I have had a few queries regarding where to study Graphic Design – at Universities or Independent Schools. In my previous blog post, Where to study graphic design in South Africa, I listed a few noteworthy tertiary institutions in South Africa which offer graphic design, and basically left it up to you to decide for yourself, as I do think it ultimately comes down to personal preference . But there are a few things to consider when making that choice (you need to get a job after you have completed your studies after all).So what is the difference between a University and an Independent Design School? After some intense research this is what I discovered:

Universities of Technology


± R 20 950.00 per year


A National Senior Certificate or an equivalent qualification.


  • Communication Design I
  • Design Techniques I
  • Graphic Design Drawing I
  • History of Art and Design I
  • Professional Graphic Design Practice I

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

National Diploma: Graphic Design (3 Year Diploma)
Baccalaureus Technologiae: Graphic Design (4th Year Degree after National Diploma)

Tshwane University of Technology

National Diploma: Graphic Design (3 Year Diploma)
Bachelor’s Degree in Technology: Graphic Design (4th Year Degree after National Diploma)
Masters Degree in Technology: Graphic Design (1 – 3 Years)
Doctorate in Technology: Graphic Design (2 – 5 Years)



± R 35 000.00 per year


National Senior Certificate with full university exemption.


  • Information Design
  • Imaging and Visualisation
  • Visual Culture Studies
  • Computer Literacy
  • Academic Skills
  • Academic Literacy

University of Johannesburg

BA (Design) (Communication Design) (3 Year Degree)
BTech: Graphic Design (4th Year Degree after BA)

North West University

BA Graphic Design (4 Year Degree)

University of Pretoria

BA Information Design (4 Year Degree)

University of Stellenbosch

BA in Visual Arts (4 Year Degree)

Independent Design Schools


± R 65 000.00 per year


Appropriate combination of recognised National Senior Certificate subjects as well as certain levels of achievement in matric in these subjects.


  • History of Graphic Design and Advertising
  • Drawing
  • Rendering
  • Illustration
  • Typography
  • Perceptual Studies
  • 2D & 3D design
  • Graphic Design
  • Art Direction
  • Introduction to DTP
  • Principles of Marketing Communication

AAA School of Advertising

Diploma in Visual Communication (3 Year Diploma)
BA (Creative Brand Communication) (3 Year Degree)

Inscape Design College

Diploma in Graphic & Communication Design (3 Year Diploma)
Degree in Graphic & Communication Design (3 Year Degree)


Universities of Technology are well balanced between practical and theory.  You may feel that by studying design, theory is not important, but I can assure that it is. Universities of Technology only offer a 3 year national diploma with the option of a 4th year BTech degree.  They are also your cheapest option.

Universities are generally more theory focused. You need a national certificate to be accepted and in some cases a full university exemption is required.  Besides the University of Johannesburg, the degree takes 4 years to complete.

Independent Design Schools are very focused on the practical aspect of design; you start designing from your first year.  They give you a choice of doing either a 3 year diploma or a degree and cover all aspects of design.  They are however the most expensive.

Lastly, here is a list of things to check when looking for a place to study graphic design:

  1. Ensure that the course takes at least three years to complete.
  2. You need to be Mac literate, so make sure they teach you with Apple Macs.
  3. The best design software for today’s industry is Adobe’s Creative Suite, so make sure they use Adobe!
  4. Find out if they include an internship as part of their programme.
  5. If possible, visit the school and sit in on some of the classes – you’ll soon know if this is the right place for you.

Good luck and I hope this has helped you make that important decision.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated – so please leave a comment!

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  1. This information was very helpful for my son who wants to become a graphic designer. I really appreciate you putting this up on the web….

  2. this information was very good to read, I want to be a graphic designer, and now I already know where I’ll do it

  3. i’ve been surfing the web trying to get info on graphic designing for about a week or two now! you blog gave me all the info i need in just a few minutes! thank you

  4. Thanks for the info. I do have another question though: which of these three types of institutions gives you the best chance of finding employment? Which are more sought-after and are the qualifications from all of them fuly recognised and accredited?

    1. Hi Anja did u get a reply or your question? That is my main concern wht r the job opportunities when u study at pvt institutions, and if u go overseas r they recognized. They also say graphic design stand a better chance if they have web design. Thanks dale

  5. your guide here is very helpfull.
    my question is, do u still give the same creticts on interior decorating provided i will be studying through distance learning?

  6. This website is really the 8th wonder of the world! When my daughter wanted to study, we started checking out institues of higher education years in advance. Whith my son going the same route next year, I braced myself for the same tedious process. By a great stroke of grace I came upon your blog as first choice. And this is it! I need not check any other sites. Thanks a million, Erica! You saved me hours!

