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The University of Cape Town, South Africa. Source: Shutterstock

International students have so many destinations to choose from today compared to a few decades ago. Back then, there was only a handful of countries to choose from when it came to studying abroad.

Countries in Asia are growing in popularity among the international student population, as well as countries like Switzerland and Costa Rica.

And now many prospective students are keen to study in South Africa, a country that stands as the economic hub of the continent.

South Africa is also rich in history, nature and culture, with a bustling city life in Johannesburg. It’s also one of the more affordable options for international students due to lower costs of living compared to traditional favourites like the UK and US.

Here, there are several amazing, high quality universities that have a multicultural student and faculty population.

However, the course or degree programme you choose to undertake really does matter. As an international student, you want to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

South African universities are steadily rising in terms of global rankings. According to the recent Academic Ranking of World Universities 2019 by Shanghai Ranking, South African universities are particularly strong in a few subject areas.

According to Business Tech, “The group’s subject ranking system is heavily focused on research quality, impact, and collaboration, and assesses more than 1,600 institutions from 83 countries across 54 subjects in five broad subject areas.”

Here are the best courses to study in South Africa:

Social Sciences

Social Sciences is South African higher education’s strong suit, so those who are interested in pursuing this field abroad should look into studying there.

The University of Witswatersrand (Wits University) in Johannesburg has one of the best social sciences programmes in the country. The School of Social Sciences also offers interdisciplinary programmes in addition to specialisations in the social sciences.

According to the website, “It provides one of the richest, most exciting and most innovative areas of study at the University and boasts many of South Africa’s leading internationally trained intellectuals, lecturers, researchers and writers in this field.”

The School also offers Honours, Master’s and PhD postgraduate programmes.

Natural Sciences

A few universities in South Africa rank within the top 200 globally for Earth Sciences, which fall under the umbrella of Natural Sciences, such as the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) which ranks within 151-200th globally for geography and ecology.

The School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UKZN is one of the best in the country, with world-class teaching and research facilities, cutting-edge research equipment and a research farm located within 11 kms of the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Mining and Mineral Engineering

Although engineering as a whole is not one the strong subject areas in South African universities, some concentrations in the country are particularly strong academically – especially mining and mineral engineering.

The University of Cape Town (UCT)is ranked 20 globally for the subject, and is one of the most popular universities for international students.

UCT Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, said, “UCT’s focus in the area of mining and mineral engineering is enabling countries to mine the minerals society needs in ways that are sustainable for communities and the planet.”

Wits University also has a strong mining and mineral engineering programme, ranked 44th globally, as well as Stellenbosch University, which ranks between 51st-75th.

Medical Sciences

Studies medical sciences are also popular in South Africa due to the quality of academic programmes.

UCT and Wits University both rank within 51st-75th globally in Clinical Medicine, Stellenbosch University and the University of KwaZulu Natal ranked between 101st-150th, and North-West University ranked between 151st-200th.

For Veterinary Sciences, the University of Pretoria ranks 45th globally,  and both the University of KwaZulu Natal and Stellenbosch University rank between 201st-300th.

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