Matrics: What to consider when weighing up your 2024 study options

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As matric learners head into the business part of their final year of school, preparing for their IEB or NSC exams, it is imperative that they don’t leave the question of next year’s studies until it’s too late, an education expert says.

“Grade 12 students must not leave the decision of what and where they want to study next year to the last minute. Spaces are limited at both public universities and private higher education institutions (PHEI), and public university spaces are capped by their enrolment plans approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).  A wide range of study fields are available at a quality private higher education institution,” says Dr Linda Meyer, MD of The Independent Institute of Education’s Rosebank College.

Only a limited number of public university applicants will receive placements, and it is crucial to apply on time, she says, adding that a viable alternative is to study with an accredited private provider.

Prospective students’ goals and aspirations may be better catered for outside the public university system, as private institutions offer several advantages such as cutting-edge technology, industry-experienced lecturers, and smaller class sizes.

Dr Meyer says that when deciding where to study, prospective students should carefully weigh up the following factors:


Prospective students must ensure their chosen qualification and institution are registered and accredited by relevant authorities. Whether the institution is a public university or Private Higher Education Institution, they can rest assured that employers will recognise their qualifications if the proper accreditation is in place.

All qualifications offered in South Africa by a public or private institution must be registered with the South African Qualifications Authority on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and accredited with the Council on Higher Education for Higher Education Qualifications. It is important to investigate the accreditation status of providers and qualifications before enrolling.

The DHET is responsible for  registering and regulating higher education institutions, and prospective students can view the DHET list of approved private providers here:

Industry recognition

Prospective students must also verify whether their qualification is recognised by the relevant professional body and industry associations such as, for instance, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB), the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and the South African Council for Educators (SACE).


In a volatile and uncertain environment, where the local and global economies remain unpredictable, and Artificial Intelligence continues to impact the jobs market, prospective students must ensure they choose an institution that is agile and responsive to changing demands in the world of work. Universities that continue to offer the same curriculum as they have for the past decade or two, without a focus on and response to the changing requirements in a given industry, would therefore not be the best option to prepare students for the workplace they will encounter three or four years down the line.

“Prospective students must therefore be sure to enquire about practical and work-integrated components of their studies,” says Dr Meyer.

Global recognition of the institution and its qualifications

As many young South Africans will elect to head abroad for some time to gain international work experience, they must ensure their qualifications will be recognised abroad, Dr Meyer says.

To determine whether a qualification will open doors to international opportunities, prospective students can consult the joint website of ENIC (European Network of Information Centres in the European Region) and NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centres in the European Union). SAQA may also be approached to verify the status of qualifications and their international recognition.

The environment

The move from school to university is a major one, and new students need all the help they can get to perform optimally. It is, therefore, worth enquiring about student support systems that are in place at the institution you are considering, class sizes, the learning experience, and student wellness services that can be expected.  An excellent way to assess these factors is to speak to former and current students and campus staff.

“Class sizes and student support are crucial for ensuring student success and the ability of a graduate to enter the workplace confidently from day one.  Deciding where you will study is not easy and should only be done after careful consideration of your options,” Dr Meyer says.

“While you are getting ready for the academic performance of a lifetime later this year, remember to start giving serious thought to your post-school future, and don’t leave the decision too late, when your options may have diminished, and you might no longer have the luxury of careful and thoughtful consideration of all the great choices available to you.”