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Focus on South Africa

Clarisse Faria-Fortecoëf


(Pour consulter cet article en français, cliquez ici)


Context and prospects of the South African Higher Education, and the academic and scientific cooperation with France.

Some data on the national higher education system

In terms of funding, 40% come from public grants awarded by the Ministry of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Tuition fees represent 30%, about € 2,000 per year per student. 30% are financed by research contracts and corporate donations.

With the DHET, the Ministry of Science and Technology (DST) also plays a central role in the training at Master and PhD levels, through a grants system which is managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The country has 25 public universities (traditional and technological) - 5 of which are considered as the best on the African continent - welcoming almost one million students, as well as 114 private schools (about 30,000 students).

Despite of the role played by the State in the development and democratization of the system (significant increase in aid to poor students...), the annual number of degrees is very far from the needs of the country. For example, only 1 600 PhDs are defended annually, while the objective of the National Development Plan 2030 is 6000.

The supervision ability is also insufficient because only 30% of the 25 954 researchers in the country (excluding PhD students and postdocs) are doctorates (PhD), the others having at best a master or a bachelor. Also, 10% of researchers only have a National Diploma, equivalent to a BTS in France.

At the level of student mobility and particularly with France, it is relatively low. Thus, the number of French students in South Africa, amounts to 200 and only more than a hundred South Africans on the 6400 students involved, choose the Hexagon in the framework of a mobility.

To be noted, the France Alumni platform in South Africa officially launched on July 15, 2015 at the Pretoria French Alliance.

A Franco-South African cooperation mainly based on research programs

With over 650 articles in 2013 co-signed by scientists of both countries (+ 20% per year), France is the fourth partner, behind the United States, Britain and Germany, and for the first time before Australia.

The Hubert Curien partnership "Protea" is also a success with 19 projects selected for 2013-2014, for 80 proposals submitted. This partnership promotes the integration of young researchers and students as well as the exchange of postdocs, and for the South Africa in particular, the participation of students and researchers from historically disadvantaged communities. For more information about Protea, you can read the Call for projects 2015 on the website of Campus France (there is no call for projects 2016).

Among the main cooperation programs with France: The F'SATI (French South African Technology Institute). Regarded in South Africa as a national resource contributing to knowledge development and technology transfer, this Engineering School is located within the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in partnership with French institutions such as the Engineering School ESIEE Paris and the University of Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC).
More than 200 students are enrolled there, mainly at master and PhD levels in the following areas: electronics, automation, telecommunications and satellite engineering.

F'SATI's impact is major in terms of development of research and teaching capacities in both universities where it operates, and has 50 PhD students.
France and South Africa set the goal of doubling the number of students of the F'SATI by 2018 and significantly increase partnerships around this center of excellence.


Based on the F'SATI model but in the agriculture field, the F'SAGRI (French South African Institute in Agriculture) is a new bilateral institute, which is expected to open in 2015. Its goal: provide a high level training (Master and PhD) from the Universities of Fort Hare, Limpopo and Venda and in partnership with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC).

Some prospects

Partnerships have to be developed around the F'SATI expertise in the field of space engineering, particularly in the framework of the selection of South Africa to host the fifth site of the Pan-African University, decision which will strengthen the weight of the space sector in South Africa.

Furthermore, the South African Government is now aware of the need to rely on the supervision capacity available abroad in order to reach the objective of the National

Development Plan. Discussions between the French Embassy, the DST and the DHET have been initiated to reach an agreement for the supervision of joint PhDs. Other potential partners are insufficiently sought today: companies, European Union, etc.

Forthcoming event

Campus France Agency and the French Institute in South Africa will organize on Tuesday 13th of October 2015, the first Country Day dedicated to South Africa. at the Alliance Française in Paris. The program of this day will mainly present the latest statistical changes, the latest reforms in South African higher education and information on higher education and scientific cooperation. Learn more about this event.
A Country file CampusFrance should be published after this Day.


For more information (only available in French) :
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