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Over 1.2 million middle-class South Africans want to study overseas, recent survey shows

File picture: Pexels

File picture: Pexels

Published Apr 3, 2022


A TOTAL of 1.24 million South Africans are planning, working towards or dream of international studies.

This is according to a BrandMapp survey done recently.

As 1.24 million South Africans want to study overseas, 12 000 South Africans are actually studying overseas, according to the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA) in March 2020.

The plan to study abroad might also be linked to the desire to leave South Africa.

“Although they might not be able to actually do it, we know from BrandMapp that 27% of adults say they would like to emigrate in the next five years”, said director of storytelling at BrandMapp, Brandon de Kock.

“But what’s staggering is that that percentage rockets up to 48% of those aged under 25 years. There’s no doubt that for these youngsters, studying overseas looks like the key to a global door behind which lies a future earning dollars, euros or yen rather than rands in return for their soon-to-be highly skilled labour.”

De Kock adds that demographically speaking, there is no gender difference. “However, when it comes to ethnicity, those who have plans or dreams to study internationally are overwhelmingly middle-class black South Africans,” said De Kock.

Heidi Sulcas, from The Learner’s Journey, who is also the editor of “University Speaking; the South African Guide to Overseas Study”, says that studying internationally is not for everyone.

“With 47% unemployment in South Africa for over 18s, to land a job you need to set yourself apart from the competition. Studying a degree path that is not available in South Africa or a degree that is in such demand in South Africa that gaining admission is in the low single digits might just be the difference between coming back to a good job and a career or becoming part of the unemployment statistic.”

Sulcas warned that studying internationally was expensive, saying: “We must keep in mind that the recognition of high school diplomas and degrees from South Africa is still robust in most places in the world.”

While the demand for tertiary education in South Africa is growing, the costs of tertiary education remains an obstacle for many mid to top income level South Africans.

According to BrandMapp, 70% have a tertiary education with 42% of them holding degrees. The remaining 30% may either still be studying or don’t have a reason to.

What are the local universities that South Africans are opting for?

Unisa is an option of choice for 40% of adults who want to study further. A total of 37% look to brick-and-mortar universities and colleges.

With the pandemic causing a shift to the online space, online options for further studies is gaining momentum.


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