Studying abroad – easier and cheaper than you think

Studying abroad – easier and cheaper than you think


The number of students seeking placement at South Africa’s top universities is on the increase with universities receiving as many as eight to 14 times more applications than places available for the 2021 intake.

This would mean that about 65 000 students are turned away by each of the top universities a year. As a result, some students choose to pursue their studies abroad.

The founder of Studyguide, a consultancy firm specialising in the placement of South Africans wishing to study in Poland, Karolina Laubscher said the choice for South Africans students to study abroad is not new.

“For obvious reasons, South Africans traditionally prefer to study in English-speaking countries such as the UK, Australia and the US,” said Laubscher.

However, with exchange rate challenges, many are seeking more affordable options.

Why Study Abroad?

Research shows that in 2017 there were as many as 1 495 South Africans studying in the UK and more than 2 000 in the US. China has also proved a popular destination for South Africa, with more than 2 600 students enrolled that year.

Studying in the EU

With various systems in place, studying in the EU is easier that one might initially imagine.

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is specifically designed to allow students to move easily between countries with their academic qualifications and study periods recognised. For example, if you are studying engineering in Spain, you can easily relocate to a similar faculty in France as both recognise the same ECTS credits.

Europe also has a well-developed exchange programme. Known as Erasmus, the programme enables students to study from three months up to a year at a university in a different country. For example, if you are studying aerodynamics in Poland, you can spend a term studying a similar course at a German university.

An additional perk and convenience is that students studying in the EU can travel visa free to any other countries who are EU members.

Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees obtained in any of the EU countries are recognised across all EU countries and most of them also in Canada and the US.

How much does it cost?

In 2020/21, annual tuition fees for international undergraduate students in the UK ranged from £9 250 (about R190 000) to £30 548 (R610 000) and up to £64,652 (R1.3 million) for medical degrees, with living costs needing to be factored in above that.

Poland is proving to be a cost-effective option. A degree in engineering, for example, costs R34 000 a year and medical degrees start from R190 000. The cost of living in Poland is also much more affordable than in South Africa and, in many instances, cheaper.

“Some universities are known to rent dorms from as little as R1 900 per month,” said Laubscher. Some universities also offer scholarships to students who can prove special achievement in academics, sport or special contributions to the community. And, PhDs are free and candidates are paid to conduct their research and work at the university.

How to apply?

– Choose the university of interest – collect all relevant documents (and translations thereof) and then apply.

– If you use an agency, make sure it has representation in both South Africa and the country in which you wish to study.

Admissions are open now.

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