Private VS Public Tertiary studies – Pro’s and Con’s

I read a lot. A lot of Harry Potter if I’m honest (seriously, I must have read each of the 7 books 7 times each, and I’m not even mildly embarrassed. 7 is the most powerful magical number). But I also read articles pertaining to the industry I work in. I always find myself thinking back to the time when it was my turn to make a career choice. What do I choose? How do I go about it? What are my options? I wish I had something to make it all easier. So that’s why I have put together some comparative data herein.

PUBLIC Tertiary Studies: Universities, Universities of Technology etc.

  1. South Africa has 26public, state funded Universities with a total capacity of about 900 000 learners, across all 9 provinces. UNISA is the largest, accommodating 400 000 students through correspondence learning.
  2. A variety of faculties and qualifications on offer.
  3. Acceptance criteria is more strict, due to the space limitations, limited number of students they can accept per programme each year. You have to apply early to stand a chance.
  4. Cheaper, as it is state funded
  5. Higher drop out rate than private, for reasons such as more people, social impacts on studies, being accepted for a second or third career choice and therefore not enjoying it.
  6. Standard of education – some Universities are portrayed as great, while others not so much. To the rest of the world, we are considered to have a third world education system, so our International compatibility is not so hot.
  7. Student Accommodation – this is also of varying standards, strikes have broken out over res availability, conditions, cost etc
  8. Student safety – On top of the normal crime we have to deal with in South Africa, such as petty theft, hijackings etc, we now have the additional worry of student strikes not only affecting student safety but also the time spent on campus learning.
  9. Facilities – some good, some not so much. I am referring to libraries, internet accessibility, classroom facilities, laboratories, and other infrastructure like restrooms and social areas.
  10. Social – universities generally have a lot going on socially which is great. If you are not a party animal, then there is probably a more relaxed option too.
  11. Sport – public education has the benefit of a large variety of sports or cultural activities that learners can take part in, and this is viable due to the large amount of students.


PRIVATE Tertiary Studies: Private institutions

  1. There are approximately 800 registered private education providers, but the stats on capacity are a bit shady
  2. A variety of faculties and qualifications on offer, but a lot of private providers choose to specialize in one sector or area – such as tourism, culinary, I.T etc. Contrary to popular thoughts, private institutions offer the exact same standard of education as any public university, and have to pass the same quality assurance criteria to become accredited, and the curriculum is also re-approved regularly.
  3. Acceptance is generally easier because private institutions run more like a business, where they have to market themselves and work to get students enrolled. A university markets itself. Qualifying criteria is generally less strict.
  4. More expensive because it is privately owned
  5. Lower drop out rate to public – this comes with having fewer students of course, but it can’t be denied that the social impact on studies is less, so students are more likely to pass, as well as the more individual attention that the students are able to get in class, all contributes to learners being able to achieve more. They are also more likely to have chosen the career that was their first choice, and therefore work hard to achieve it.
  6. Standard of Education – same as public. Some are great and some not so much! Since it is the same curriculum,you are looking at a similar standard between the two, but private institutions have the added benefits, because they have the flexibility to align themselves with international partners, such as an I.T College partnering with Microsoft. This affects the price of the studies too, because it’s not cheap to be accredited internationally. This improves the international comparibility of the Qualification. The smaller classes provides more individual attention, and ability to manage students easily.
  7. Student accommodation – some private institutions do have campus accommodation and it is generally of a good standard. However, most do not have this luxury, and students therefore go into private res, digs, or other student accommodation, which can be more expensive.
  8. Student Safety – the normal day to day crime is always a threat, but in a smaller environment, the theft and other crime,or bullying and fighting is much more under control. Strikes are unlikely due to the lack of numbers, and the ability to sort issues out on a more personal basis.
  9. Facilities – some good, some not so much. Private is more likely to be able to maintain infrastructure due to smaller environments and the need to have a high standard to keep students coming back. Some may not have the luxury of things like on site libraries etc, but are able to provide Internet accessibility and additional support to students in other ways.
  10. Social can be a tough one for the smaller private institutions. However, a lot of institutions make an effort to do social get togethers for the students, such as a cooking school doing bake off’s, or an I.T school hosting a gaming day. It will be a social that brings the students together by appealing to their common interests.
  11. Sport can also be tough for smaller private institutions. Since they have smaller numbers and differing interests, it can be hard to have enough people for a team, or enough common interest in one sport, or even the venue to practice. Luckily, the option is always there to make an extra effort by sponsoring students to practice at an external or third party venue.

So there is some food for thought!

Good Luck with your decisions!


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