CAO Application Process

Applying to university can be a stressful, time consuming, and costly endeavour. Especially when you consider that every varsity has its different due dates, varying registration fees, and unique application processes. Therefore, the best way to reduce the time and resources you use on university applications is to consider using the CAO.

The Central Application Office (CAO) enables students to apply to several universities and private institutions with only one application office and one fee.

Everything You Need To Know To Complete A CAO Application

While The CAO is a tremendously useful service, plenty of information available makes it a challenge to navigate. However, we’ve made the process simple by answering some of your most basic questions.

What Is The Application Deadline For CAO?

Since the CAO distributes applications to several universities and colleges, application deadlines run for as long as universities and colleges are accepting applicants, even late applicants. The best resource to determine whether a university you want to apply to is still accepting applications is to visit CAO’s website.

How Do You Register For CAO?

To register for CAO, head over to and click on apply. The system will prompt you to enter your ID number or passport number. Once you do that, you’ll be required to enter a cell phone number and email address. The email and cell phone number you use should be ones you have easy access to, as you’ll need to receive OTPs and correspondence frequently, especially during login attempts.

After completing your personal information, you will be requested to enter your programme codes and upload your relevant documentation; once you complete this process, the system will prompt you to pay.

What Is CAO’s Registration Fee and Where Do You Pay It?

CAO charges a once-off fee of R470 for South African residents and citizens and R580 for foreign applicants. 

You’ll receive an Easy Pay number once you’ve completed your application. You can use this Easy Pay number to pay for your application through outlets that accept Easy Pay, e.g. Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay, and Boxer. You can also pay via credit card on the website when you’re prompted.

If you decide to change your programme choices, you’ll be required to pay a Change of Mind (CoM) fee for every programme you want to change. This fee is R140 per programme.

Additionally, your application will only be made available to universities and colleges once you’ve paid your registration fee in full.

Is CAO Still Accepting Walk-Ins?

While CAO branches are still open, due to COVID-19, no face-to-face meetings are being held at their branches. Instead, CAO urges applicants to register online or call in to begin the application process.

You can access the CAO website at or call 031 268 4444 to begin the process.

What Are The Requirements To Apply Through the CAO?

To ensure your application is immediately available to the universities and colleges that use CAO, you’ll need the following documents when you apply. If you’re applying online, you will be able to upload these documents. However, if you’re sending in an application form, you should attach these documents to your application form. You’ll need:

1. A copy of your ID and

2. A final grade 11 report (if you are in Grade 12) or the highest qualification achieved (if you have already completed Grade 12)

What Are Course Codes and How Do You Find Them?

To apply via the CAO, you need to have a six-character course code. These course codes help narrow down your application and ensure relevant universities and colleges have access to it. However, finding these course codes can be challenging as the information is not readily available.

However, you’ll be able to access this information during the application process. When you’re applying, you can choose to search for course codes based on fields of study. For example, Civil for Civil engineering, etc. Alternatively, you can leave the search field empty, and you’ll be presented with a list of programmes, which you can then click to add to your application.

How Do I Check The Status of My Application?

Once you’ve applied for CAO, you can keep track of your application process by logging into your CAO profile or calling the self-help number on 086 0860 226.

Universities and Colleges That Accept CAO Applications

The CAO works in partnership with four Kwa-Zulu Natal Universities and fifteen private institutions across many campuses. If you’re considering applying to more than one of these institutions using CAO can be beneficial as you’ll save on fees and resources. To help you determine if the CAO is a good fit for you, here is the full list of Universities and colleges accepting applications through CAO:

Public Universities and Colleges

  • Durban University of Technology
  • Mangosuthu University of Technology
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • University of Zululand

Private Universities, Colleges, and Higher Education Facilities

  •  AAA School of Advertising
  • Berea College of Technology
  • Berea Technical College
  • Central Technical College
  • CTU Training Solutions
  • Stadio (Embury) Institute for Higher Education
  • ICESA Education
  • iStudent Academy
  • Management and Leadership Academy (ICESA Education Subdivision)
  • PAX College
  • Pearson Institute of Higher Education
  • Regent Business School
  • Richfield Graduate Institute of Technology
  • The Business School at Varsity College (Part-Time Division)

For many South African students, the CAO has become a valuable resource to enter higher learning institutions. The process allows you to keep track of your application in a central location and ensures that you have more options even if you apply later in the year.

School Enrolment Dates For 2022

With the school year getting off to a slow start due to the current pandemic, it may seem early to some parents to start considering registering their children in school for 2022 but it is best to keep on top of these things. Learners going into Grade R, Grade 1, or Grade 8 need to have had applications for enrolment sent in the previous year to the schools and those deadlines are coming up, depending on your province.

Enrolment is necessary at state and private school and follows a process. If your child is four years old and will be five years or older by 30 June the next year you can apply to enrol them in Grade R, and a student who is five years old and turning six or older by 30 June the next year is eligible to be enrolled in Grade 1. It is a parent or guardian’s responsibility to register learners at a school, and if the learner is moving schools the same process applies.

Though the Department of Basic Education states that the application dates fall between April and October of the preceding year of enrolment, it is vital to check the exact deadlines for your province as, for example, the Western Cape has already opened applications and the deadline is the 26th of March. The Western Cape is generally the earliest deadline but based on previous years the deadlines for Free State, Gauteng, and Northern Cape will be coming up in June and July, and the rest following soon after. It is also best to find out the exact protocol to follow for your specific province as some have moved to online application (such as Gauteng and the Western Cape) and some have not, and the documentation required might vary. It is recommended to have more than one school in mind when applying as spots can fill up and it is not always guaranteed that you will get your first choice of school.

All applications will require submitting of documents such as: application form of the school; your child’s birth certificate (a baptismal certificate is not sufficient); immunisation card; and transfer card or last school report card for children who are moving schools or are coming into Grade 1 or Grade 8. If the learner is not a South African citizen, you will need to submit: a study permit; proof of temporary or permanent residence from the Department of Home Affairs; or proof of having applied for permission to stay in the country.

The information will become available online as the application dates open, from different news sites and the Department of Education’s website, as well as the individual websites of the provincial Departments of Education, so keep an eye out!