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What’s the National Senior Certificate all about?

  • The National Senior Certificate (NSC) is the current school-leaving qualification for high school learners as from 2008.
  • 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 in order to obtain your NSC at the end of Grade 12.
  • The four compulsory subjects are: Two languages, Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy or Technical Mathematics, and Life Orientation.

Getting into varsity?

  • For a place in a study programme at our University, you must meet the statutory minimum requirements based on the National Senior Certificate (NSC), or equivalent school-leaving certificate for admission to a higher certificate, diploma or degree qualification.
  • Admission to an undergraduate programme is determined by your Applicant Score (AS) and subject results.
  • You must have the right matric subjects, achieve well in them and make sure that they link to the career/study field you want to apply for. 
  • Early application is essential - don't delay in applying. 

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 Engineering (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 Postgraduate Certificates, Honours, Masters and Doctoral degrees.

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

  • Provisional admission is based on your Applicant Score (AS) and subject results obtained in your Grade 11 final, or Grade 12 June/September examinations. However, the final decision is based on your final Grade 12 NSC/IEB examination results. In order to be admitted as a student at this University, you must meet the direct entry requirements. 

  • If your Applicant Score (AS) & subject requirements are below the minimum required, you will need to consider another qualification for which you do qualify. This can include an extended curriculum qualification in the same field of study (if available), or possibly a Diploma or Higher Certificate qualification. 

  • We no longer test applicants for admission to any certificate, diploma of degree qualification (unless otherwise stated), and you will therefore need to meet our admission requirements directly. 

What are the minimum entry requirements for university study?

  • The table below explains what the minimum statutory entry requirements for each type of qualification level are.
  • It is important to note that the diagram refers to minimum entry requirements.
  • The University has also set its own additional entry requirements (over and above those listed here).
  • Please note that the achievement of the minimum statutory requirements does not necessarily guarantee admission to any qualification or field of study.
Qualification  Types    Minimum entry requirements
Higher Certificate

Pass the NSC, with a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching of the higher education institution, together with any other university requirements. 

Diploma Pass the NSC with a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching of the higher education institution, coupled with an achievement rating of 3 (40–49%) or better in four recognised NSC 20-credit subjects, together with any other university requirements.
Bachelor’s Degree Pass the NSC with a minimum of 30% in the language of learning and teaching of the higher education institution, coupled with an achievement rating of 4 (50–59%) or better in four NSC 20-credit subjects together with any other university requirements.

How to calculate your Applicant Score (AS)

  • First look-up the Applicant Score (AS) for the qualification you are applying for – also note any required subjects.
  • Your Applicant Score (AS) will be different if you took Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy or Technical Mathematics at school.
  • Your Applicant Score (AS) is calculated using six subjects. Please note that Life Orientation (LO) is excluded.
  • Write down your Grade 12 subjects and the most recent percentage (%) obtained in each subject (NO Gr 12 March results).
  • You MUST include the results for the following three fundamental subjects: 1) Home language; 2) 1st Add. Language; and 3) Maths; or Maths Lit; or Technical Maths.
  • For applicants with seven Grade 12 NSC/IEB subjects, your AS is calculated by adding the percentages for your six 20-credit subjects (Note that the Life Orientation percentage is not included as it is a 10-credit subject). This gives a score out of 600.
  • For those applicants taking eight or more subjects, your AS is calculated as follows: add the percentages obtained for the three fundamental subjects (the two languages and Mathematics, Technical Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy), plus the percentage(s) for any subject(s) required by the programme, together with the percentage(s) for the next best / highest subject(s), to a maximum of six subjects.
  • In addition, for those applicants from quintile 1 to 3 schools who attain 50% or higher for Life Orientation, 7 additional points are added to their score out of 600 to arrive at their final AS.
  • Compare your AS & subject requirements to the minimum needed for the qualification you want to apply for.
  • If your Applicant Score (AS) & subject requirements are below the minimum required, you will need to consider another qualification for which you do qualify.

* All South African public ordinary schools are categorised into five groups, called quintiles. Quintile 1 to 3 are non-fee paying schools, while Quintile 4 & 5 are fee paying schools.


NSC Subject % obtained % used to calculate AS
isiXhosa Home Language 78 78
English 1st Additional 60 60
Mathematics 65 65
Life Science 62 62
Physical Science 50 50
Geography 55 55
Life Orientation 78 n/a
APPLICANT SCORE (AS) - 370