South African universities and Higher Education (HE) institutions in general are popular study destinations for school leavers and post-graduate students from many parts of the World, especially from the African continent.

In addition exponential growth in the number of countries with diplomatic representation since 1994 has also had an effect on South African universities as school-leavers from more than 150 countries could theoretically apply for admission to South African universities and HE institutions.

In view of different international school leaving benchmarks, the Matriculation Board as advisory body to Higher Education South Africa (HESA) updates the list of qualifications that are acceptable on face value for admission to first degree studies at South African universities on an ongoing basis.

Registrars of universities are required to apply on behalf of candidates for foreign exemption certificates (regulation 28) or mature age exemption (regulation 30) whilst other candidates may apply directly to the Board. As result of practical problems experienced by institutions in handling foreign qualifications and the legal implications thereof, institutions requested the Matriculation Board to compile a guideline document for the handling of applications of exemption.

As already indicated above the list of qualifications to follow can by no means be regarded as comprehensive and qualifications that are not listed will have to be checked with Matriculation Board officials.

NB: It should also be noted that whereas there is regular consultation and cooperation between the Matriculation Board and the SA Qualifications Authority’s Directorate: Foreign Qualifications Evaluation and Advisory Services (DFQEAS), such evaluations are aimed at job placement and the determining of school leaving requirements and not at university degree admission. In as much as most holders of senior certificates in South Africa do not qualify to study for degree purposes at South African universities, many candidates from foreign countries who are in possession of foreign school leaving certificates are also not eligible for university admission in their own countries of origin, or in South Africa due to benchmark differences. Universities should therefore only refer foreign school leavers who want to study for diploma purposes at their institutions to the DFQEAS for evaluations.