The best universities in South Africa to study Computer Science and IT
According to the report, the demand for IT professionals has increased by 13% since the start of 2015. This growth in demand has been accompanied by an increase in salaries.
This increase in hiring activity and salaries is great news for job seekers in the field, and for those who plan on studying IT or computer sciences at university.
But which university should a prospective student choose to get the best-quality education and degree?
MyBroadband spoke to South Africa’s top universities to find out what they can offer IT and computer science students. Please note that the universities are not listed in any particular order.
1.University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)
Wits has invested over R4 million in furnishing its new computer laboratory at its School of Electrical and Information Engineering, which allows it to deliver courses that have a “large computing component”.
“We also have software laboratories, which are used by our postgraduate students doing research, such as the Convergence Lab and the Telecommunications Laboratory,” said Wits, adding that it is home to one of two IBM Research Laboratories in Africa.
Wits also recently merged its School of Computer Science with the Wits School of Computational and Applied Mathematics to form the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics (CSAM).
Electrical and Information Engineering
Wits offers a four-year engineering degree with a focus on information engineering, and accommodates 250 first-year students, annually.
The first and second year courses are standard for all Electrical and Information Engineering students. In the third year, a student has the option of choosing their curriculum in either Electrical or Information Engineering.
Degrees available include:
- BSc (Eng) Hon Electrical and Information Engineering – 4 years
- BEng Biomedical Engineering – 3 Years
- BEng Digital Arts – 3 Years
The university’s information engineering researchers are also involved in the following projects:
- Software Development Methodologies
- Smart Electricity Grids
- Big Data
The Computer Science programme at Wits includes a “significant amount” of programming in all courses at an undergraduate level.
“Students are introduced to high-performance computing, data science and big data, mobile computing, artificial intelligence, networking, databases, and theoretical computer science,” said Wits.
“The Computer Science programme will also partner with the advanced Mathematics of Finance programme to develop innovative courses in computing in finance.”
The CSAM School currently has 280 undergraduate students and over 50 honours students.
Degrees on offer include:
- BSc Computational and Applied Mathematics
- BSc Computer Science
Honours, Master’s, PhD, and postdoctoral options are also available to students.
“Furthermore, Wits provides a stimulating environment and our students selected regularly to participate in international competitions where they compete against the best.”
2.University of Pretoria (UP)
The University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and IT (EBIT) is one of the best in the world, said the university, with its engineering ranked in the top 1% globally – according to International Science Index’s Essential Science Indicators.
“UP is one of the few universities that offers all the main disciplines in engineering, such as Chemical, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Electronic, Industrial, Mechanical and Aeronautical, Metallurgical, and Mining Engineering.”
UP’s EBIT Faculty has around 11,700 students, making it the largest Faculty at UP. The annual intake of new first-year engineering students is approximately 1,400.
Computer Science, IT, and Informatics
The EBIT facility has the only A-rated Professor in Computer Science in South Africa, said UP, while the BCom Informatics degree is the only degree in Africa that is internationally accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology of the USA.
The facility also has the only Virtual Reality Mine Design Centre in Africa.
“According to industry visitors, the modern and well-equipped facilities in the EBIT faculty has been one of the key attractions to our campus, while the high expectations that professors set for their students makes EBIT graduates highly sought after by the industry.”
The School of IT at UP takes in around 500 first-year students a year, and offers the following courses:
- Bachelor of Information Science with focus on Multimedia or Publishing
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
- Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
“The Department of Information Science in the School of IT is also the host for the African Centre of Excellence for Information Ethics research centre.”
The Computer Science division at Stellenbosch University is one of three divisions in its Department of Mathematical Sciences.
“We are one of the smaller computer science departments in the country, but our students are highly sought after because they graduate with strong programming skills and a solid theoretical basis,” said the university.
Stellenbosch has the capacity to accommodate over 300 first-year students – this includes students who take Computer Science as an elective, but not as their third-year major.
Courses available in the field of Computer Science at the university include:
BSc Computer Science
The Faculty of Science offers BSc Mathematical Sciences: Computer Science. Computer Science will be your major subject that can lead to an honours degree.
BCom Computer Science
The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences offers the programme BCom Mathematical Statistics and Operations Research with an option to focus on Computer Science.
BEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering
The Faculty of Engineering offers a BEng degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering with the option to focus on Computer Science. The engineering students follow the same Computer Science courses as the BSc students.
“A feature of our department is our focus on entrepreneurship and practical experience. Last year, two MSc students won €25,000 for the WorkMode app they developed for Ericsson’s applications competition.”
The university said their postgraduate students also gain entry into doctoral research programmes internationally, such as those hosted by Oxford University and Carnegie Mellon University.
4.University of Johannesburg (UJ)
The University of Johannesburg’s Academy of Computer Science and Software Engineering takes in around 370 first-year students each year.
The Academy is the only university faculty in the southern hemisphere that offers a BSc IT degree accredited by the British Computer Society, the Chartered Institute for IT, said UJ.
“The BSc Hons IT has been fully reaccredited for the period of five years from 2013-2017. Students studying at the Academy are able to forego the examinations to become internationally Chartered IT Professionals subject to terms and conditions.”
Students at the Academy can choose between:
- BSc IT
- BSc Computer Science and Informatics
“For students who need a little more support in mathematics, the Academy also offers a four-year extended degree programme.”
“The Academy maintains strong industry relationships and makes use of its active alumni community to ensure that students are taught by people active in the IT industry.”
