In addition to the provision of tertiary education, Institutions of Higher Education are expected to instil critical and independent thinking skills in students. Students often bring into the learning environment their own subjective views about the world they live in. We conducted a self-administered survey among 867 first-year students registered for Criminology at two parallel-medium universities (University of the Freestate and the University of Pretoria). The aim of the study was to determine their views and perceptions about the crime phenomenon in South Africa. The survey was undertaken at the beginning of the academic year in order to minimise the possible influence of academic modules on their views and perceptions. Tests of significance (chi-square and effect size) revealed some differences in respect of the gender of students. However, significant differences mostly featured across population groups, in particular between African and White students’ views about personal safety and vulnerability to crime, the causes of crime, sentencing, law enforcement and imprisonment. In terms of the careers that students wish to pursue, differences in views appear to be influenced by their backgrounds instead of the professions they aim to fill. The findings call on Criminology lecturers to incorporate materials in their curricula that will challenge the misconceptions students may hold about crime in South Africa. In addition, platforms are needed where students can confront their own assumptions and existing beliefs about crime, ultimately to strengthen social cognition in this domain. Such activities could prove difficult in parallel-medium institutions where the languages of tuition create two discernible student profiles. Follow-up research is needed to gauge the impact of tertiary education on the crime-related views and perceptions of students.