In Part II we will be discussing options for studying in South Africa. In the last decade South African universities have seen more overseas students applying - many from the U.S. The appeal of these universities is three-fold.
Firstly, and perhaps chiefly, tuition costs in the U.S. and the U.K. can be prohibitive to many and stipends for doctoral work are no longer guaranteed and in many seminaries not available at all. The South African programs tend to be considerably less and allow most from western nations to pay outright without taking out education loans. In the realm of theological education this is attractive because many that enter this field end up working for churches or non-profits that are not near the high-end of the pay scale. For many of the universities, budgeting $2,000 a year would be sufficient. The programs are subsidized, which accounts for the pricing, but combined with them being considered equal to regionally accredited institutions in the U.S. makes them a good option for those that want to marketable in various regions.
The second draw for foreign students in South African universities is the choice of programs. If you want to study, odds are, they have it at one of the universities. The University of South Africa (UNISA) in particular has a massive amount of programs and many of the universities will have programs related to theology, church history, or biblical studies.
The third draw to these universities is the distance options. Being part of the British Commonwealth, South Africa has long followed the British model of higher education, which includes the research-based doctoral programs (and a large number of research-based masters options too). What this means for many students (depending on the school) is that if you have good research libraries near you, you can stay where you are and communicate with your sponsor/mentor through the various technological means we have available to us today. South Africa has been leading the charge in distance doctoral programs and now has several institutions that are able to offer quality programs that would be marketable where ever in the world you find yourself. Below is a list of institutions. I didn't include the estimated cost of attendance, because it is mostly the same for all of these. I'd recommend checking out the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, as both are usually ranked high among international universities. South African Theological Seminary has a good introduction program that walks you through your research proposal, so that is often useful for those that haven't done that before. University of South Africa (UNISA) has ton of programs and is one of the largest universities in the world. Rhodes University and especially the University of Witwatersrand are both well respected, although the latter is a mouthfull.
South African Theological Seminary
University of Cape Town
University of South Africa
University of Witwatersrand
In Part I of this article I briefly discussed why it was important to both research online and talk to an actual person. I also gave some examples of how to do both. In Part II of this article I will discuss some of the differences in terminology between American and British Commonwealth Universities. As with most subjects, there are exceptions to these, with some schools using their own grading scales or terms, but what I present here should be applicable in nearly every case.
GPA Conversion: One of the most needed resources for students when applying cross-culturally between American and British universities is a reliable GPA conversion chart. Another common misunderstanding concerns degree terminology. Many American universities use the Latin terms summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude to denote exceptional graduates (usually based on their GPA). Summa cum laude is the highest and usually requires a near perfect GPA. The next down is magna cum laude and the last being cum laude. The actual GPA requirements for these honors conveyed upon graduation will change from institution to institution. In the British system, however, these designations are not generally used. Instead there are "classes" that your degree will fall into - 1st class, 2nd class (upper division), 2nd class (lower division), 3rd class, and Pass.
Well, I didn't invent this, but this is what World Education Services recommends for converting grades and degrees between the British and American education systems. Note that you only want to put this on an application when they ask you to convert it. If they don't ask you to, then usually it's best if you put "N/A"or something similar. You'll be wanting to go to a school that has experience with international students, so this really shouldn't be a problem for them. In any case, here is the standard conversion chart:
Degree Names and Study Method: After the GPA conversion questions, probably the next most asked question about international higher education is concerning the names/abbreviation of degrees and the study method used to obtain them. The Baptist Resource has a list of popular degrees in theological education that will help those looking for which program is right for them. However, there are some things that are particular to international education that can be tricky and isn't covered on that page. Here is a chart that will help decipher some of the terms you may be unfamiliar with:
Hopefully this two part article will provide you with at least some of the tools to navigate through cross-cultural, higher education. If any additional questions arise feel free to comment below.
Making the decision to study in another country will no doubt lead you down a sometimes frustrating, sometimes expensive road. To help bridge the gap between how your country does education and how your university's country operates you have to do a bit of translation. This is especially true for those traversing between a British model of higher education and the American model. Here are three things to consider when looking into overseas education.
1. Research Online: You will waste a lot of time getting on the internet and randomly searching websites to help you. To better focus your search, consider these things:
2. Talk to a Person: It sounds so simple and yet so many just sit and research for days or weeks online and never reach out to any real person. This is your education we're talking about! Choosing where you will learn and who you will learn from is going to affect the rest of your life. If I'm considering buying a used Honda Accord, I would want to see which of my friends drive one and ask them about the car. Most people would do the same and yet many wouldn't seek out a student or impartial representative to ask about a masters program in London or a doctoral program in Aberdeen. One reason may be that it is just hard to connect with current students overseas or you may not know where to go to find impartial advice. Ok - here are a couple of spots:
Mark Stevens is a former seminary student himself and currently researches and teaches in the area of theological studies.