Unisa Higher Certificate Courses 2024

Higher Certificates are a great way to break into a specific area of study, these courses can introduce you to the field of study you are interested in. A Higher Certificate holds the following criteria that might be needed for a higher qualification:


  • NQF Level 5
  • Total Credits: 120
  • APS Score: 15
  • It takes 1–3 years to complete, with 3 years being the maximum time to complete the course

The application period for the Higher Certificate Courses for the 2024 academic year at the University of South Africa (UNISA) are now open. Students seeking to start any of the available courses can apply from 1 September 2023 up until 17 November 2023.


Additionally, applications for higher certificate qualifications from UNISA’s College of Accounting Sciences and College of Science, Engineering and Technology will be open up until 31 January 2024, providing prospective and recurring students ample time to apply for their chosen qualification.

Introduction To Unisa and Higher Certificate Courses

In today’s fast-paced world, education has transformed into a dynamic and accessible journey, thanks to institutions like the University of South Africa (UNISA). Higher Certificate Courses are the cornerstone of UNISA’s commitment to cultivating knowledge and skill from the ground up. 


Here are some reasons why you could consider starting a Higher Certificate Course:


  • Designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of various subjects, Higher Certificate Courses are all about brevity without compromising on quality. 
  • They cater to the dreams of those who seek to increase their skills, with time constraints or limited prior academic exposure. 
  • These courses not only stand as independent accomplishments but also allow students to apply for advanced learning pathways.

Popular Higher Certificate Programs at UNISA

The University of South Africa (UNISA) offers Higher Certificate programs, spanning various disciplines, to cater to learners interested in Specific fields of study. These programs are meticulously designed to provide foundational knowledge and practical skills in various fields. 


Among the multitude of Higher Certificate programs UNISA provides, several courses have gained significant popularity due to their relevance and demand in today’s job market.  Take a look at the Higher Certificates offered according to the different fields of study:

Accounting Sciences

Accounting Sciences is a fundamental pillar of modern business and finance. Individuals taking this Higher Certificate will record, analyse, and interpret financial data.  Here are the higher certificates for students seeking to enter Accounting:


Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

In Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, the focus is on balancing resources and preserving nature. This field studies how humans, farming, and the environment interact. It aims to improve food production, fight climate change, and use land sustainably. If you find yourself interested in entering this field of study, here are the Higher certificate courses UNISA offers:



Education is vital for society and personal growth. This field focuses on nurturing minds, skills, and critical thinking. Professionals like teachers create enriching spaces where knowledge is shared, curiosity thrives, and potential flourishes.  UNISA offers the following certificates for education:


Human Resources

Human Resources is about balancing an organisation and its people. It includes finding talent, developing employees, and shaping workplace culture. HR professionals drive communication, collaboration, and well-being. For these reasons, Human Resources can be viewed as a popular course option. Take a look at what UNISA has to offer under Higher Certificates:


Economic and Management Sciences

Economic and Management Sciences explore the blend of economics and strategic management. This field analyses financial systems, market dynamics, and decision-making under constraints. UNISA offers the following Higher Certificates under this College:



Law is the foundation of fairness, guiding human actions and interactions. It shapes everything from individual rights to business rules, resolving conflicts and maintaining order. Legal experts, like lawyers and judges, navigate complex rules and ethics for justice. As society changes, law adjusts to new challenges, upholding equity and the rule of law. 


If you see yourself exploring law and its function, take a look at these Higher Certificates:


Science, Engineering and Technology

Science, Engineering, and Technology push human innovation. People in these fields explore the universe, create advanced tech, and solve modern problems. From space exploration to sustainable designs and AI, these experts drive us into an unimaginable future through creativity and discovery. Here are the Higher Certificates UNISA offers under this scope:


Advantages of Pursuing a Higher Certificate at Unisa

UNISA offers the distinct advantage of flexibility through its online learning platform. Pursuing a Higher Certificate at UNISA allows students to study at their own pace and on their schedule.


A Higher Certificate at UNISA opens doors to a multitude of opportunities and advantages:


  • Flexible Online Learning: UNISA’s online platform enables students to learn at their own pace, accommodating work and family commitments.
  • Affordability and Accessibility: UNISA’s cost-effective tuition and online format make education accessible to a diverse range of individuals, eliminating financial barriers.
  • Strong Foundation: The Higher Certificate programs at UNISA provide a solid foundation for future studies, enhancing immediate employability and serving as a stepping stone to advanced qualifications.