“An example of such collaboration with industry is the introduction next year of an honours level course in DevOps, which will be taught by one of the top three South Africans in this field.”
UJ said final-year undergraduate students also participate in a year-long group project solving a real-world industry problem.
“Projects are entered into the Microsoft Imagine Cup, with the UJ Academy winning the national finals four times in the past six years. Teams from the Academy have won the Discovery Hackathon in South Africa twice – 2014 and 2015 – since its inception.
5.Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU)
NMMU hosts a Department of Computing Sciences and a School of ICT, which are run through different faculties.
NMMU takes in around 120 first-year students each year – with capacity for more – and offers the following Computer Science degrees:
- BSc Computer Science
- BSc Information Systems
- BCom Computer Science and Information Systems
- BCom Information Systems
- BCom Accounting Sciences (four-year degree for Chartered Accountants who also major in Computing Sciences)
“BCom and BSc honours in Computer Science, MCom and MSc in Computer Science, and a PHD in Computer Science is also available,” said NMMU.
The university said it runs a “hybrid department” which offers Computer Science and Information Systems modules in all its degrees, which it says is a standout feature.
“With 11 PhD full-time staff members, we are one of the best-qualified computing departments in the country. We are also one of a few computing departments with a fully-equipped Usability Laboratory.”
NMMU also hosts a Telkom Centre of Excellence, and an international collaboration with the University of Oldenburg in Germany.
Information Technology courses at NMMU include:
- Higher Certificate
- Advanced Diploma
- Postgraduate Diploma
The Higher Certificate Information Technology course takes in 130 new students over two campuses each year, while the Diploma Information Technology course takes in 350 students annually.
“Prof Paula Kotzé, an Adjunct Professor in the School of ICT and a Senior Researcher in the Centre for Community Technologies, was awarded the International 2014 IFIP TC13 Pioneers in Human-Computer Interaction Award. The professor is also an NRF B-rated researcher,” said the university.
In 2014, two NMMU students were selected as international finalists in the game design category of the Microsoft ImagineCup – the first time ever a South African game design project has made it to the finals.
The university also offers a Cisco Academy Support Centre.
6.University of Cape Town (UCT)
The University of Cape Town’s Department of Information Systems takes in over 1,200 first-year students each year and offers a variety of programmes, while Computer Science is taught as a major subject in the Bachelor of Science degree within the Science Faculty.
The university offers a BSc in Computer Science degree to students, which also caters for those wanting to study computer engineering or computer game development.
“Students who obtain both the BSc Computer Science and the BSc Honours in Computer Science at UCT become Chartered I.T. Professionals (UK), since these degrees are accredited by the British Computer Society as being of an international standard,” said UCT.
The Computer Science Honours degree then allows students to enter MSc and PhD programmes.
“Computing can also be combined with Information Systems as part of a BCom degree within the Commerce Faculty. While Business Science is a four-year degree offering business knowledge along with Computer Science, the BCom in Information Systems and Computer Science is a 3-year degree offering fewer business courses and more computing courses,” said UCT.
Computer Science students can also continue their studies once graduating, with honours degrees, Master’s in Information Technology or Computer Science, and PhD options available.
For undergraduate students, the Department of Information Systems offers the following degrees:
- Bachelor of Commerce
- Bachelor of Business Sciences
Postgraduate courses include:
- Information Systems – Honours
- Master of Commerce in Information Systems
- Doctorate in Information Systems
“In all courses up to Honours level, extensive practical project work is done with a variety of system development tools. At senior levels, students interact with real clients outside the university, building valuable career skills while developing small commercial applications,” said UCT.
“Our IS undergraduate classes are now smaller and students are receiving more personal attention from academic staff than before. Our IS programmes are preparing students to enter a high-demand area with a projected severe shortage of graduates.”
Rhodes University offers an undergraduate degree in Computer Science, a BSc in Information Systems, and a four-year BSc in Software Development.
Honours degrees and Master’s degrees by thesis, or by coursework and thesis (part-time), are also available at Rhodes.
The Computer Science department is headed by Professor George Wells, who completed his PhD in Parallel and Distributed Computing at the University of Bristol.
Rhodes University was asked to provide feedback, but did not respond by the time of publication. Information in the article was taken from the university’s websites.
North-West University offers Computer Science and Information Technology qualifications at its Potchefstroom campus.
Undergraduate students can study:
- BSc Computer and Mathematical Sciences
- BSc Information Technology-Computer Science
Postgraduate students can choose from:
- Honours BSc Computer Science and Information Systems
- Honours BCom Computer Science and Information Systems
- MCom Computer Science and Information Systems
- PhD Computer Science
Dr Estelle Taylor is the subject chair and senior lecturer for the faculty.
North-West University was asked to provide feedback, but did not respond by the time of publication. Information in the article was taken from the university’s websites.
9.University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
The University of KwaZulu-Natal offers Computer Science as a major for the BSc degree and in the BSc(CSIT) programme at its Pietermaritzburg and Westville campuses.
Falling under the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, the qualifications are overseen by the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.
“Students majoring in Computer Science for the BSc degree typically offer either Mathematics, Statistics, Physics, Chemistry or Economics as a second major,” said UKZN.
“Students in the BSc(CSIT) programme may choose to major in Computer Science and in Informations Systems, or may choose to do a double major in Computer Science.”
UKZN was asked to provide feedback, but did not respond by the time of publication. Information in the article was taken from the university’s websites.