Is our SA Matric Certificate accepted abroad for tertiary studies?
With this first edition of the brainBLITZ Newsletter, I would like to address the question of the validity of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) outside SA’s borders. Foreign curricula appear to be uncannily popular amongst the distance and home education community, especially when it comes to the choice of an exit examination/qualification for learners in the age group 16 to 21.
But let’s not apply our minds to rumours and unfounded conversations. We should rather investigate the evidence which will allow us to evaluate the validity of the NSC abroad.
Unpacking the opinions of universities abroad led me to “feel good stories”, such as the case of Sasasa Dlamini, a young man from KwaZulu-Natal who was accepted at Harvard University (in Cambridge, Massachusetts) in 2016, boasting seven distinctions
What is the situation elsewhere?
In Australia, the universities of Melbourne, Sydney, and Queensland all state acceptance of the NSC. The University of Western Australia expressly states that they welcome applications from students who have completed the NSC. Interestingly, on their webpage, it asks that those who obtained their NSC before 2008 or through the IEB should contact their Admissions Centre or International Centre for advice.
In the UK, the University of Edinburgh, currently with 89 enrolled South Africans, accepts students with the NSC or IEB (Independent Examinations Board). The entry requirements of the London School of Economics, who welcomed 44 South Africans in 2017, vary by programme. On the other hand, the University of Oxford requires you to offer several subjects on Cambridge A-levels, in addition to your NSC. The Imperial College of London does not accept the NSC, and the University of Manchester requires you to do an international foundation course, in addition to the NSC.
In the USA, there is a centralised process for more than 800 US universities, with the applications opening on 1 August. Most US universities evaluate applications through holistic review. Besides academic achievement, they look at the person as a whole by considering the ways in which the candidate can make a positive contribution to the campus in other ways.
Although admission requirements in the US differ, most colleges and universities require standardised testing. The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the ACT (originally American College Testing), both of which emphasise problem-solving skills, are usually accepted.
As I browsed all the admission requirements for several universities abroad, I was struck by the frequency of similarities in their information:
- All universities require proof of proficiency in English. You may even be asked to do a test to prove this.
- Many use the term “South African National Senior Certificate” AND mention the IEB by name.
- Many universities require students to show proof of funds not only for their tuition fees but also sufficient funds to support themselves.
- Some universities allow students to work, whilst others strictly forbid it.
- All require you to apply directly to the faculty of your choice, as the faculty requirements for admission are different.
- Whilst some universities simply mention that the NSC is accepted, others expressly welcome students from SA.
- The admission requirements for all universities (as far as grades go) are generally high.
- The universal “key” to most universities is Cambridge A-levels, although the number of required subjects may differ.
- Most universities require applications to be done well in advance.
- Many universities offer funding, provided that you qualify. For this, your grades need to be significantly higher than the average.
- Many countries have a visa requirement, which must be fulfilled.
- Many universities require an admission test targeting any foreign student and not only students from SA.
Whatever your choice of university, it should be suited to your aspirations, abilities and talents. The good news is that, should your aspirations lie abroad, you would still be able to offer your NSC with pride, provided that your grades are of high quality. Forever “proudly South African”!
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