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Actuarial Science or Quantitative Finance?

These two programmes are offered by the same department and have a large number of subjects in common. The first 2 years of study are currently almost identical and we are working to make them completely aligned in the near future.

The Actuarial Science degree focuses on producing qualified actuaries.  Most actuaries in South Africa are employed by; insurance companies, as consultants managing company pension schemes, in healthcare and general insurance companies and also in investment management companies. Actuaries have an important role in these institutions.  Students who graduate within this stream will be particularly well prepared for further study to obtain the FASSA (Fellow of the Actuarial Society of South Africa) designation from the Actuarial Society of South Africa, or an equivalent overseas designation. Students who meet the demanding standard can obtain exemptions from some two-thirds of the professional examinations.  You can visit the following websites to get more information on the various qualifications:  www.actuarialsociety.co.za and www.actuaries.org.uk.

The Quantitative Finance stream was introduced in response to the demand from merchant banks, investment managers and other financial organisations for graduates able to use analytical and numerical techniques to price financial derivatives and to manage investment portfolio risks. This degree covers much of the material included in the actuarial stream but courses specific to life insurance and pension schemes are replaced by additional finance and risk management courses.

At the most fundamental level, quantitative finance is more concerned with assets while actuaries focus more on liabilities. The boundaries between these professions are however blurring, as both actuaries and quants head into wider fields and carve out roles for themselves in an ever widening range of industries.

Further Study and Career Choice

The FASSA and equivalent qualifications require further part-time study after graduation, which is normally undertaken by correspondence with the support of an employer. UCT provides post-graduate courses to prepare students for these examinations and it is possible for students to obtain exemptions from most of them.

Students from both streams will be particularly well prepared for further study to obtain the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) qualification from the USA, which has become the worldwide qualification for investment managers. The CFA also requires further part-time study by correspondence, usually with the support of an employer.

The knowledge and skills provided by both undergraduate degrees is highly valued by a range of other employers.  Many of our outstanding graduates choose unorthodox career paths as they follow their interest in a particular field.

Why study at UCT?

UCT was the first University in Africa to set up a course to produce qualified actuaries. Our strong past record of success at producing qualified actuaries has allowed the department to attract the best students and staff with outstanding professional qualifications and experience.

Our approach is practical: students are encouraged to think through real world problems and are thereby equipped with many practical skills that go beyond pure actuarial and quantitative techniques. We aim to produce well-rounded professionals ready for the workplace.

UCT has produced more qualified actuaries than any other university in Africa and our analysis of performance in the professional examinations indicates that our graduates are more likely to qualify than those from other institutions in South Africa.

Students within our programme are often able to obtain bursaries from employers especially after they establish a good track record in our examinations.  We recommend that students apply for financial aid (and accommodation) well in advance of the closing dates even if they are not sure that they will need it.

Students from previously disadvantaged communities

At present the overwhelming majority of actuaries and financial analysts are white males.  However, our programmes are producing increasing numbers of female and non-white graduates. We expect this to continue due to the quality of the students we attract, the design of the programmes and the financial support of the insurance industry.

In addition we are hosting an Actuarial Society of South Africa initiative to provide specialist counselling and support for all our students. Email Irene Petrony at irenep@iafrica.com for more details.

UCT also cooperates with the South African Actuarial Development Programme (SAADP) that specifically targets previously disadvantaged students for bursary and support programmes. Email Billy Enderstein at Billy.Enderstein@uct.ac.za for more details.

The flexibility within the programme allows students to progress at different rates and many choose the option of completing their studies over an additional year.

Website

It is well worthwhile to visit the UCT website at www.uct.ac.za where you will find contact details for possible financial support, fees, deadlines and residences. Application forms can also be downloaded directly. A wealth of detailed information can be found at http://www.commerce.uct.ac.za/managementstudies/actuarialscience

Applications

Apply online on http://www.uct.ac.za/apply/welcome/english/.  In addition application forms are available from the Central Admissions Office, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701. The closing date for the receipt of completed forms is 30 September, and the closing date for financial aid applications is 31 October. However we encourage you to apply when applications open in mid April and to take the NBT tests as early in the year as possible.