When deciding on a tertiary institution, it’s important to get all the facts first, so you can make the best choice for you. Here’s a short breakdown of the differences between universities, universities of technology and TVET/ FET colleges.

General differences

The biggest difference between a college and a university is that colleges only focus on undergraduate programmes, whereas universities offer postgraduate and doctoral degrees. Also, the entry requirements for colleges differ to those of universities. While you can qualify for college acceptance with a Diploma or Higher Certificate symbol in your matric year; most universities require a Bachelor (and, for some courses, a Diploma) symbol to grant acceptance.

TVET (formerly known as FET colleges)

A Technical and Vocational Education and Training college offers - you guessed it - vocational training. This means that you get practical courses related to very specific careers. Most of these are technical professions like boiler-making or welding. To qualify for a TVET college, you need to have passed Grade 9 and be 16 or older. A TVET certificate is recognised at a National Qualification Framework (NQF) Level 4, and equips you with the theoretical and practical training related to whatever career you’re studying towards. They’re also subsidised by government, so the fees can be quite low.

University of Technology

A university of technology focuses more on courses that provide training linked to specific careers. You get to do work that’s more practical and the emphasis is on applied research rather than theory. Most universities of technology provide an NQF Level 6 qualification (Diploma), or a BTech degree if you study for an extra year.

Traditional universities

Traditional universities offer programmes that emphasise academics and theoretical knowledge more than practical tasks. University degrees are recognised at an NQF level of 7 and above (postgrad degrees range from NQF level 8 to 10). Both universities and universities of technology have fees that range between R 25 000 and R 60 000 (or more), depending on the institution and the course you’re studying.

Making the right choice

Choosing an institution should depend on the kind of career you’re interested in as well as the type of student you are. If you’re more academically inclined and get marks that allow you to enter a traditional university or university of technology, then it’s a good idea to look into some of the public and private universities in South Africa. You may want to look into TVET colleges to see whether there are any courses you’d be interested in doing if you’re someone who likes working with their hands and it isn’t really into doing theory or branching into academia.

There you have it - the information you need to get started on deciding on the higher education institution that’s best for you. Got any questions? Drop us a message.

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