  7. Thanks for Info, which institute did you choose in the end? My daughter wants to do a degree in Information Design, really really really don’t know which to choose.

    1. Thanks Lizelle, I studied at Wits Technikon which is now called University of Johannesburg. I would recommend the University of Pretoria, but attend a few open days and I am sure that will help your daughter to decide. Best of luck!

  8. Useful info but the fact that you have to be Mac literate is not true? Mac is moving away from desktop computers and are 3 times as much as a pc with the same specs. I am in the industry and either of the two are fine. PC is probably better if you have a limited budget and want the same power. Mac is a little bit for show, but the power lays in your work not how the machine looks. Sorry just wanted to clear that up.

  9. Please help me, I just want to know what are the required matric subjects for a student to enable him to qualify to studdy as graphi design?
    Maths ?? Technical drawing ?? what are the required subjects please

  10. Very interesting article actually. Especially regarding the part that Universities are more theory and private schools are more practical. Personally I find being more practical helps the learning curve over theory, but of course this is dependent on the individual.

  11. after i read the information about graphic design i feeled so incouraged and i can’t wait to register for the course so that i can make my dreams to come true, becaurse i am passionate about drawing and drawing is my life.

  12. Hi

    My daughter study graphic design at a collage but the 3rd year has been cancelled for no reason. Will see be able to use her 2 years of study to go to another collage to complete her 3rd year.

    1. Hi Kallie, thank you for your comment. Depending on where your daughter did her two years, she should have enough credits to go into third year. The collage administration should be able to help you with that.

  13. This has really helped to get ready to study the graphic designer. And I hope this info will make me be able to fulfill my dreams.

  14. Hi Erica,

    I would like some advice. I am a small business owner in the print industry
    I have a need to be able to do some basic design and layout work myself
    I do not however have the skills to do so at the moment. I always outsource and its costing me money that i could have saved my clients or pocketed myself

    Could you advise on a basic course which i could take part time to teach me the basics of design and to help me to get artwork print ready?


  15. Hi Erica,

    First off, lemme say “Respek!” for your work. I enjoy your website. You’re obviously an agtermekaar girl.

    I’d like to ask you something. I am moving to CT soon, DV. I have knowledge of HTML and CSS. I am also quite adept at writing copy. I would like to study a web development course, but without going into too much hardcore coding. My strengths, in my opinion, are arty, not technical. I would like to know what I could possibly study to build on my web dev and graphic design.
    another thing: should a graphic design course not be hardware and software independent? I mean, I prefer using a Windows machine, with Corel and some other software. A proper course on design should not dictate software, but should rather teach principles, applicable in any design situation, and creatable on a piece of paper or a high-end piece of hardware, not so?

  16. WOW! Thank u so much man, feel u knew exactly what I needed. May I please ask fr your advice as to how good is the decision of choosing to study graphic design over all other available courses? Are there jobs out there? How difficult is the course for a slow learner like me? How much do graphic designers earn? Reason for all this quiz is that am currently a Biotechnology student & things are not looking good for me. Having the love of designing posters, Calenders, invitation cards, T-shirts etc, I felt maybe that’s were I belong…..Please help me with the decision & situation. Thank God for u!

  17. If I go to schools like Vega or AAA where graphic design is taught with art direction, does that mean I can automatically apply for an art direction job after graduating??

    1. Hi Funami, Art Direction is a subject taught, so when you qualify you have the knowledge of Art Direction. Art directors, have to work up to that title (from assistant positions). Someone looking to work as an art director in an ad agency, for example, needs to show a potential employer sample ad campaigns he’s created. To get these samples, you need to have experience in this field.

  18. Hi Erica,

    Thank you for all the information you have provided. Iv been accepted at Inscape and CPUT and as you know there is a huge finaciual gap between the two. I love Inscapes subjects as its more of a Multimedia Design giving you a graphic design degree where CPUT for me feels like theres not enough to equip me to become a graphic desinger… I really want to get into the web design and it seems like Inscape covers that whereas CPUT doesnt… Is it better to pay more to get everything? Or do you think CPUT is the way to go ?

    really would appreciate your advise

    1. Hi Gabriella, thank you for your comment. I can’t say which will be better choice for you, but I studied at a University of Technology so I can ensure you that you will most definitely be equipped as a skilled graphic designer on completion of the course. I did have to study web design separately though… At Inscape you will do multimedia studies which means once graduated you can go straight into web design. I would recommend you visit both schools and speak to some students there – you’ll soon know which is the right place for you!

