Change the world

Going to university to continue your education is beneficial for many reasons. You gain skills necessary for the competitive world of work, you meet people from all over the world and with a relevant qualification you will enhance your CV and improve your employability.

Nelson Mandela University boasts more than a century of experience in quality higher education, research and technological innovation. We unite the best traditions of both the academic and technological worlds – from entrance level (certificate) through to research level (PhD). On the undergraduate front, we offer a vast number of qualifications including higher certificates, diplomas and bachelor’s degrees. These are all recognised qualifications and what you choose will depend on your exam results, your career path and ultimately what best serves your needs.


This qualification is primarily vocational or industry oriented and can be pursued with minimal entry requirements. A higher certificate will provide graduates with basic introductory knowledge, critical thinking skills and practical techniques that are necessary to pursue a job in your chosen field of study. After obtaining a higher certificate and meeting the admission requirements, you can apply to further your studies in a related diploma qualification or pursue an entry-level position.

Primary focus: A higher certificate is a skills-based qualification that focuses on providing an applicant with very specific abilities in a particular field.

Examples: HCert (Accountancy) and HCert (Business Studies)

Duration of study: Full-time 1 year

Minimum statutory entry requirements: Pass the National Senior Certificate (NSC) with a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching of the higher education institution, together with any other University requirements.


While these types of qualifications are similar to degrees, the admission requirements are often more accessible when compared to those for a degree. Diplomas usually focus on a specific field of study, with an emphasis on a more practical approach to learning. This means you get career-oriented, educational training, with hands-on experience to prepare you to enter a highly specialised field. The latter provides you with an added advantage when entering the job market.

Career-focused diploma programmes typically include simulated work experience or integrated learning work, with industry training varying between qualifications. This can be anything from six months to a year.

Diplomas provide practical, real-world skills that companies need, and businesses will readily accept skilled applicants with these qualifications. However, it’s important to check the field you are entering, to ensure that a degree is not specifically required.

Primary focus: A diploma provides detailed and specific knowledge, together with practical skills and experience in the workplace, which enables successful applicants to enter a specific career field. Further specialisation can be obtained by applying for an advanced diploma in a similar field of study, which is offered directly after completing your diploma studies.

Examples: Diploma (Marketing) and Diploma (Nature Conservation)

Duration of study: Full-time 3 years or part-time 4 years.  

Minimum statutory entry requirements: Pass the NSC with a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching of the higher education institution, coupled with an achievement rating of 3 (40-49%) or better in four recognised NSC 20-credit subjects, together with any other University requirements.


A bachelor’s degree usually provides a more theory- based, general education. It consists of subjects from various fields, enabling you to tailor your studies according to your interests and career plans. Typically, this qualification is followed by postgraduate studies, to prepare you for a career in a specific field or discipline. Certain programmes require industry training of six to eight weeks.

This qualification enables graduates to demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce, further professional training, postgraduate studies or professional practice in a wide range of careers.

A bachelor’s degree helps you to develop critical thinking and analysing skills, while providing you with a well-rounded overview of a subject. It is important to note that in some fields, it is a prerequisite to have a degree, as well as additional postgraduate qualifications.

Primary focus: With a degree qualification, the emphasis is placed on an academic approach to a specified field of study or profession, with some practical applications.

General bachelor’s examples: Some bachelor’s degrees may be made up of modules from more than one discipline and are referred to as general degrees, e.g., BA (General) or BCom (General). They can also be career-focused, referring to an area of focus such as the BA in Human Resources Management or BCom in Financial Planning.

Duration of study: Full-time 3 years or part-time 4 to 5 years

Professional bachelor’s examples: These bachelor’s programmes have a higher volume of learning and mental demand and may lead to further professional development on a postgraduate level. Certain degree qualifications are required in order to obtain an industry license to enable graduates to practice in a particular profession, e.g., Bachelor’s in Pharmacy (BPharm), Architectural Studies (BAS), Law (LLB) or Education (BEd).

Duration of study: Full-time 3 or 4 years

Minimum statutory entry requirements:

Pass the NSC with a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching of the higher education institution, coupled with an achievement rating of 4 (50-59%) or better in four NSC 20-credit subjects, together with any other university requirements.

When it comes to choosing a qualification, your decision should be based on what best suits your career goals. To make that decision, it’s essential that you first find out the requirements needed to pursue a career in your chosen field.

You can also find a comprehensive list of Nelson Mandela University study fields for 2024, which includes study fields, qualifications, duration of study and minimum admission requirements to help you make an informed decision.

Whatever your decision, we can’t wait to welcome you to Nelson Mandela University. Once you have decided on an undergraduate programme, you can apply online by following our four-step application process. Start you journey with us and change the world.

Posted on 19 September 2023 14:31:28

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