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Student Funding For Unisa – A Complete Guide To Unisa Bursaries & Loans

by Staff Reporter

Are you studying through Unisa and need to secure funding? We have got you covered. Here is everything you need to know about Unisa student funding.

We are going to look at different options for funding at South Africa’s remote university. There are different funding options for each phase of study at Unisa from undergraduate funding through to doctoral degree funding. 

We are going to break down the different forms of student funding available through Unisa and how they all work. 

Table of Contents

Undergraduate Funding Options At Unisa

NSFAS Undergraduate Funding for Unisa

A potential option for undergraduate funding at Unisa is to apply for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). NSFAS is the South African government finance aid scheme funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training. It provides financial aid to needy or deserving undergraduate students to help pay for the cost of their tertiary education. 

Prior to 2018, NSFAS was a student loan that students needed to pay back after they had completed their studies. Now, if you qualify for NSFAS you will receive a full bursary for the duration of your studies.

NSFAS Funding Allowances for Unisa

NSFAS-funded students at Unisa are entitled to a Learning Material Allowance (LMA) and a Living Allowance (LA). These allowances work as follows:

Learning Material Allowance

The Learning Material Allowance is calculated based on the number of modules you are registered for. For the first four modules an allowance of R600 per module is granted and a R5200 once-off amount is granted for five to ten modules. Once the R5200 once off amount has been paid, no additional LMA will be paid out for additional modules.   

Living allowance

A Living Allowance (LA) is granted to NSFAS-funded students that are registered for ten modules. If you are registered for less than ten modules, this allowance will not apply to you. The same principle applies if you register for ten modules and later reduce the number of modules you registered for, if you do that, you will, unfortunately, forfeit the allowance. 

Applying for NSFAS

Applying for NSFAS works in the same way for every institution in South Africa. All you need to do is:

  1. Create an account on the NSFAS website
  2. Go to the apply now tab.
  3. Enter your personal information and upload all the necessary documents.
  4. Submit your application. 

You can then track progress of your application on your NSFAS account.

NSFAS applications are, however, sadly closed for 2021 and will only be open again for the 2022 academic year. 

Requirements for NSFAS funding at Unisa

In order to be eligible for NSFAS you will need to adhere to the following requirements: 

  • Not have received NSFAS funding in the previous year. 
  • You need to be an undergraduate student with no previous qualifications
  • You need to be a South African citizen
  • You need to be studying an undergraduate degree or diploma. 
  • If you are studying a postgraduate degree you can only qualify if it is in one of the following fields:
    • BTech – Architecture / Architectural Technology
    • BTech – Engineering (all disciplines), Cartography, Forestry
    • BTech – Biokinetics, Biomedical Technology, Biotechnology
    • BTech – Chiropractic, Homoeopathy, all Nursing
    • BTech – Clinical or Dental Technology, Emergency Medical Care
    • Postgraduate Certificate in Education
    • Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting
    • LLB

Registration while waiting for NSFAS confirmation

If you are applying for NSFAS and studying through Unisa, you will need to make sure that you complete your registration. The university has requested that NSFAS candidates ensure that they are temporarily registered while waiting for their funding confirmation. 

This applies to first-time NSFAS applicants, returning NSFAS students, and returning NSFAS students that have been declined by the scheme but have appealed the decision.

If you are an NSFAS-funded student, the amount you pay to activate your registration at Unisa will be refunded once the scheme has confirmed successful processing of registration data to Unisa.

Bursaries for Undergraduate Unisa Qualifications

If you are studying an undergraduate degree, there are two forms of funding that the Unisa itself provides. They offer a merit bursary and a department of transport bursary. Each with their own requirements. 

Unisa merit bursary

If you are a top academic performer, you can then be in contention to get the Unisa merit bursary. This bursary is for top performing South African students. 

Merit Bursary requirements

When applying for the merit bursary, you will need to satisfy the following requirements: 

  • You need to have obtained an average of 75% or above in the previous year of study

  • You need to be a South African citizen.

  • You must be registered for a maximum of five (5) modules per semester and the equivalent for year courses.

  • You need to be in your second year of studies or beyond. First year students do not qualify. 

  • You need to be studying an undergraduate degree or diploma.


The majority of the fund for the bursary is directed towards students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Seventy percent (70%) is reserved for students that achieved 75% or above and are from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Households that have more than R600 000 annual family income will not be considered for this bursary. This is because the main target for the bursary is needy and missing middle students. 


