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Private Versus Public Institutions

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Choosing where to study is a big deal. One of the things you need to decide is what kind of institution you want to study at. In South Africa private and public institutions have fundamental differences, so you might find that one of them is a much better fit for you.

In South Africa, we often hear more about public institutions than we do about private ones. This is simply because public institutions are often a lot bigger than their private counterparts. But this doesn’t mean that you should push the idea of applying to a private institution aside. Private institutions are managed on a much more personal level, you might find that you prefer what they have to offer.

Private institutions are just that, private. They are not owned by the government, but rather by private organisations. This means that private institutions are often much smaller and more flexible than their public counterparts.

How are Private and Public Institutions Different?

The biggest difference between these institutions is that although both offer the same qualifications, private institutions are owned by private organisations or individuals and as a result seldom receive government subsidies.

There are many private tertiary institutions in South Africa as compared to the 26 public ones, and they are more widely spread out around the country. Because of this there is often a lot more freedom with regard to where and how you study with private institutions, with most of them offering part-time, full-time and distance qualifications for you to choose from. This means that it is easier for you to work towards your qualification in a way that suits you.

These qualifications will be presented to you by lecturers who are passionate about the work that they do.

Below is a table summarising the differences between these two types of institution.



Owned by private organisations or people

Owned by government

Do not receive government subsidies

Receive large government subsidies

Small interactive classes

Large classes

Wide range of qualifications offered on a part-time, full-time and through distance learning.

Wide range of qualifications

Interactive classes

Little one-on-one interaction

More in SA

Only 26


Very little flexibility

Facilitates distance learning

Does not facilitate distance learning to the same extent

Facilitates studying part-time

Does not facilitate studying part-time to the same extent

Student Life at Private Institutions

If you’re considering studying at a private college or university, the idea that you’re giving up a real “university” student life might be one of your biggest concerns. While these colleges are smaller than public universities, they too are popular with students from all backgrounds. Most private institutions have student councils that arrange social, sporting and cultural activities, creating a culture and traditions that are entirely unique to them.

Rosebank College

If you’re considering studying at a private college, you might want to take a look at Rosebank College. Rosebank College is a brand of The IIE – the Independent Institute of Education, one of South Africa’s largest private institutions of higher education, which is accredited with the South African Department of Higher Education and Training, and internationally accredited by theBritish Accreditation Council (BAC).

Rosebank College offers a range of IIE degrees, diplomas and higher certificates on all of its five campuses around South Africa, specialising in Commerce, Information and Communications Technology,  and Humanities. You can choose between studying full-time or part-time, and some of the qualifications accommodate distance learning.

Rosebank College offers small, interactive classes, with a career-orientated syllabus that aims to keep up with the latest skill developments within each field. Since 2012 The IIE’s Rosebank College has placed over 5000 IIE graduates in employment.

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Private institutions often have a far less vigorous application process. You have the opportunity to pursue the course of your choice — as long as you have the minimum entry requirements. And, because of the high quality of the qualifications offered by the private institutions in South Africa, it is often possible for you to transfer between colleges and between the private institutions and public universities in South Africa with ease, depending on your course and the accreditation councils.

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