In South Africa, there are three main institutions where you can study after you leave school; universities, universities of technology and TVET colleges. Recently, community colleges have been added for people who did not finish school. Understanding the difference between these institutions can make choosing what you want to study and where 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 specialized field. The longer you study, the more specialized the field becomes; once you have completed your degree you can continue studying 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 that you want to take. 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 for 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. Students who have completed their studies may (in some cases) be able to continue their studies at a University of Technology. This articulation between different type of HEI’s is the intent of the DHET. 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.
Yolandi Farham, TVET Publisher, Oxford University Press Southern Africa