The bursary only covers tuition fees and prescribed textbooks, and will only be awarded if there is sufficient funding available. 


Students that received the bursary in 2020 do not need to re-apply. However, they do need to have maintained a minimum 75% average to be considered for the bursary in 2021. 

Required documents

When you are applying for the bursary you will need to have the following documents. 

  • Copy of ID

  • Proof of household income

  • Parents IDs (for dependent applicants)

  • Academic record

You can apply for the merit bursary on the Unisa site. Applications for this bursary are currently open: 


The application period is from the 4th of January to the 31st of March 2021.

Department of Transport Bursaries at Unisa

The department of transport bursary functions a bit differently from the merit bursary. The biggest difference is that the bursary is only available for students studying certain qualifications. Those qualifications are as follows: 


  • BCom in Transport Economics

  • BCom in Logistics

  • ND in Civil Engineering

  • BTech in Civil Engineering

  • Honours in Transport Economics

  • Honours in Logistics

  • Master’s in Transport Economics

  • Master’s in Logistics

  • MTech in Civil Engineering

Department of Transport Bursary Requirements

The bursary is available to unemployed South Africans under the age of 35 and successful students will be selected by a committee. 


If a recipient of the bursary fails to complete his/her studies, Unisa reserves the right to recall the money awarded with interest. Additionally, returning bursary students need to have passed 50% or more of their previously registered modules to be considered for new funding. 

Required documents

When you are applying for the bursary you will need the following documents: 


  • A certified copy of a valid Matric Certificate (if you have completed Grade 12)

  • A certified copy of your latest academic transcript or record on an official letterhead (if you are already at university)

  • A certified copy of your South African ID

  • Salary information of the person responsible for your needs


The application date for the department of transport bursary closes on the 31st of March. No application submitted after the closing date will be considered. 


Here is the bursary application form. Application forms must be submitted via email to before the 31st of March.

Postgraduate Funding Options At Unisa

Department of Transport Postgraduate Bursaries at Unisa

We’ve already discussed this bursary in the undergraduate section, but it is also available to some postgraduate qualifications.

Unisa Postgraduate Diploma and Honours Bursary

The honours degree and postgraduate diploma bursaries aim to assist students with their tuition fees


The financial support is granted to students subject to eligibility, academic performance and availability of funds, this means that not every eligible student will be awarded the bursary. The recipients will be decided by a selection committee who will also decide the amount awarded to the successful applicants. 

Bursary guidelines, terms and conditions

The postgraduate diploma and honours bursaries are awarded to:

  • South African citizens 

  • Students studying a postgraduate diploma or honours degree in any discipline at Unisa. (When selecting recipients of the bursaries preference will be given to students who studied their undergraduate degree at Unisa) 

  • Students that have achieved a 60% average for their entire undergraduate degree. 


Students that have a postgraduate degree or diploma at the same level or higher will not be considered for the funding. Additionally, students registering for special studies programmes are not eligible for this bursary. That includes certificates and non-degree purpose studies. 


If you are awarded the bursary it is important to note the following

  • Funding only applies for the first two consecutive years of study (the maximum term for completion of an honours degree or postgraduate diploma is three years).

  • If you don’t complete your studies within three years, then you will be liable for the bursary amount awarded during the second year of study. So, if you are a student that has been awarded the bursary but fails to finish within three years, you will be liable to pay for your second and third year. 

Applying for a postgraduate degree and diploma bursaries

When you are applying for the postgraduate diploma and honours degree bursary, you will need to have the following documents: 

  • A certified copy of the your ID 

  • A copy of the your academic record (stamped and/or encrypted by the institution)

  • Proof of registration


If you need any assistance you can contact Unisa’s Postgraduate Bursaries Administration Office


The application period for this bursary is 4 January 2021 – 31 March 2021. To be considered for the bursary make sure to apply before the 31st of March. 

Renewal of the honours degree and postgraduate diploma bursaries

A renewal bursary will only be granted to students that have previously been awarded the Unisa postgraduate bursary, and continue to comply with the relevant conditions, like maintaining a 60% average, etc. 


Recipients of the bursary that fail to re-register for the second academic year will unfortunately be charged for the amount awarded from the bursary for the previous year. Additionally, the bursary will not cover any failed modules. 


