South Africa - Country Commercial Guide

This is a best prospect overview of industry sectors for this country.

Last published date: 2020-10-01


The number of South African students studying in the United States increased by 6.8% to 2040 students, placing South Africa 5th in the continent in terms of students studying in the U.S. With 17% of the total South African population aged between 17- 24 there is a huge potential to increase this number, especially when considering that most students who attend an English medium high school can reliably be granted a waiver from TOEFL examinations which can be an obstacle in other countries.

The South African education system is divided as follows:  Pre-high school (# of years): 07 (Grade R to Grade 6) High school (# of years): 06 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: 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.

Students in the U.S. by Academic Level Number% Change 2017- 2018

Undergraduate – 1156 +10.6%

Graduate –  550 +6%

Non – Degree – 334+13.1%

Optional Practical Training –  -9.1%

Students in U.S. by U.S. Institution Type%

Undergraduates in 4 - year institutions 87%

Undergraduates in 2 - year institutions 13%

Public Institute vs Private Institute  50%- 50%

Web Resources

  • Universities South Africa (
  • Council on Higher Education (
  • South African Qualifications Authority (
  • Umalusi (
  • Independent Examinations Board [IEB] (
  • Independent Schools Association of South Africa [ISASA] (
  • National Qualifications Framework (
  • 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