In South Africa, there are three main Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) where you can study after you leave school: universities, universities of technology and TVET colleges. Community colleges have been added to the list for people who did not finish school. Understanding the difference between these institutions can make choosing what and where you want to study much easier.
What is a university?
Universities offer degree courses that take a minimum of three to four years to complete. Entrance requirements for courses vary greatly and can be quite specific. You will need to have completed the National Senior Certificate (matric) with very good marks, particular subject choices, and may need to meet a list of specific requirements to gain entrance to a university. University courses focus on theoretical training in a specialised field. The longer you study, the more specialised the field becomes. Once you have completed your degree, you can continue to study and earn a postgraduate level of study (Honours, Masters and Doctorate).
What is a University of Technology?
Universities of Technology offer mainly diploma and certificate courses, but also offer degree courses that take about three years to complete. Entrance requirements vary depending on the course. A University of Technology places emphasis on innovative problem-solving and career-directed courses, in addition to the basic responsibilities of a university. The courses are designed to be career-orientated and practical, with experiential learning forming part of the courses.
What is a TVET college?
TVET is an abbreviation of Technical and Vocational Education and Training. Training at TVET colleges varies from a few months to three years, and students generally receive a certificate at the end of a three-year course. The focus is on educating and training students to work in technical or vocational fields. In some cases, students who have completed their studies may be able to continue at a University of Technology. The focus of TVET colleges is to provide students with not only the academic knowledge, but also the practical experience to enter the workforce as quickly and as well-equipped as possible.
The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) is responsible for this distinction between different types of HEIs.
Edited by Glenn Hekma