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Extended Degree Programme: Your Ticket to University

by Shirley Erasmus

Have you just completed matric, but still feel that you are not ready for the challenges of a university degree and the level of work which is required for a degree?

An extended degree programme or bridge course is an intensive course, often designed for high school students who are going into tertiary study, for students may not feel confident enough with their preparation for university study, or who do not meet the requirements for university because they come from disadvantaged schools. Some university institutions offer a bridge course in the form of an ‘extended degree’, thus making a three-year degree a four-year year degree.

I’m missing a subject- can I pursue a bridge course option? 

Nope, not in this case! It’s important to remember that a university-run bridge course will not teach a subject from the very beginning (for example at a grade 10 level). You need to have already taken a particular subject required for your degree, at school, even if your marks are not up to the required level. For example, you will need to have taken Mathematics Core up to matric in order to complete a BSc Degree, so if you have taken Maths Literacy in High School, you may want to consider doing Maths Core separately.

If you have not taken a subject you require for a certain degree, it’s not the end of the world! You have the option to take the subject at Damelin, Brainline or Abbotts College before you go to university! For example, if you took Maths Literacy in High school and you now need Maths Core to do your required degree; this would be an awesome option for you!

Are all bridge courses the same? 

Universities will offer different forms of bridge courses or extended degree programmes. For example, some universities offer courses that must be completed before you can start your actual degree, such as The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program offered at UCT.

On the other hand, some universities offer a bridge course which will extend your degree by a year. The extended studies programmes often allow for a lower entry requirement and being a part of the programme will mean that you will complete your degree a year later than a degree would regularly take, but don’t let this scare you! Extended studies programmes merely extend your studies, meaning your subjects are split up so that you have a lighter workload, and more time to pass each subject.

Which South African institutions offer an extended degree programme?

Keep in mind that some universities only offer an extended degree programme for certain degrees.

What are my options? 

University of Pretoria

The University of Pretoria offers an extended bridge course called ENGAGE: The Engineering Augmented Degree Program. This course helps students who are studying a degree in engineering. ENGAGE helps students to adjust to university life and cope with the demands of engineering studies, which is a notoriously difficult and demanding degree.

The programme runs for five years and the volume of work is gradually increased and academic support provided is then gradually decreased as the student progresses.

To find out more contact: 012 420 3111

University of Witwaterstrand (Wits)

We all know that studying medicine is one of the most difficult degrees! Thus, Wits offers a programme called GEMP: The Graduate Entry Medical Programme. The programme allows suitably qualified candidates who meet certain minimum requirements into the third year of the MBBCh degree (Check out the minimum requirements).

What this means, is that you would need to have already completed, or be in the process of completing your undergraduate degree after which you can apply for GEMP at a third-year level. The programme allows undergraduate medical students to complete their degree in a period of four years after which the students enter their internship and government-mandated community service period.

This is a programme which students can apply towards, provided they meet the minimum requirements! Students who are applying to be placed in the GEMP will need to write the Wits Additional Placement Test (WAPT). This test is only open to students who are invited to take the test and will determine whether or not the student is prepared to be allowed into the GEMP.

To find out more about GEMP contact: 011 717 1888

University of Johannesburg

The University of Johannesburg offers a few extended degrees options such as the Extended Bcom Degree. This is an option for candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements for a regular BCom degree at UJ. In this course, the degree is extended by one year, in which the student will have one year of ‘foundation courses’. The University of Johannesburg also offers various extended humanities degrees.

To find out more about these degrees please contact 011 5592197 or email:

Rhodes University

Rhodes University offers students who do not meet the admissions requirements a place on the Extended Studies Unit. This allows the student to complete their degree over four rather than three years.

Students can be placed in the Extended Studies Unit for the following faculties:

  • Commerce
  • Humanities
  • Science

To find out more about the Extended Studies Unit contact: 046 603 8111

Nelson Mandela University

The extended curriculum programme is designed to help students who don’t meet the minimum admission requirements with essential skills in order to succeed in their studies at NMU. The programme provides academic support and skills development. Students who are admitted into the extended curriculum programme must successfully complete the first two years of the programme to qualify for a full degree or diploma status.

The following options are available for completing a qualification in the extended curriculum programme:

Faculty of Arts

  • Diploma (Public Management)

Business and Economic Sciences

  • Bachelor of Commerce
  • Diploma (Economics)
  • Diploma (Human Resource Management)
  • Diploma (Logistics)
  • Diploma (Management)
  • Diploma (Marketing)
  • Diploma (Tourism Management)

Health Sciences & Science

  • Bachelor of Nursing
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc)


  • LLB

George Campus

  • Diploma (Agriculture Management)
  • Diploma (Forestry)
  • Diploma (Game Ranch Management)
  • Diploma (Management)
  • Diploma (Marketing)
  • Diploma (Nature Conservation)
  • Diploma (Tourism Management)
  • Diploma (Wood Technology)
  • Bachelor of Commerce (BCom)

To find out more about NMU’s extended curriculum programme contact: 041 504 1111

University of the Western Cape (UWC)

The University of the Western Cape hosts the Phucula Academic Programme which aims to improve the pass rate of Black African first and second-year students at UWC who are studying towards BCom General (majoring in Accounting) or BCom Financial Accounting degrees.

To find out more about the Phucula Academic Programme contact: 021 959 3900

University of Cape Town (UCT)

UCT offers a number of extended degree programmes and bridge courses across various faculties.


