How IT Courses in South Africa Compare Globally

With the need for information technology experts growing at a seemingly exponential rate, both internationally and domestically, there has never been a better time to join this exciting industry. Yet, with such an evolving industry comes an increasingly competitive environment in which standing out from the rest of the pack is more important than ever.

The most sure-fire way to do so is to obtain one of the top IT Courses in South Africa that is both internationally competitive and from an accredited IT-focused institution.

That raises the question: Do IT Courses in South Africa offer students a qualification that can compete with those offered by leading international institutions?

Spotlighting the Top IT Courses in South Africa

To begin, we need to identify the top choices when it comes to IT courses in South Africa. While this list is not exhaustive, and there are certainly many other institutions that offer competitive and expansive degrees, we have covered the top-ranked public university in South Africa for IT courses and the best course offered by a private institution, all based on extensive research of the various IT courses in South Africa.

There are two primary types of software engineering, namely: applications development and systems development. Applications developers generally focus on creating user-facing programs, while systems developers focus on the foundational programs that support and manage computer hardware.

1. BSc Degree in Computer Science from the University of Cape Town

As a highly regarded institution worldwide and the best-ranked overall university in both South Africa and the entire African continent, the University of Cape Town offers students an engaging and thorough BSc Degree in Computer Science that translates well to international standards. With access to high-tech laboratories and other resources, this qualification also offers a focus on specific subjects, such as mobile application design, and advanced software engineering in computability and algorithms.

The standout feature of studying at UCT is certainly the recognition students will receive from both local and international organisations due to the university and its courses being the highest-ranked university overall in South Africa.

2. Bachelor of Computing from Belgium Campus iTversity

In terms of private institutions, Belgium Campus iTversity stands out for the innovative and engaging programs on offer. Working in partnership with major international brands like BMW, Boeing and Microsoft, Belgium Campus iTversity offers students a Bachelor of Computing with a high level of practical and theoretical learning that translates well into the working world. With smaller class sizes and a better student-lecturer dynamic, this stands out as an excellent option for anyone who wishes to study one of the top IT Courses in South Africa.

Another major factor is that like well-known public universities, Belgium Campus iTversity offers courses that are recognised internationally, with its global partnerships offering a level of credibility that is almost unmatched by other institutions.

The standout feature of studying at Belgium Campus iTversity is that the institution and its qualifications are audited every five years and benchmarked against the Accreditation Protocol of the Dutch and Flemish Accreditation Organisation. The most recent audit found that its Bachelor of Computing offers a slightly higher standard of education than a Bachelors degree of international standards.

A Look at the Best IT Courses Internationally

The top IT courses on offer at international institutions come from some of the most renowned universities in the world. However, while reputation is a major factor, the value of a degree ultimately comes down to the actual education it provides.

1. BSc in Computer Science, Economics, and Data Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology

As the most renowned computer and science-focused university in the world, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has some high expectations to meet. And that is exactly what it does. While there are many innovative and useful degrees to study at MIT, its BSc in Computer Science, Economics, and Data Science stands out for the scope and value it offers students.

Then there is the option of completing a Diploma in Information Technology, which allows students to focus their course studies in one of two streams, an infrastructure stream and a development stream. Opting for this course has the added advantage of a 6-month workplace training opportunity, offering an incredible opportunity to gain practical experience in the industry.

While it is incredibly challenging to be accepted into any MIT courses, students who begin this degree are given the opportunity to study a range of skills in economics, computing, and data science that are increasingly valued in both the business world and academia.

Some of their alumni includes world-renowned figures such as Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the Moon, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, and Andrea Wong, the president of Sony International Production.

The standout feature of studying any courses at MIT is the industry recognition its degrees offer students. With their students able to walk into highly sought after jobs at organisations such as NASA, Google, Microsoft, and many more.

