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Home Funding Information Everything you need to know about Bursaries

Everything you need to know about Bursaries

by Candice Grobler

You’ve heard that bursaries can help you with your tertiary studies, but how can they do this and at what cost to you?

The terms ‘bursary’ and ‘scholarship’ are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing! Bursaries are awarded to students based on their background and personal circumstances, and they are non-competitive – unlike scholarships. Most bursaries are awarded by universities if a student meets the requirements, and the student is not always required to apply for them.

Bursaries vs. other funding

How does a bursary compare to other funding options?

 Awarded based on:Payment towards:Repayment?Competitive
BursariesMeeting sponsor requirements

·       Tuition

·       Textbooks

·       Living expenses

Sometimes a form of repayment is requiredNo
ScholarshipsOutstanding academic achievement or other sponsor requirements

·       Tuition

·       Textbooks

·       Living expenses

Student LoansFinancial suretyYou choose how to spend itYesNo
Financial AidFinancial need

·       Tuition

·       Textbooks

·       Living expenses


Strict subject-related requirements

(often only at postgraduate level)

·       Tuition

·       Specific research opportunities



Terms and Conditions

While a bursary provides an amazing opportunity to fund your education, there are often specific terms that you may need to consider when you are applying for them.


  • Often, a bursary will stipulate how you are supposed to spend the funds awarded to you.
  • The amount of coverage isn’t always as much as a scholarship, it may only be enough to cover part of your tuition.


  • Some sponsors require that you work for them in return for the funding that they provide in your bursary. For example, if you receive a full bursary for 3 years, they may require that you work for them for 3 years after you have graduated.

Application requirements

When you apply to your chosen university, they will often also use this application as a bursary application. This means that, if you qualify for a university offered bursary, it will automatically be deducted from your fees when you register at your university.

  • Requirements for these bursaries often include financial need and academic merit.

Bursaries offered by companies that are external to your university will need to be specifically applied for. Often you can find the application forms on the company website or on popular bursary and scholarship websites.

  • Requirements for these bursaries are specifically stipulated by the company, who can assign very specific qualifying factors.
  • Be sure to research these bursaries very well to avoid being caught out by any terms and conditions.

How to bursary:

Where can I find a bursary opportunity?

  1. Look at your university’s funding page
  2. Search all major bursary and scholarship portals
  3. Google specific bursaries that you are looking for (i.e. Bursary for BCom Marketing degree)

How do I apply for the bursary?

  1. Carefully read the information page/brochure for the bursary
  2. Check whether you meet the requirements
  3. Check the closing dates
  4. Gather all the required documents
  5. Apply directly to the sponsoring company – before the deadline

To get you started:

To help you get started, here’s a list of some of the biggest bursary providing sites in South Africa:

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