook Live, YouTube, and Instagram are the most popular for streaming videos in South Africa.

When searching for information, students typically use the Google search engine and similar research tools. 


  • Universities South Africa (
  • Council on Higher Education (
  • South African Department of Education (
  • The International Education Association of South Africa [IEASA] (
  • The United States - South Africa Higher Education Network (

For More Information, the U.S. Commercial Service, South Africa, can be contacted via email:, Phone: +27 (0)31 305 7600 X3150, or visit our website at