UNISA received a Royal Charter in 1877. It operates under the University of South Africa Act (No 19 of 1959) and is accredited by the South Africa Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education(CHE). Its qualifications (including those of the Graduate School of Business Leadership) are registered with the South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
Internationally, UNISA is listed in the Commonwealth Universities Handbook of 1999 and also in the international Handbook of Universities of 1998. UNISA was granted full institutional accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) in the United States of America. This accreditation means that a prestigious international accreditation commission has concluded that UNISA is a qualify distance learning education institution that sets attainable education outcomes for its academic programmes, provides materials and services to enable students to reach those objectives and has capacity to continue to provide these in the future. UNISA qualifications are recognized and accredited by the University of Malawi.