Studying abroad – easier and cheaper than you think

Studying abroad – easier and cheaper than you think
Studying abroad - easier and cheaper than you think

Recent stats have shown that South Africa’s top universities received as many as eight to 14 times more applications than places available for the 2021 intake. How this looks is that, for example, well over 65,000 students who applied to WITs were already rejected at the initial application phase. Whilst some chose to pursue their tertiary education at private institutions within South Africa, others chose to study abroad.

“The choice to study internationally is not new,” says Karolina Laubscher, a founder of Studyguide (, a consultancy firm specialising in the placement of South Africans wishing to study in Poland. “For obvious reasons, South Africans traditionally prefer to study in English speaking countries such as the UK, Australia and United States,” continues Laubscher. However, with exchange rate challenges, many are seeking more affordable options. Poland, with over 800 programmes available in English, is one of them.

Why Study Abroad
Research shows that in 2017 there were as many as 1,495 South Africans studying in the United Kingdom and more than 2,000 in the United States. China has also proved a popular destination for South Africa, with more than 2,600 students that same year. “Many of these students return and enter the South African work force having been exposed to new cultures and languages,” continues Laubscher. They have often also had the opportunity of internships in international businesses, bringing with them a myriad of new experiences and ideas and a new way of thinking. “This is very attractive to local businesses, with many seeking to employ South Africans who have studied abroad.”

Studying in the European Union
With various systems in place, studying in the European Union is far easier that one might initially imagine.

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is specifically designed to allow students to move easily between countries with their academic qualifications and study periods recognised. For example, if you are studying engineering in Spain, you can easily relocate to a similar faculty in France as both recognise the same ECTS credits.

Europe also has a very well-developed exchange programme. Known as Erasmus, this programme enables students to study from three months up to a year at a university in a different country. For example, if you are studying Aerodynamics in Poland, you can spend a term studying a similar course at a German university.

An additional perk and convenience is that students studying in the European Union can travel visa free to any other countries who are members of the European Union.

Further, of significant importance is that both undergraduate and post graduate degrees studied in any of the EU countries are recognised across all EU countries and most of them also in Canada and the United States.

“For those students who choose to study in Poland, any time spent doing their tertiary education also counts towards permanent residency. “South African students can decide to remain in Poland and work, eventually becoming eligible for Polish citizenship and a European passport,” adds Laubscher.

How much does it cost?
In 2020/21, annual tuition fees for international undergraduate students in the UK ranged from £9,250 (R190,000) to £30,548 (R610,000) and up to £64,652 (R1,3m) for medical degrees, with living costs needing to be factored in over and above that.

Poland is definitely proving a far more cost-effective option with, for example, a degree in engineering costing R 34,000.00 per year and medical degrees starting from R 190,000.00. The cost of living in Poland is also much more affordable and, in many instances, cheaper than in South Africa. “Some universities are known to rent dorms from as little as R 1,900.00 per month,” says Laubscher. Some universities also offer scholarships to students who can prove special achievement in academics, sport or special contributions to the community. And, PhDs are free with candidates actually being paid to conduct their research and work at the university.

How to apply?
Firstly, choose the university of interest – collect all relevant documents (and translations thereof) and then apply. In some cases, an examination may be required and upon acceptance, one will then need to apply for a student visa. For PhD studies, you will have to propose the research subject that is innovative and relevant to the chosen university.

“The process for Poland can take anywhere from one to three months and cost approximately R 30,000.00 (including return ticket),” advises Laubscher. Students will also need to prove that they have sufficient funds available to be able to sustain themselves whilst in Poland.

When deciding which agency to assist you, make sure it has representation in both South Africa and the country in which you wish to study, advises Laubscher. “This way you can be confident that the chosen agency works with both the university and the embassy.”

Admissions are open now. If you didn’t get into your dream university in 2021, or perhaps your dream has changed, it may be worth considering to study abroad.