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Actuarial Science or Quantitative Finance?

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

The Actuarial Science degree focuses on producing qualifiedactuaries.  Most actuaries in SouthAfrica are employed by; insurance companies, as consultants managing companypension schemes, in healthcare and general insurance companies and also ininvestment management companies. Actuaries have an important role in theseinstitutions.  Students who graduatewithin this stream will be particularly well prepared for further study toobtain the FASSA (Fellow of the Actuarial Society of South Africa) designationfrom the Actuarial Society of South Africa, or an equivalent overseas designation.Students who meet the demanding standard can obtain exemptions from sometwo-thirds of the professional examinations. You can visit the following websites to get more information on thevarious qualifications: and

The Quantitative Finance stream was introduced in responseto the demand from merchant banks, investment managers and other financialorganisations for graduates able to use analytical and numerical techniques toprice financial derivatives and to manage investment portfolio risks. Thisdegree covers much of the material included in the actuarial stream but coursesspecific to life insurance and pension schemes are replaced by additional financeand risk management courses.

At the most fundamental level, quantitative finance is moreconcerned with assets while actuaries focus more on liabilities. The boundariesbetween these professions are however blurring, as both actuaries and quantshead into wider fields and carve out roles for themselves in an ever wideningrange of industries.

Further Study and Career Choice

The FASSA and equivalent qualifications require furtherpart-time study after graduation, which is normally undertaken bycorrespondence with the support of an employer. UCT provides post-graduatecourses to prepare students for these examinations and it is possible forstudents to obtain exemptions from most of them.

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

The knowledge and skills provided by both undergraduatedegrees is highly valued by a range of other employers.  Many of our outstanding graduates chooseunorthodox 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 toproduce qualified actuaries. Our strong past record of success at producingqualified actuaries has allowed the department to attract the best students andstaff with outstanding professional qualifications and experience.

Our approach is practical: students are encouraged to thinkthrough real world problems and are thereby equipped with many practical skillsthat go beyond pure actuarial and quantitative techniques. We aim to producewell-rounded professionals ready for the workplace.

UCT has produced more qualified actuaries than any otheruniversity in Africa and our analysis of performance in the professionalexaminations indicates that our graduates are more likely to qualify than thosefrom other institutions in South Africa.

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

Students from previously disadvantaged communities

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

In addition we are hosting an Actuarial Society of SouthAfrica initiative to provide specialist counselling and support for all ourstudents. Email Irene Petrony at irenep@iafrica.comfor more details.

UCT also cooperates with the South African Actuarial Development Programme (SAADP) that specifically targets previouslydisadvantaged students for bursary and support programmes. Email Khwezi Bonani at for more details.

The flexibility within the programme allows students toprogress at different rates and many choose the option of completing their studiesover an additional year.


It is well worthwhile to visit the UCT website at where you will find contactdetails for possible financial support, fees, deadlines and residences.Application forms can also be downloaded directly. A wealth of detailedinformation can be found at


Apply online on  In addition application forms are availablefrom the Central Admissions Office, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3,Rondebosch 7701. The closing date for the receipt of completed forms is 30September, and the closing date for financial aid applications is 31 October.However we encourage you to apply when applications open in mid April and totake the NBT tests as early in the year as possible.