where can i study physiotherapy in south africa

Where Can I Study Physiotherapy in South Africa?

Embarking on a journey to study physiotherapy in South Africa opens a gateway to a rewarding career in healthcare. This field, focusing on restoring and improving body movement, is gaining prominence due to the growing awareness of physical well-being. South Africa, known for its diverse culture and quality education, offers excellent opportunities for those aspiring to become physiotherapists. 

Several universities in South Africa are renowned for their physiotherapy programs. Institutions like the University of Cape Town, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and Stellenbosch University are among the top choices for students seeking a comprehensive education in this field. These institutions provide a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical experience, essential for a successful career in physiotherapy.

Studying physiotherapy in South Africa is not just about acquiring a degree; it’s about immersing oneself in a unique educational experience. With state-of-the-art facilities and experienced faculty, South African universities are well-equipped to guide students toward becoming skilled physiotherapists. This decision marks the beginning of a journey toward making a significant impact on the health and wellness of individuals.

What are the Requirements to Study Physiotherapy in South Africa?

To embark on a journey towards becoming a physiotherapist in South Africa, prospective students must navigate a set of academic and procedural requirements. These prerequisites are designed to ensure that candidates are well-prepared for the rigors of a physiotherapy program.

Academic Requirements

High School Diploma: A National Senior Certificate (NSC) or equivalent is necessary, with an endorsement for degree studies.

Subject Proficiency: Applicants should have a strong background in Life Sciences and Physical Sciences. Mathematics is also often required or highly recommended. Each university might have specific minimum grades or points for these subjects.

Language Proficiency: Since instruction is typically in English, universities may require a certain level of proficiency in the language, often evidenced by standardized tests or high school performance.

National Benchmark Tests (NBTs): Some institutions might require these assessments that measure academic readiness for university-level education.

University-Specific Requirements

Each university has its own set of criteria:

  • Minimum Admission Points Score (APS): Institutions calculate an APS based on your high school subject grades, which helps them determine eligibility.
  • Interviews/Assessments: Certain universities conduct interviews or additional assessments to gauge suitability for the program.
  • Volunteer Work/Experience: While not always mandatory, experience in healthcare or volunteer work can enhance an application.

Health and Fitness

Due to the nature of the work, applicants might need to meet health and fitness standards and ensure they can manage the physical demands of the profession.

Legal Clearance

A clear criminal record may be necessary since physiotherapists work with vulnerable populations.

Application Process

  1. Research: Start by identifying universities offering physiotherapy programs and understand their specific requirements.
  2. Prepare Documents: This can include academic transcripts, proof of language proficiency, and any other required documentation.
  3. Submit Applications: Apply through the university’s admissions portal or through the central application system if applicable.
  4. Follow-up: After submission, keep track of any additional steps, such as interviews or placement tests.
  5. Acceptance and Registration: If accepted, you’ll need to go through the registration process and meet any further requirements outlined by the institution.

Where Can I Study Physiotherapy in South Africa?

Studying physiotherapy in South Africa is a step towards a fulfilling career in healthcare. The country boasts several top-tier universities offering exceptional physiotherapy programs. Here’s a quick overview:

  • University of Cape Town: Known for its comprehensive curriculum and state-of-the-art facilities.
  • University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg: Offers a dynamic program focusing on both theoretical and practical aspects.
  • Stellenbosch University: Renowned for its excellent faculty and hands-on training opportunities.
  • University of Pretoria: Provides an innovative approach to physiotherapy education.
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal: Features a diverse and inclusive learning environment.

University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town’s physiotherapy program is highly acclaimed, offering students a well-rounded education. It combines rigorous academic coursework with practical experience, preparing graduates for a successful career in the field.

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

At the University of the Witwatersrand, students are exposed to a balance of theoretical knowledge and practical application. The program is designed to foster critical thinking and hands-on skills, which are essential for future physiotherapists.

Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University is noted for its expert faculty and extensive training facilities. The physiotherapy program here focuses on developing skills through practical experiences, ensuring students are well-prepared for professional challenges.

University of Pretoria

The University of Pretoria offers an innovative physiotherapy program that emphasizes research and clinical practice. The curriculum is tailored to equip students with the latest knowledge and techniques in the field.

University of KwaZulu-Natal

This institution is celebrated for its diverse student body and inclusive approach to education. The physiotherapy program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal focuses on creating a supportive learning environment where students can thrive academically and personally.

Which University is Best for Physiotherapy in South Africa?

Choosing the best university for physiotherapy in South Africa is subjective and depends on various factors such as academic reputation, research opportunities, clinical exposure, and personal preferences. However, some universities are known for their strong physiotherapy programs and are frequently recognized for their quality of education and training.

