Partner: The International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA)

South Africa has become a hub of higher education for many students in Africa. The top 10 countries of origin account for 64 percent of international students in South Africa. Within the top ten, the United States is the only non-African place of origin. The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, all English speaking countries, remain the top three destinations of South African students studying abroad. The number of international students studying in South Africa has grown to over 42,000 international university students. The top five places of origin in 2014 were Zimbabwe, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, and Nigeria. Accounting for 50 percent of international students. South Africa is ranked 11th in Open Doors top destinations for U.S. Study Abroad participants.

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics. (2016). Global Flow of Tertiary- Level Students 2014.


Inbound/International Student: The Department of Education, South Africa defines an international student as typically, a non-South African. In cases of dual citizenship, if the first country recorded by a student is not South Africa, then that student is considered an international student.

Data Tables

Data Collection and Resources

The Department of Education of South Africa is the primary national organization that collects and disseminates international higher education data. The agency is also responsible for setting national policies regarding international higher education. Data is collected three times per year from universities and higher education institutions using HEMIS (Higher Education Management Information Systems) and has been recorded since 2005, to date. Specific data gathered includes: gender; field of study; academic level; race; ethnicity; type of host institution; and degree/qualification/credential awarded.

Other published (hard-copy) sources of information are available from the Department of Education.