South Africa was formerly considered the largest gold-producing country in the world. During its gold rush period, many people migrated to the country, which leads to the establishment of many economic infrastructures such as roads, buildings, and towns, which eventually lead to South Africa becoming the second wealthiest country in Africa.

As a theme with most rich countries, they also offer an excellent education, including in medicine. If you are looking for a competitive medical program with cheap tuition fees, consider the following most prestigious medical universities in South Africa.

Can international students enroll in medical schools in South Africa?

A big YES! Before, most South African medical students tend to go abroad to pursue their medical studies. However, in the present, the South African medical schools had improved tremendously and even placed in the top 100 of the Best Medical Schools in the Word. This results in most South African students being now inclined to stay, and this placement also helps attract many international students. Some of the top schools that accept international medical students are the University of Capetown, University of Witwatersrand, Stellenbosch University, and more.

Most medical schools in South Africa require that the students take the National Benchmark Tests for South African and international students alike. The students will also need to upload their final Grade 11 grades, National Benchmark Tests score, and Foreign school leaving certificates during the online application. Once the students are accepted, the students will need to submit the following for admission:

  • Letter of Acceptance from the University
  • Certified valid passport and study visa
  • Membership letter or certificate for a South African Medical Aid which is renewable each academic year
  • Original copy of
  • School Leaving Certificates and, or Tertiary Qualifications for Matriculation Exemption
  • For students from a non-English speaking country, TOEFL or IELTS certification is also required.
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Proof of sufficient income to sustain your education abroad
  • A passing mark in the National Senior Certificate (Mathematics, Physical and Life Sciences)

The abovementioned requirements are only the most general ones for a complete list of the documents and eligibility criteria; check out the website of your chosen South African medical schools.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

What is the medical curriculum like in medical schools in South Africa?

As a former British colony, South Africa still reflects many aspects influenced by the British. Case in point, their Medical Education system. Most South Africa medical schools also offer a six-year medical program directly after high school. The difference is that the students will have to complete a two-year internship and a year of community service employed under the National Department of Health of South Africa.

The medical degree in South Africa is called MBChB, which is just another way to label the MBBS and MD degrees. Fortunately, most offered medical programs in South Africa are in English. Here is an example of what the curriculum looks like sourced from the University of Witwatersrand:

The first year with two semesters focuses on the following basic medical sciences: Intro to Medical Science, Chemistry, Physics, Sociological and Psychological Foundations of Health and System Dynamics for Medical Students. Intervention programs are mandatory for students who received a failing grade for any courses in the first year before admission to the second year.

Human anatomy, molecular medicine, physiology and biochemistry, and Medical Thought and Practice constitute the second year. The third and fourth years will be about Integrated Basic medical and Human science, and the fifth and sixth year is about Integrated clinical Medicine.

As previously stated, the MBChB degree graduate shall undergo a 2-year internship and be issued a designation certificate to proceed with the community service. After the community services, the students should be registered to the Health Professions Council of South Africa to practice medicine.

Best Medical Schools in South Africa

1. University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town is the best medical school in Africa and is the first to be included in the top 50 universities in the world for Medicine by the QS World University Ranking. It also holds the best medical school position in South Africa. The university has a long list of medical education and research successes, one of them being the first successful heart transplant in the world in 1967.

International students can opt to attend only a definite duration or semester in the university through their Semester Study Abroad (SSA) program or pursue a Full-Degree program in the institution.

2. University of Witwatersrand

University of Witwatersrand (WITS) is one of the best medical universities in South Africa, located in Johannesburg, which is sometimes called ‘The City of Gold’ in the gold mania period. As among the cities of South Africa, Johannesburg became the most developed. The University of Witwatersrand also had a century of excellence in medical education in research. WITS was the first South African medical institution to perform a successful graft of plastic cornea. The university also helped establish the first dental hospital and school in South Africa.

These outstanding scientific feats helped them gain international recognition. There are two ways to enter the Wits medical program regardless if you are a local or international student. The first one is as a first-year after high school graduation. The other is as a third-year through their Graduate Entry Medical Programme, which shortens the medical study to only four years but requires a completed or at least in the final year of taking an undergraduate degree program.

3. Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University (SU) prides itself on having the highest research output per academic staff and the highest success rate for students in South Africa. Their research focus includes biomedical tuberculosis research and management, wine biotechnology, animal sciences, and mathematical biosciences. SU Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences also established the first rural clinical school in South Africa. This rural clinical school is where most SU students gain clinical experience during their internship.

This top medical school in South Africa also offers several student-centered support systems in their medical education, including but not limited to Tutor-Mentor Programme, subject-specific tutors, and the ResEd (Residence Education) initiatives. In 1993, Stellenbosch University established the SU International Office to solidify its commitment to internationalization.

4. University of Pretoria

The development of the University of Pretoria (UP) from its humble beginnings involving small-group lectures in only a tiny house; to now being one of the largest research universities in South Africa is astonishing. UP School of Medicine, one of the best medical universities in South Africa, utilizes a modern problem-oriented curriculum for their medical programs, which is outcomes-based and focuses on body organs and systems.

At the core of their medical education is a community-based approach to preparing students for any setting for clinical practice. The University of Pretoria also has an International Cooperation Division that ensures the school’s internationalization.

5. University of Kwazulu-Natal

Among the universities in the list of best medical universities in Malaysia, the University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN) is the youngest, with origins tracing back only to 2004 when the University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal merged. Despite its recent formation and the difference between the two universities, UKZN quickly emerged as one of the best schools in South Africa in medicine and other fields. The university also offers a Decentralized Clinical Training Platform to many international students, especially those from Cuba, as the school is a supporter of the Fidel Castro Nelson Mandela Collaboration.


South Africa has been home to large portions of gold, literally and figuratively. In its literal definition, as remains one of the biggest suppliers of gold in the world. And figuratively, in producing gold-level medical workers equipped with all the necessary skills and competence for national and international service.


I hope that this article on the best medical schools in South Africa was helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Programs for International Students to know more information like this!