Studying abroad is an opportunity to learn about different cultures, meet new people and further your career. While the road to an international degree can be complex for South Africans, it’s by no means impossible. We focus on two popular destinations – the UK and Australia – and explain the application process.


Benefits of studying abroad

Studying abroad allows you to explore new places and gain a better understanding of how the world works. One of the key advantages is the positive impact it can have on your career.

A study in 2018 by Hostelworld revealed that 25% of employers believe studying abroad makes students better at adapting to their environments and understanding global business, 41% would consider offering a higher salary to students who have studied abroad and 23% would choose the candidate who studied abroad when deciding between two potential hires.

Where is the best place for South Africans to study abroad?

When choosing where to study, there are a few factors to consider: Cost, culture, climate and, most importantly, language. Language barriers can make it harder to adjust and connect with people and could potentially affect your academic performance.

Australia and the UK are among the most popular study abroad destinations for many English-speaking students. For South Africans, there’s, at most, a small language barrier, which makes it easier to meet people, make friends and excel at university.

If you would like to explore more options, our Study Abroad team can help you decide where to study and which courses would be perfect for you. We have over 250 university partners from 23 countries.

How to study in the UK as a South African

How to apply to a UK university as an international student

University applications open on 18 May for the following academic year. The academic year begins in September and you have up until 30 June to apply for the current year of study (e.g. for 2023’s intake, students can apply from 18 may 2022 to 30 June 2023). It’s best to apply early to ensure there are still places available and you have time to make immigration, travel and accommodation arrangements.

All university applications must be done online through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). The UCAS application fee is £20 for a single choice or £25 for multiple courses and applications submitted after 30 June. Our Study Abroad team is a registered UCAS centre and can help you apply to a UK university through UCAS.

You’ll need to include a personal statement with your application. Your personal statement is your chance to demonstrate what makes you a good choice and why you want to study your chosen course and attend a particular university.

If your application is successful, you will receive a conditional offer letter offering you a place at the institution. You will need to fulfill all conditions of the offer and, if required, pay a minimum deposit. Upon accepting your offer and paying the deposit, you will receive a Confirmation of Acceptance (CAS) form. Make sure to keep this document in a safe place as you’ll need it when applying for your visa. You can apply no earlier than six months before your course begins and no later than six months after receiving your CAS.

Applying for a UK Student visa

To study in the UK, South African citizens need to apply for a Student visa. The Tier 4 (General) visa has been replaced with a new points-based visa and you’ll need at least 70 points to be eligible to apply. Points are awarded if you:

  • Have been offered a place on a course
  • Have enough funds to pay for the course and support yourself
  • Proof of English language proficiency 
  • Have consent from your parents if you are 16 or 17

South Africans have to prove their knowledge of English by passing an English language test. In most cases, students can have the university assess their English language skills. Often, NSC matric English results above a C grade will be enough for South African students to not need another test.

Residents of South Africa will also need to take a TB test at an approved testing centre and submit the results with your application. You will not need a TB test if you have lived in a country that isn’t on the TB testing list for at least six months and you’ve been away from that country for no more than six months.

Your visa will only allow you to stay for the duration of your course and you can work part-time while you study. You are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during the school term.

See also: UK visa applications for South Africans: Step-by-step guide

Scholarships for South Africans to study in the UK

Our study abroad department is continuously updating its list of scholarships available for international students. Many of these are for universities in the UK, including the University of Dundee, and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, and Kingston University, and the Nottingham University Business School in England.

Live and work in the UK after graduation

The UK’s new Graduate visa

From 2021, foreign students who enrol in undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD courses in the UK can stay in the country for two years (three for PhD students) after they graduate. The new Graduate Route will give graduates the opportunity to work and/or find work, and eventually switch to a Skilled Worker visa, should they qualify.

Applicants do not need to be in employment (or remain employed) to obtain the Graduate Route and there's no restriction on the kind of work they can do. There is also no minimum salary requirement nor caps on numbers. Applicants can spend as long as they like looking for work and are able to leave or switch jobs without any effect on their visa.

Switch to a Skilled Worker visa

Alternatively, if you have a job offer for a skilled job from a licensed UK employer, you may apply to switch to a Skilled Worker visa once you've completed your studies. This visa is valid for five years and may eventually lead to indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship. If you are under the age of 26 and have just finished studying, you are considered a new entrant when applying for a Skilled Worker visa. This lowers the minimum salary requirements from £25,600 and 100% of the going rate for the position to £20,480 and at least 70% of the going rate for the position.