  • Accounting with Law or Bachelor of Commerce: Accounting/PPE/Information  Economics with Law/ Management Studies/ Information Systems/ Information Systems & Computer Science/  Economics & Finance/ Economics & Stats and Management Studies.


  • Bachelor of Fine Art or Bachelor of Music.


UCT has an extended degree programme specifically for engineering students, called ASPECT: Academic Support Programme for EngineeringASPECT creates a supportive environment for students who are particularly mindful to students’ academic, social and emotional needs. The curriculum is planned so that the degree should take five years to complete.

To find out more about ASPECT contact: 021 650 3238

UCT also offers the Bukela Ufunde Academic Programme which is a bridge course offering academic support to Black African students studying towards Charted Accountancy. The programme is provided in the form of video recordings on the key principles in financial reporting and management accounting. There are also video recordings of study skills which aim to assist 1st, 2nd and 3rd-year students in progressing through an Accounting degree.

Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University offers a number of  extended degree programmes in the following facilities:

  • Arts and Social Sciences
  • Economic and Management Sciences (only BComm)
  • Health Sciences
  • Sciences
  • AgriSciences
  • Engineering

To find out more about the extended degree programme contact: 021 808 4937

Stellenbosch also hosts the SciMathUS Bridging Programme which is a 10-month programme which aims to assist Black African learners from disadvantaged communities to prepare to enter higher education in Economic and Management Sciences by providing an opportunity to rewrite matric.

Take a look at the admission requirements.

University of the Free State

The University of the Free State has a very unique bridge course called the University Preparation Programme. The year-long, programme is aimed at students who from historically disadvantaged communities in order to help these students gain access to higher education in especially three fields of study: Economic and Management Sciences, the Humanities, and Natural and Agricultural Sciences. After successful completion of the bridging year, students can continue their studies at the Bloemfontein Campus of the University. Check out if you meet the requirements of the bridge course programme by browsing the relevant rule book.

To find out more about the University preparation programme contact: 051 505 1201

Walter Sisulu University (WSU)

WSU requires students to do the National Benchmark Tests (NBT’s) before applying to the University. Their extended curriculum programmes are designed to equip students who do not meet the minimum admission requirements with the skills which will help them to be successful in their studies.

To find out more about the extended degree programmes contact:

Mthatha Campus: 047 502 2844

Butterworth Campus: 047 4016254

Buffalo City Campus: 043 708 5200

And as always, if you’re still confused then drop us a line here. We’ll make sure to find you an answer!

How to apply for NSC supplementary exams here.

University of Kwazulu-Natal

UKZN has a number of ‘bridge courses’ in the form of  Academic Support Programmes which aims to assist students from disadvantaged educational backgrounds. These programmes take the form of access and foundation programmes, restructured first-year courses or additional courses in essential skills such as communication and academic writing. One of their amazing extended degree programmes is the alternative access programme.

The Alternative Access Programme (AAP):

The following programmes are available in the Alternative Access Programme:

College of Agriculture, Engineering & Science AAP

  • BSc Engineering: Extended Programme or BSc 4 year Augmented Curriculum:

Students who successfully complete the one year BSc Engineering Extended Programme will be allowed to enrol in the College of Engineering at First Year Level. Students gain access to the programme through meeting the academic requirements at Grade 12 level.

College of Humanities AAP

  • BSoc Sc Augmented Curriculum:

B Soc Sc Augmented Curriculum gives students from disadvantaged backgrounds access to Humanities and Social Sciences through a bridge course option.  The curriculum is structured to allow successful students the possibility of graduating with a BSocSc degree.

College of Law & Management Studies AAP

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Extended Curriculum) (B Com 4 General) or Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting (Extended Curriculum) (B Com 4 Acc):

Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) of a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting (BCom Accounting) are both three-year degrees that are extended over four years.  These programmes provide a foundation year that follows a full foundational model.

To find out more about AAP contact: 031 260 8596

UKZN also offers  Academic Support Programmes in the Science fields:

College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science

  • BSc Augmented Curriculum

The course is a four year degree with extended support programme for students from disadvantaged schools; the first-year study is spread over two years.

  • BSc Foundation Curriculum

The foundation curriculum is a First-year foundation programme for students from disadvantaged schools, completion of the course leads to any qualification in the science field, for example, Science, Agriculture, Engineering or Health Science. Applicants will be required to write an entrance test.

  • The Science Foundation

The foundation programme is a one-year access programme for students from disadvantaged schools who do not meet the entry requirements to go directly into any qualification in the science field such as, Science, Agriculture, Engineering or Health Science. After successfully completing the programme, the student can enter into Science, Agricultural or Health Sciences.

To find out more about the academic support programmes contact: 031 260 8596

EduConnect 2Cents

While this article only gives the basics of an extended degree programme or bridge course, it is important to find out exactly what is available at your university:

  • What is expected of you and your matric results, for example; what subjects do you need to have taken up to a matric level and what are the minimum requirements that your course requires?
  • What will you need to achieve in the extended degree programme in order to move forward? For example, many of the bridge courses and extended degree programmes require you to successfully pass the first year in order to continue in the programme.
  • Make sure that you have all the relevant information before you apply towards a particular course and ask, ask, ask! If you are unsure whether you will cope with the demands of a particular course, it is critical that you ask as many people who have taken the course or who run the course and who can help you, so that you can make the most informed decision possible!

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