      1. We also teach multimedia and print at Midrand Graduate Institute with an option to focus on multimedia or print at 3rd year level and to focus on personal studies at honours level in a 4th year should you wish to.

  19. Hi, need urgent help please! my daughter applied for the NDip at DUT but was declined. They recommended the diploma offered at Thekwini college FET as this course holds the same credits as theirs whereas many other institutes don’t. At the Thekwini College, she has to complete a foundation course for 1 year – Intro to Art and Design, before she can re-apply for the diploma course. I’m not sure if we should register with the FET college or look at options such as Vega where she can complete a year long higher Certificate then apply for the degree. I guess I need to know 2 things: 1. is a degree better than a diploma with graphic design AND2. which is better between Public FET AND Private such as Vega – will my daughter be getting the same quality of education at both institutes. Sorry for the lengthy message but I am desperate for the right advice. Thank you!

    1. Hi Ronal, thank you for your comment. It is a personal preference, but I would recommend that your daughter apply at Vega and do their degree programme. Best of luck!

  20. Hi Erica. Have you heard of the Greenside Design Centre in Greenside Johannesburg? If yes, what are your views?

  21. Hi can you please advise me of the nearest Graphic design school in Amanzimtoti KZN.My son is wheelchair bounded and is very interested in studding Graphic design

  22. I would like to get degree that’s well recognized…only for when I eventually qualify and apply for a job they will know I have studied at a good place. I have UJ in mind. I’m in the Johannesburg area.. What do you think? Thanks Erica! I love your work… 🙂

    1. Hi ThelmZ, thank you for your comments! I think UJ is a good choice, they have a very good programme. Best of luck!

  23. Hi Erica, i want to take partime classes to do graphic design so which schools can i approach to attend these classes in Gauteng.

  24. Hi Erica, your information is a great help, but I’m stuck between the university of Pretoria and UJ. Any advice? I’m also concerned about the portfolio Pretoria requires as Im not very good at drawing.

    1. Hi Karina, both are good choices! I am sure UJ also requires drawing for their portfolio as this is a standard requirement? You don’t have to be excellent at drawing but they want to see your creativity, visual communication skills and how you interpret the brief.

  25. Hi Erica

    I have a marketing degree and would like to increase my marketeability by getting a certificate or diploma in graphic and web design. Any suggestions for someone in Jhb?

  26. Hi Erica.
    My daughter was excepted at Inscape to study graphic design next year 2015. The fees are very high though, any suggestions on where to find some financial help as Inscape have already handed out their bursaries for next year.
    Holding thumbs! 🙂

    1. Hi Anele, sorry I don’t know of anywhere offing financial help for next year… I’ll add a blog post if I hear of anything!

  27. Hi – I do not agree with Erica’s take on university courses. My daughter is currently studying Information design at UP (first year). From day one they have practical projects – one a week – and it is very intense and thorough. These students are highly sought after in the work place and emerge with excellent portfolios. Highly recommended, but not for the faint hearted.

  28. Hi Erica
    I am interested in getting a Diploma in Graphic Design. I have only completed school until grade 9, from there I went on to complete an I.T NCV course which is equivalent to matric. I also have a 1 year Graphic Design certificate which is also NQF Level 4. I would like to do Packaging Design, Branding and 3D Modeling. At which College or University would you advise me to complete a Diploma? And which course would be best suitable?

  29. Hi Erica, Very helpful information on the blog. 2 quick questions, I’m currently at Midrand Graduate Institute and rumours say that the their graphic design programme is not recognised in the country, only overseas. How true is this? and which institute offers a better programme MGI or CPUT?

  30. Hi, which one is the best to choose, university of of pretoria or thwane university of technology?

  31. Thanks for the information Erica, Im a permanent government employee, very creative and good in drawing. Im interested in studying graphic design on PART TIME basis, which schools (University or Private) can i approach to attend in Gauteng?

  32. Hi, my stepdaughter is doing matrics this year. She’s very good in design but not domputer literate. Wanted to enrol her into a college in capetown to do a three year degree in visual communication, design. Where would you recommend she attends?

  33. Hi Erica
    Thanks for the info. I am 29 years old, working full time and have decided to study graphic/ web design in Durban. Would Unisa be the best place to study correspondence? Is there really more chance of finding a job with a degree or would a 2 year diploma/ online course be enough?

  34. I have decided to study through Pixel Craft. It’s a 12 week mornings course. Would this be enough to secure a job when I have finished?

  35. Hey there , thank you so much this really helped. However I just wanted to know , regarding yhe degree’s , if you are applying for a job , does it matter where your degree os from ? As in yhe institution of learning? Do employers take that into consideration ? And if so where would you recommend I study for a Visual Communications Design degree in South Africa ?

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