See also: How to switch to a Skilled Worker visa from a Study, Youth Mobility or ICT visa in the UK

How to study in Australia as a South African

How to apply to an Australian university as an international student

There are two ways you can apply to an Australian university. You can either apply directly to the university or through an education agent. An agent can help you apply for a course and find accommodation in Australia. Be sure to choose one that is authorised. Our Study Abroad team are accredited members of the ICEF who train to be up-to-date with all procedures for each country and educational institute.

Entry requirements for Australian universities

Entry requirements will vary based on your course. Some courses may require proof of your English language capabilities to ensure you’ll be able to understand the course content. The language skill level required by universities may vary depending on the level of course you want to study.

You may also need to take additional courses to meet the requirements of an Australian high school qualification. These foundation courses, also known as bridging courses, can be intensive and are usually one year long.

Overseas Student Health Cover

Before you arrive in Australia, you will need to purchase the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). You must have it for the duration of your Student visa. This helps you pay for any medical or hospital care you may need while you’re studying in the country. It will also help pay for most prescription medicines and provide you with ambulance cover in emergencies.

Scholarships for South Africans to study in Australia

Generally, international students are expected to pay the full tuition fee for their studies. However, it is possible for non-Australian citizens to get a scholarship, which can cover the full cost or a portion of your tuition fee.

Our Study Abroad team has a scholarship page which updates frequently with scholarship opportunities for international students in Australia. You can also search for a scholarship on the Australian government website. The major scholarships available to international students are:

Australia Awards

Every year, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) offers Australia Awards scholarships and short courses to individuals from developing countries.

Destination Australia

Over 1,000 scholarships will be available each year to support both domestic and international students studying at regional campus locations in qualifications from a Certification IV level and above. Australian tertiary institutions will be able to apply for scholarships of up to AUD 15,000 per student, per year.

Australian Government Research Training Program

This scholarship is aimed at students who are studying towards research doctorate and research master’s degrees.

Provider scholarships

These are scholarships offered by education providers and are based on academic merit.

See also: When will international students be able to study at an Australian university?

Applying for an Australian visa

To study in Australia, you need to apply for a Student visa (subclass 500). With this visa you can travel in and out of the country and work as many hours as you like. The 20 hours per week work limitation has been temporarily removed to help fill skill shortages in the Australian workforce.

To apply, you must:

  • Have a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) for each course of study
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Prove you have enough money for your stay
  • Meet the good character requirement
  • Meet the health requirement
  • Prove you have a welfare arrangement if you are under the age of 18

Live and work in Australia after graduation

If you want to stay longer in Australia, you can apply for one of the following visas:

Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) – Graduate Work stream

You can apply for this visa if you’re under 50 years old and you’ve graduated from an Australian educational institution within the past six months. Your qualification needs to be below that of a bachelor’s degree, such as a diploma or trade-level certificate and your qualification needs to be relevant to an occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). You will also need a positive skills assessment in your nominated occupation.

Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) – Post-Study Work stream

To be eligible for this visa you must be under 50 years old, have graduated from an Australian educational institution within the past six months and have either a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate.

Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189)

The Skilled Independent visa is a permanent resident visa that allows you to live and work anywhere in Australia. This is a points-based visa and, to be eligible, you need to score 65 points and have an occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).

Skilled Recognised Graduate visa (subclass 476)

The subclass 476 visa is specifically aimed at engineering graduates, under the age of 31, who wish to gain up to 18 months of skilled work experience in Australia. You must have graduated from a university with a recognised qualification under the Washington Accord and majored in one of the following within the past two years:

  • Civil engineering
  • Structural engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Environmental engineering
  • Electrical and electronics engineering
  • Mechanical, production and plant engineering
  • Mining and material engineering

Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491)

The Skilled Work Regional visa will allow you to live and work in specified regional areas in Australia for up to five years. To qualify, you’ll need to either be sponsored by an eligible relative or be nominated to apply by a state or territory government agency.

Temporary Skilled Shortage visa (subclass 482 visa)

The Temporary Skilled Shortage visa (TSS) has a short-term stream and a medium-term stream. The stream you apply for is dependent on which list your occupation is on. If your occupation is on the Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL), you could be eligible for a visa of up to two years on the short-term stream. If your occupation is on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL), you could be eligible for a visa of up to four years on the medium-term stream, and may apply for permanent residency after three years.

How our international study advisers can help you study abroad

Our Study Abroad team offers a free service to help you decide where and what to study. We work with over 250 university partners from countries such as Canada, the UK, Australia, the US and Germany, which gives students a quicker, more streamlined application process. We also offer visa application assistance to get your Student visa and immigration advice should you want to remain in the country you’re studying in after graduation.

Get in touch with us at or call us on +27 21 657 1543 to start your journey to receiving a world-class education. We are a registered UCAS centre and can help you apply to a UK university through UCAS. We are also accredited members of the ICEF who can help you apply to your chosen Australian universities.

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