Flexible Online Learning

UNISA offers outstanding flexible online learning, allowing students to adapt their education to their schedules. This flexibility lets people easily fit learning into their lives, benefiting working professionals, parents, and those with commitments.


Here are some advantages that flexibility gives students studying at UNISA:


  • Tailored Learning: UNISA’s online platform allows students to customise their learning schedules to accommodate work, family, and personal commitments.
  • Accessible Education: The flexibility of online learning removes geographical barriers, enabling individuals from various locations to access quality education.
  • Enhanced Engagement: Interactive online tools and resources create an engaging learning environment, promoting active participation and collaboration.
  • Self-Paced Progress: Students can progress through courses at their preferred pace, ensuring a thorough understanding of the material before moving forward.
  • Diverse Community: Online learning brings together a diverse community of learners, offering exposure to different perspectives and experiences.

Cost-Effectiveness and Accessibility

The university is known for its affordable tuition fees, and online learning eliminates the need for commuting and relocating, further reducing costs. Here is how choosing UNISA’s courses can give you a financial advantage:


  • Affordable Tuition: UNISA is known for its cost-effective tuition fees, making quality education more accessible to a broader range of individuals.
  • Reduced Expenses: Online learning eliminates the need for commuting and relocating, reducing additional costs associated with traditional education.
  • Financial Accessibility: UNISA’s approach ensures that motivated learners from diverse financial backgrounds can access education without undue financial burden.
  • Global Reach: The cost-effectiveness of online learning allows UNISA to reach learners beyond geographical boundaries, promoting global inclusivity.
  • Equal Opportunity: UNISA’s commitment to affordability ensures that education is within reach for all, irrespective of economic circumstances.

Building a Strong Foundation For Further Studies

The programs at UNISA are designed to equip students with essential knowledge and skills in their chosen fields. This foundation enhances immediate employability and serves as a stepping stone for further studies. The Higher Certificate acts as a pathway to more advanced qualifications, such as diplomas and degrees, allowing students to continue their education journey seamlessly. 

Application Process For a Higher Certificate

Embarking on your academic journey at UNISA begins with a well-structured application process. To guide you, here is a step-by-step breakdown:


  • Select Your Program (step 1): Browse through the available Higher Certificate courses and select the one that aligns with your career goals and interests.
  • Online Application (step 2): Head to the UNISA official website and create an applicant profile. Fill out the online application form accurately, providing the required personal and academic information.
  • Document Submission (step 3): Prepare and upload the necessary documents, which might include proof of identity, academic transcripts, and any other specific requirements outlined in the program description.
  • Application Fee (step 4): Pay the application fee as specified on the UNISA website.
  • Application Review (step 5): Once your application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the admissions team. Be patient during this period, as the evaluation process takes time.

Entry Requirements For Higher Certificate Programs

Your Higher Certificate journey at UNISA depends on meeting specific entry requirements. These programs offer accessible foundational education, and understanding these prerequisites ensures a smooth application process. Here are some general guidelines on what the entry requirements are:

Academic Requirements for Admission to UNISA's Higher Certificate Programs

Enrolment for UNISA’s Higher Certificate Courses is determined by the academic results obtained for your NSC Certification or equivalent programs. 


Academic Requirements:


  • National Senior Certificate (NSC) or equivalent educational qualifications.
  • Meeting specified levels of education based on program prerequisites.

What To Do If You Do Not Meet The Entry Requirements

If you do not meet the requirements for entry to UNISA’s various qualification options, you could address this by applying for Recognition of Prior Learning:


You will need to demonstrate that you have the relevant learning through experience or research experience.


You will need at least 5 years of relevant working experience in the field of study you are interested in. 


  • Submission of a personal statement detailing motivations for enrolling in the program. This would be supporting documents and evidence that proves you have gained sufficient learning to receive admission, through an RPL assessment process.
  • Demonstrating alignment between personal aspirations and the chosen course.
  • You will have to demonstrate the ability to be able to extract relevant learning from the experience gained and implement these learning outcomes into the academic contexts as evidence for the RPL application.
  • Through your work experience or any form of prior learning, you will need to prove that you have a sufficient understanding of English literacy, numeracy and mathematical skills to meet UNISA’s requirements.
  • Particular colleges will focus more on numeracy and mathematical skills. The College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, College of Science, Engineering and Technology; College of Economic and Management Sciences and the College of Accounting Sciences focus on these skills.
  • The process for the RPL is lengthy. It may take up to a year from the application for admission into your desired program.

