Top 10 Private Universities In Africa 2017 - Cybermetrics

South african private universities

The instability of the South Africa tertiary education sector, due largely to the student-led #FeesMustFall protest movement as well as quality issues, has seen the role of private universities thrown into stark relief, dubbed either, as one commentator put it, an escape hatch for the very rich or competition out to steal students from public institutions.

The idea there will be a mass exodus from public universities after #FeesMustFall is just not true, said Alwyn Louw, academic president of private university Monash South Africa. It would be impossible for us to compete with public university education. The demand is so high there is room for everyone.

The private tertiary education sector in South Africa includes the likes of Monash South Africa (an independent offshoot from its Australian parent) and St Augustine College, both in Johannesburg, and the Pearson Institute of Higher Education which has campuses dotted around the country.

Louws view of student demand is confirmed by the statistics: between 2009 and 2016 the number of university-eligible graduates increased from 100, 000 to more than 160, 000, an increase of 60%, but university enrolment expanded from about 5% to only 10%. In 2016 only 20% of matric graduates were able to register at South Africas 24 public universities.

These figures show a need for thousands of places in tertiary education and with limited places available in government institutions there is a need for private education, said Sharad Mehra, Monash South Africa CEO.

Not a competitive arena

Mehra does not see higher education as a competitive arena. We support public education. There is a need for it and we need to work together, not compete.

Mehra advocates partnerships with public institutions: This keeps the overall cost of education down and thats important. Its difficult for the government to open more public universities so we can complement the sector; its a case of coexistence and collaboration.

According to Nhlanhla Thwala, managing director of the CTI Education Group and acting academic director of the Pearson Institute, writing in the Mail and Guardian, increasing student numbers have put stress on the system. One consequence of this growth is that we have probably reached the outer limits of the possibilities of state-funded tertiary education and thats before we attempt to deliver free university for all.

The Department of Higher Education and Training, or DHET, regulates the operation of the South African higher education sector, both public and private, in terms of the Higher Education Act of 1997(Act No 101 of 1997) and the Regulations for the Registration of Private Higher Education Institutions of 2016.


In the 1990s, post the unbanning of the African National Congress and the end of apartheid, foreign universities and local entities set up shop resulting in an unregulated free-for-all, making stringent accreditation and registration procedures a necessity.

Aside from this formal regulatory relationship, according to DHET spokesperson Madikwe Mabotha, the department considers the private higher education sector a partner that complements the public sector in the delivery of post-school education in South Africa.

However, private tertiary institutions in South Africa, despite having all the trappings associated with universities such as residential campuses, libraries and computer facilities are not allowed to call themselves universities although it is hoped proposed amendments to the Education Act will change this situation.

However, there remains an ambivalence towards the private sector on the part of government, likely influenced by its historically socialist leanings. According to Mabotha, the Department of Higher Education and Training sees private tertiary education as largely profit-driven and to be regulated accordingly.

The private higher education sector does not consider higher education a public good and will therefore not voluntarily align its institutional goals to the social mission of government.

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