Private vs Public Postgraduate Education in SA

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Private vs Public Postgraduate Education in SA


In South Africa, students have the choice of attending public or private tertiary institutions. But attendance is often dictated by what students can afford. There are a few differences between public and private postgraduate tertiary institutions, but one of the main distinctions is how they are funded.

Most public universities and colleges, typically Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges (TVETs), are backed financially by the government. In South Africa, disadvantaged students who can’t afford their fees have the ability to apply via grants and bursaries such as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), a government student bursary and loan scheme.

Meanwhile, students opting to attend private institutions don’t have access to government-backed schemes like NSFAS. Instead, they have to come up with the funds themselves from savings or apply for student or personal loans if they don’t have enough savings.

Other differences and similarities

Government backing and financing afford public tertiary institutions advantages and some disadvantages that you should consider:

1.Fees are lower at public universities:

As there’s state money backing some of the students attending public universities, they can afford to keep fees lower than private institutions.

2.Size and options:

Private tertiary institutions tend to be smaller (in footprint and in student numbers) than public institutions. Students who are looking for more choice will more than likely find it at public universities. Private institutions rely more heavily on tuition fees and therefore can only offer degrees and courses that are profitable.

3.Tutors and lecturers are more accessible at private institutions:

We’re not saying that lecturers at public universities don’t have time for their students, but as class sizes are typically larger, they would have less time to dedicate to individual students than lecturers at private ones. Private colleges and universities tend to have smaller classes, which may suit students who thrive in such an intimate environment and require a more personal touch.

Are public tertiary institutions better?

Not all public tertiary institutions are better than private ones. When deciding which one to pick, consider the costs, credentials, reputation, class size and environment before making a choice. Certainly there is a good case to be made for private institutions that are accredited and that have courses and degrees that have good rankings, such as Milpark.

One thing that private institutions do struggle with and lack is a legacy. “I do think that privates have a tougher task of convincing the market that they are equal alternatives to public institutions, merely as a result of the many years of existence of the public institutions and the brand strength developed over that time. Prominent private providers of postgraduate education in South Africa, like Milpark, have only been around for 20-odd years, while there are public institutions celebrating centenaries,” points out Dr Cobus Oosthuizen, dean of Milpark Business School.

19 Sep 2018