Overview of the RPL Process For Higher Certificate Courses

Here is an overview if you did not meet the requirements for any qualification including Higher Certificate courses:


  • Step 1: Decide on what you want to study.
  • Step 2: Check the qualifications requirements. If You do not meet the requirements for Higher Certificate courses, apply for admission and after being declined, apply for RPL.
  • Step 3: Apply for admission for the chosen qualification. You will need to apply for each new application, regardless of having a UNISA student number. This application section will assess your application, and the duration can take a few weeks to a month or more to be finalised.
  • Step 4: Do the RPL self-assessment. You will first do the online readiness test. After you have completed this test, you should reflect on the results by answering a few questions provided. These answers will be attached as evidence and will form part of your RPL application.
  • Step 5: Complete the RPL application form and be sure to follow the guidelines. You will need to contact the RPL academic coordinator in the college you intend to study and request the RPL application form.
  • Step 6: Submit the application form. After you have filled in the information, submit the completed form and supporting documents according to the checklist. This application must be submitted directly to the RPL academic coordinator either by courier, e-mail or delivered in person. Be sure to only apply after you have spoken to the RPL academic coordinator, and you fully understand the process.
  • Step 7: Wait for feedback. After the assessment panel has reviewed your application and made a decision, you will receive a feedback letter that will give you information on whether you are suitable for further assessment, details of the portfolio development workshop and details on the RPL maths test. (The maths test is only required depending on the college)
  • Step 8: Do the assessment. You will need to pay the assessment fee, after which a link will be sent with the guidelines. After the payment has been made you will need to submit a learning portfolio of evidence that follows the guidelines provided. Confirm your attendance at one of the portfolio workshops. (Be sure to pay the full assessment fee). The portfolio workshop will be three days. If you need to do the maths test, you will be required to write this test on the third day of the portfolio workshop.
  • Step 9: Submit your portfolio of evidence by the due date. This date will be finalized at the workshops. Do not submit your portfolio late, it will not be accepted.
  • Step 10: Wait for the outcome of your assessment. If you have been granted direct access, the RPL academic coordinator will state that you are “Competent” (C). If you have not been granted access, you have been found “Not Yet Competent” (NYC).  You can then contact UNISA’s Directors for Counselling and Career Development for guidance on other options.

What Higher Certificate Courses Implies for Further Studies

If you do not meet the standard entry requirements, UNISA’s Higher Certificate courses act as bridging courses designed to provide the foundational knowledge necessary for success in further studies. 

Financial Aid and Funding Options for Higher Certificates

Understanding financial aid and funding options is crucial. UNISA offers support to ease financial burdens and make quality education accessible. Various programs and avenues are available to help students achieve their academic goals:

Exploring Scholarships, Grants, and Bursaries

UNISA provides various financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, and bursaries. These resources are designed to ease the financial burden and make education accessible to a diverse range of students.


Research and apply for relevant opportunities to fund your studies effectively:


  • Merit-Based Scholarships: Recognizing academic excellence, these scholarships are awarded to high-achieving students.
  • Need-Based Bursaries: Financial assistance based on individual financial circumstances to make education more accessible.
  • Specialist Grants: Support for specific fields of study or research areas.
  • External Funding Opportunities: Guidance to help students explore external sources of financial aid.
  • Donor-Funded Scholarships: Scholarships funded by external organisations or individuals to support students’ education.
  • Financial Aid Packages: Comprehensive assistance combining various forms of financial support.
  • Work-Study Programs: Opportunities for students to work on campus while studying to earn financial aid.
  • Government Funding: Assistance programs backed by government initiatives.

UNISA’s Payment Options

UNISA often offers flexible payment plans that allow you to pay your tuition. These flexible payment options ensure that education remains accessible and manageable for all UNISA students:


  • Full Payment: Pay the tuition fees in full before the start of the academic year or semester. 
  • Installment Payments: Divide the fees into multiple instalments throughout the year.
  • Debit Order: Set up automatic monthly payments from a bank account.
  • Credit Card Payments: Pay using a credit card online or on campus.
  • Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT): Transfer fees directly from a bank account.
  • Third-Party Payments: Organisations can pay on behalf of students.

What You Have Learned?

  • Application process 
  • Popular fields to study
  • UNISA advantages
  • Payment options to continue studying
  • Entry requirements to pursue a higher certificate
  • Funding available from UNISA and third parties

Author: Lynnzelle Adams

Editor: Dylan Florence


Published Date: 17 September 2023

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