So, if you are awarded the postgraduate bursary at Unisa make sure to do the following: 

  • Register on time for each year of studying

  • Pass all of your subjects

  • Maintain a 60% average

  • Finish your degree within 3 years (preferably in 2) 

  • Apply on time

Bursaries for Master’s and Doctoral degrees

Unisa provides bursaries for master’s and doctoral students to assist with their research activities and tuition fees. The bursary is intended to help students register for and complete their degrees. 


The bursary is available to South African and international students and is subject to eligibility, academic performance and availability of funds. 

Unisa master’s bursary guidelines

The master’s bursary is granted to students doing their masters by research or experimentation as well as students studying by coursework.

Funding for the different types of master’s degrees works a bit differently.

For a master’s by research or experimental research the bursary covers tuition fees and up to R55 000 for research essentials. This bursary is provided for the first three years of study.

For a master’s by coursework the bursary again covers tuition, however R25 000 is provided for research essentials and funding is only provided for the first two consecutive years of study.

Unisa doctoral bursary guidelines

The doctoral degree bursary also has different stipulations depending on the type of research a doctoral student is doing. 

For a doctoral degree by research the bursary covers tuition, up to R80 000 for research essentials, and funding is provided for the first four years of study. 

For a doctoral degree by experimental research; the bursary covers tuition and also covers the first four consecutive years of study, the difference is that up to R120 000 is provided for research essentials.

For a doctoral degree by research the bursary covers tuition, up to R80 000 for research essentials, and funding is provided for the first four years of study. 

For a doctoral degree by experimental research; the bursary covers tuition and also covers the first four consecutive years of study, the difference is that up to R120 000 is provided for research essentials.

Important terms and conditions

It is important that a recipient of the bursary does their best to finish their studies within the minimum prescribed time for the degree. Unisa is quite strict with their funding, and funding after the initial prescribed period of study will not be provided, except for in exceptional circumstances. 


The master’s and doctoral bursaries at Unisa are available to South African and international students. Priority is given to South African students though, with the ratio being 80/20. 


The university has stated that there are no guarantees that all eligible students will receive the bursary. The awarding of the bursary is based on academic achievement, research field and priorities, innovative specialisation and methodology being used as well as availability of funds.

Renewal of Unisa Masters and doctoral bursaries

If a student is awarded the doctoral or master’s bursary annual renewal is dependent on the academic progress report from their supervisor. The students supervisor will need to continue to recommend financial support based on the student’s progress on their set plans, research and activities. 


To activate renewal of the bursary returning doctoral and master’s candidates will need to re-register for their degree before the closing date of registration. Returning recipients of the bursary will need to submit a re-application for each academic year for the duration of their bursary. 


It is super important that returning students re-register for the academic year. If they do not they will be in breach of the bursary agreement. This will result in the student being liable for the amount awarded to them for the previous academic year. 


If you are awarded the bursary and you stay up-to-date with your studies, and maintain a positive relationship with your supervisor, you should have no problem keeping the bursary for the two to four consecutive years of study.

Applying for the master’s and doctoral bursary

When applying for master’s and doctoral degree funding through Unisa, the candidate will need to complete the motivation form. It will need to be filled out by the student and their supervisor. 

Unisa only accepts online applications and the following documents need to be included in the application: 

  • Master’s degree by coursework bursary:
    • The student’s academic record (the applicant must have passed two modules towards a master’s degree by coursework.)
    • Proof of registration
    • Master’s and doctoral motivation form
  • Master’s or doctoral degree by research or experimental research bursary:
    • Unisa proposal module results (please note that this bursary does not cover the research proposal module) 
    • Proof of registration 
    • Master’s and doctoral motivation form

Students can submit these documents online via myUnisa. There is also a separate form for returning master’s and doctoral students

The application date for the Unisa master’s and doctoral bursaries are as follows: 

Returning bursary applicants: 23 November 2020 – 29 January 2021

New bursary applicants: 4 January 2021 – 31 March 2021


If you are studying at Unisa there are a few available funding options, however, if you are not eligible or are in need of another funding option, Fundi can help. Fundi provides funding for various student needs, from tuition fees to study material loans

We have also collected a variety of funding options to help ensure that you are able to afford your degree. We want to help you as a student achieve your dreams. So, if none of the Unisa options work for you, you can still use Fundi to apply for a student loan today!

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