University of Cape Town (UCT)

The University of Cape Town is often touted as one of the leading institutions for higher education in Africa. The Division of Physiotherapy at UCT is part of the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and offers a comprehensive program that is well-respected both locally and internationally. It’s known for its rigorous academic curriculum, extensive clinical practice, and excellent research opportunities.

University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)

Wits has a reputation for being a progressive university with a dynamic physiotherapy program. The School of Therapeutic Sciences at Wits provides students with a solid foundation in the science and practice of physiotherapy, enriched with research-led teaching and hands-on clinical training that prepares students to excel in various healthcare settings.

Stellenbosch University

The Physiotherapy Division at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences is another top contender. It offers an integrated curriculum with a strong focus on community interaction, preparing students for the diverse needs of the country’s population. Stellenbosch is also well-known for its beautiful campus and student-friendly atmosphere.

University of Pretoria

The Department of Physiotherapy at the University of Pretoria is recognized for its high-quality education standards and excellent facilities. The program emphasizes problem-solving skills and evidence-based practice, ensuring that graduates are proficient in diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions.

Other Notable Universities

Other South African universities with reputable physiotherapy programs include the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which is known for its community outreach initiatives, and the University of the Free State, which emphasizes both academic excellence and practical experience in its curriculum.

Factors to Consider to Study Physiotherapy in South Africa

When deciding which university is best for you, consider the following factors:

  • Curriculum Focus: Different universities may have different emphases in their curriculum, such as sports physiotherapy, pediatric care, or community rehabilitation.
  • Location: Consider the environment where you will be studying and living, including climate, culture, and proximity to family or support systems.
  • Class Size: Smaller class sizes can mean more personalized attention from faculty but may also be more competitive to get into.
  • Facilities: Look into the on-campus facilities like libraries, laboratories, and clinics that will support your learning.
  • Clinical Placements: Practical experience is crucial in physiotherapy education. Investigate the variety and quality of clinical placements offered.
  • Research Opportunities: If you’re interested in research, explore faculties involved in cutting-edge studies or those with strong postgraduate programs.

How Much Does it Cost to Study Physiotherapy in South Africa?

The cost of studying physiotherapy in South Africa can vary depending on several factors, including the institution, the level of study, whether you are a domestic or international student, and the type of program (undergraduate or postgraduate).

Undergraduate Programs

Generally, for undergraduate studies, tuition fees for a Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree at a public university can range between R30,000 to R70,000 per year for South African students. The cost for international students is typically higher and can be up to double the fee for domestic students.

Some of the well-known public universities offering physiotherapy include the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Stellenbosch University, and the University of Pretoria. Each of these institutions has different fee structures.

Postgraduate Programs

For postgraduate studies such as Honors, Master’s, or Doctorate in Physiotherapy, tuition fees can vary significantly depending on the institution and specific program. It’s not uncommon for these programs to cost between R20,000 and R50,000 per year for South African students. International students again can expect to pay more.

Additional Costs

Beyond tuition fees, there are other costs to consider:

  • Registration Fees: A once-off fee that is paid upon acceptance into the program.
  • Textbooks and Study Materials: Costs can vary, but budgeting around R5,000 to R10,000 per year is reasonable.
  • Accommodation: Living expenses, including housing, can range from R40,000 to R60,000 per year if you choose to live in student residences.
  • Transport and Living Expenses: These will vary based on personal lifestyle but can be a significant monthly cost.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Many universities offer financial aid, bursaries, or scholarships that can help offset the costs. These can be based on merit or financial need.

Final Words

In conclusion, pursuing a degree in physiotherapy in South Africa holds the promise of a comprehensive and enriching educational journey supported by the country’s rich cultural backdrop and esteemed academic institutions. With a variety of top-tier universities like UCT, Wits, Stellenbosch, UP, and UKZN offering robust programs that combine theoretical knowledge with practical skills, students are well-positioned to become proficient practitioners in this vital healthcare field. Although the costs associated with such programs can be substantial, they represent an investment in a future where graduates are equipped to make meaningful contributions to the health and well-being of communities. As students consider their options, they must weigh factors such as curriculum focus, location, facilities, clinical placements, and research opportunities to find the best university fit for their aspirations in physiotherapy.


"Hasan", I am a physiotherapy Doctor. I have completed my B.S.c course (4 years) under Rajshahi University, Faculty of Medicine, Rajshahi. Currently I am working as a clinical physiotherapist at a renowned physiotherapy center and I am continuing my MPT (Master's of physiotherapy) degree at CRP, Savar.

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