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What’s this new National Senior Certificate all about?

  • The National Senior Certificate (NSC) will be the new school-leaving qualification from 2008 onwards.
  • The NSC is based on a new curriculum which takes into account the knowledge and skills young people need in a fast changing world.
  • To qualify for the NSC you need to pass seven subjects – four compulsory subjects and three subjects chosen from a list of 29 subjects that has been approved by the Department of Education for the NSC.
  • The four compulsory subjects are: Two languages, Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy, and Life Orientation.

How does the NSC impact on getting into varsity?

  • The new school curriculum for Grades 10 - 12 means that there are new entry (admission) requirements for university programmes.
  • For a place in the study programme of your choice, you need to have the right matric subjects, achieve well enough in them and make sure that they link to the career you want to pursue.
  • To do a degree, you need to make sure that four of your seven subjects are from what is called a designated list. This special list includes the compulsory subjects (as mentioned above). It does not include all the 29 approved NSC subjects.
  • Based on your Grade 12 results, the university will calculate an Admission Point Score (APS). This means that the percentage you obtain for each of your seven NSC subjects will be converted into points which will then be used to calculate an overall admission point (APS).
  • The APS is one way for universities to measure your level of achievement; however, there may be additional subject requirements for your chosen degree/diploma programme.

What type of qualifications does Nelson Mandela University offer?

  • Nelson Mandela University offers a wide range of career-focused, as well as general academic and professional study programmes.
  • Career-focused programmes refer to programmes that are directly linked to a specific career field and entail in-service training while you are studying - workplace training that forms part of the qualification. In the past, these programmes were known as techikon-type programmes which lead to Certificates, Higher Certificates, National Diplomas and Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degrees.
  • General academic programmes refer to traditional university degree programmes that consist of subjects from various fields, enabling you to tailor your studies to your own interests and career plans. Usually this type of qualification has to be followed by additional postgraduate studies in order to prepare you for a career in a specific field. A general curriculum may be followed in order to obtain a Bachelor of Arts (BA), or Bachelor of Science (BSc), or Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degree.
  • In some academic programmes a career focus is built into the curriculum to prepare you for a specific field. Examples include a BA degree with a focus on Human Resources Management, or a BCom degree with a focus on Financial Planning, or a BSc degree with a focus on Biological Sciences such as Botany and Zoology.
  • Professional degree programmes are also directly linked to career fields and are usually a pre-requisite to enter certain professions, such as medicine, law, chartered accountancy, pharmacy, nursing, engineering, architecture, education, e.g. Bachelor in Pharmacy (BPharm), Bachelor in Enginneering (BEng) and Bachelor in Architectural Studies (BAS).
  • A Bachelor’s degree refers to your first or initial degree qualification. Students who want to specialise further can study towards a postgraduate qualification, which includes Bachelor Honours degrees, Masters and Doctoral degrees.

What if you do not qualify for the study programme of your choice?

  • If you do not meet the minimum admission requirements, but have an APS above 22, you will be referred for access testing at the university.
  • The test results together with your NSC results will be used to determine whether you can be placed in an extended curriculum programme or an alternative study programme that will also suit your strengths and abilities.
  • The extended curriculum programmes consist of the same content as the formal mainstream diploma or degree programme but also provides sufficient academic support which will enable you to complete your studies successfully. These programmes require an extra year of study.

What are the minimum entry requirements for university study from 2009 onwards?

  • The table below explains how well you need to achieve in your school subjects to meet the minimum entry requirements for each type of qualification.
  • It is important to note that the diagram refers to minimum requirements.
  • Universities may add additional requirements for specific programmes.
Qualification Types Minimum entry requirements
Certificate/National Certificate/National Higher Certificate NSC with an achievement rating of 3 obtained in Life Orientation and two other subjects, and a rating of 2 obtained in the other four subjects, together with any other university requirements.
Diploma/National Diploma NSC with an achievement rating of 3 or better obtained in four subjects (excluding Life Orientation), together with any other university requirements.
Bachelor’s Degree NSC with an achievement rating of 4 or better obtained in four subjects from the approved designated list (see below), together with any other university requirements.

How to calculate your Admissions Point Score (APS)

  • A point will be assigned to the percentage obtained in each of your seven NSC subjects (see table below).
  • Calculate an overall APS by totaling up the points achieved.


NSC percentages

8 90% to 100%
7 80% to 89%
6 70% to 79%
5 60% to 69%
4 50% to 59%
3 40% to 49%
2 30% to 39%
0 0% to 29%

Designated school subjects

  • To do a degree, you need to make sure that four of your seven subjects are from the list below.
  • You will notice that the list already includes the four compulsory subjects required for obtaining the NSC, namely, Languages, Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy, and Life Orientation.


  • Accounting
  • Information Technology
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Languages (two official languages)
  • Business Studies
  • Life Sciences
  • Dramatic Arts
  • Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy
  • Economics
  • Music
  • Engineering Graphics and Design
  • Physical Sciences
  • Geography
  • Religion Studies
  • History
  • Visual Arts
  • Consumer Studies