The main drawback for students from South Africa, apart from the challenging entry requirements, is the price. With fees on average of around $12,715⁠ (R237,913) for the 2023-24 academic year with a scholarship, this price is well out of reach for students from most countries. Of course this does include things such as accommodation, food, medical aid, and textbooks and MIT also offers aid packages that can bring the price down to as low as nearly $5000 (R93,556) per year.

2. Bachelor in Computer Science from ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich offers an advanced Bachelor in Computer Science that offers specialisations in software systems, theoretical computer science, and computational science. The course also offers students a direct pathway to completing their Master’s in specialisations in theoretical computer science, information security, software engineering, and information systems, among others.

A standout feature of studying at ETH Zurich is that their courses provide students access to some of the most cutting-edge tools and laboratories available. Add to this the highly regarded lecturers that are a part of the course, and ETH Zurich stands out as one of the best options for studying IT courses in the world.

There is a major drawback, especially for international students. The average tuition fee of CHF 730 (R 15,547) for international students per year is largely affordable, even for students from South Africa. However, ETH Zurich approximates the total tuition and living costs to be CHF 25,310 (R539,585) per year, which will be a major barrier for students from South Africa.

3. Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne

“Maybe you’ve always known that you wanted to be a marine biologist. Or perhaps you’re still deciding whether you want to be an engineer or a geologist. A doctor or a vet? A data scientist or a physicist? A chemist or a psychologist?”

This is exactly how the University of Melbourne (Unimelb) advertises its Bachelor of Science degree on the website. While not focused purely on IT in the traditional sense, their offering gives students an unparalleled choice when it comes to what career they wish to pursue. With more than 40 majors on offer, students can select from the full range of science, biomedicine, mathematics, engineering and IT subjects.

The standout feature of studying at the University of Melbourne is this incredible scope on offer for its students. It allows them to experiment with different courses and find what works best for them. Coupled with the international recognition that comes with studying at Australia’s highest ranked university and this Bachelor of Science degree becomes a tantalising option for any aspiring IT student.

The drawback here is once again the course fees. With a total course fee of AUD$154,796-$193,888 (R1,896,607- R2,375,573), most students from South Africa simply cannot afford to study here without significant study assistance.

IT Courses in South Africa vs The World

While universities like MIT and ETH Zurich are certainly at the pinnacle of education in technology and computing, there is no doubt that IT Courses in South Africa have significantly improved their offerings. With better access to new technology and practices, as well as the opportunities for students to engage with international universities through institutional partnerships and online options such as webinars and virtual learning, the gap is rapidly closing.

Belgium Campus iTversity for instance has partnered with numerous international universities such as Penn State, USA, UC Leuven Limburg, Belgium, and the University of Melbourne to provide their students with a better international standard of education.

IT is also a relatively universal concept. This means the same good practices that are taught at Belgium Campus iTversity or UCT will be the same as at MIT, Unimelb, and ETH Zurich, due to the language of computing being universal, especially in subjects such as programming or coding.

Another major comparison that will weigh heavy on students from South Africa is the cost of tuition. While fees for IT courses in South Africa may range between R60,000 and R113,000 per year, they are still significantly less than most international university fees without subsidies.

Lastly, it must be said that while universities in South Africa are quickly gaining on the levels of their international counterparts, they are incredibly advanced within Africa. It must also be said, though, that the courses offered across the rest of Africa are swiftly improving, much the same as in South Africa.

The Final Verdict

The final outcome of this study is a positive one for South African education. While top international universities like MIT and ETH Zurich do offer comprehensive and valuable IT courses at the highest level, they are not as far ahead of South African offerings as was once the case.

Universities such as UCT and Belgium Campus iTversity are leading this charge and have been actively contributing to the advancement of IT courses in South Africa.

Though institutions like MIT do offer students their impressive reputations, the fees involved are generally not worthwhile for international students to consider studying at them and the education is of a more similar standard to the IT Courses in South Africa than ever before!

-Josh Basson