About University of South Africa (UNISA)

About University of South Africa (UNISA)

Unisa is the largest open distance learning institution in Africa and the longest standing dedicated distance education university in the world. We enrol nearly one-third of all South African students.


Founded in 1873 as the University of the Cape of Good Hope, the institution became the first public university in the world to teach exclusively by means of distance education in 1946. Throughout the years, Unisa was perhaps the only university in South Africa to have provided all people with access to education, irrespective of race, colour or creed. This vibrant past is mirrored in our rich history, more particularly our massive and impressive database of alumni, some of whom are to be found in the most senior levels of society across the world.

Given our rootedness in South Africa and the African continent, Unisa today can truly claim to be the African university in the service of humanity.

We have embraced the fact that we need to adapt quickly to the fast-paced higher education environment of the 21st century and this is reflected in our management style and leadership practice. In addition, one of our main aims is to harness the new and emerging potential in information and communication technology to catapult the university into a truly digital future.

We offer an unparalleled range of study choices, ranging from short courses and certificate programmes to three-and four-year degrees and diplomas, to over 400 000 current students. As one of the leading research institutions on the continent, our research efforts have won us numerous awards, recognitions and honours.

Whether you’re beginning a new journey with us or staying involved with your alma mater, we commend you on choosing a world-class institution that has been building Africa’s future for 141 years.

Who We Are

Unisa is Africa’s leading distance learning institution nurturing inspiring leaders of tomorrow. We are a reputable, comprehensive, flexible and accessible open distance learning institution that is motivating a future generation. We offer internationally accredited qualifications and have world-class resources.

Our vision “towards the African university in the service of humanity” drives us to find answers to Africa’s educational and developmental problems. By forming partnerships in Africa and throughout the world, we are able to help the people of Africa achieve their dreams.

Our strategy

At Unisa, everything we do is inspired by our Vision, Mission and Values. They are the key components of our strategic planning.

Our future

In the upcoming years, our main aim is to harness the new and emerging potential in ICT to catapult the university into a truly digital future.

As Africa’s leading open distance learning university, we strive to keep up with the constantly evolving Higher Education landscape in order to serve our students to the best of our ability. Our main aim is to harness the new and emerging potential in information and communication technology to catapult the university into a truly digital future.
Some of the ways we hope to achieve this include:

Negotiating with internet service providers to secure special deals for students in an attempt to ensure that every student has suitable access to the internet.

  • A paperless environment. This will entail every student having access to an electronic device (PC or tablet).
  • An increased implementation of e-books and online learning including the use of e-tutors and e-mentors.
  • An open licensing regime where the restrictions placed on us by licensing legalities are minimised. This will enable us to more easily provide students with access to a wide range of study materials and reading matter.

We have no doubt that the upcoming years will present us with a myriad of challenges, from coping with political and economic changes to ensuring that we are able to adequately serve our large number of students. Challenges notwithstanding, we are confident in our ability to succeed and become a truly high-performance university.

The three core business areas of Unisa are teaching, research and community engagement. Our world-class research is spearheaded by the Research and Innovation portfolio and community engagement by our Community Engagement and Outreach Policy.

We also place great importance on the celebration and promotion of our African arts and culture through various endeavours, including the Archaeology and Anthropology Museum, Music Directorate and Little Theatre.


Unisa follows an open distance learning (ODL) model of teaching and offers an unparalleled range of study choices


Our second core area of business, research, is spearheaded by our Research and Innovation Portfolio.

Community engagement

As a leading educational institution, we remain mindful of our significant role in building ongoing relationships with the community.

Arts and culture

In addition to our academic offerings, we place great importance on the celebration and promotion of African arts and culture.