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Your Guide to Bursaries in South Africa

by Staff Reporter

Studies can become ridiculously expensive and bursaries can be confusing. Here Johann guides you on finding the right bursary for you.

New parents and students often don’t realise how much university actually costs. Apart from rising tuition and residence fees, university costs include books, equipment, transport and living expenses. Bursaries offer the opportunity to either reduce some of these financial strains or avoid them altogether. There are many different bursaries available to South African students. While you may not be eligible for all of them, there may be many you may not know about that are perfect for you.

The trouble with giving general advice about bursaries is that the bursaries are often very specific. Most bursaries are for particular courses. There are many more for postgraduate studies than for undergraduate and they are often funded by companies or organisations for specific industries like engineering.

To help you find a bursary suited to your situation, we’ve decided to explain the following:

  • What bursaries and student loans are
  • How NSFAS works
  • Where to find the bursary of your choice
  • And to give you some insightful tips.

Why are bursaries high in demand and beneficial?

A bursary is funding provided to a student to cover the costs of university. It is normally granted with conditions like maintaining an academic average and paying the money back by working for the company that provided it after your graduation.

Bursaries are in very high demand, and it’s easy to see why. Not only do most bursaries pay for the entirety of your tuition as well as other expenses, they can also guarantee you a job with the company that provided it. Bursaries represent a support structure that take you through university and into a career path, making them highly valuable and sought after.


NSFAS is a great funding option for those whose families earn below a certain income bracket. NSFAS provides loans and bursaries to disadvantaged students. Keep NSFAS in mind when applying for bursaries. If the bursary option doesn’t work out, see if you qualify for a NSFAS loan before going to a bank as they have a lower interest rate.

NSFAS is a loan and bursary scheme funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training. Last year it provided 400 000 students with loans and bursaries. For students with no expected family income, bursaries that provide full tuition as well as accommodation, meals, books and travel is available. Students can also qualify for funding up to a maximum of R71 800 according to the applicants performance, degree choice and family income.

While this article is about bursaries, it is worth quickly explaining how a student loan works. A student loan is money borrowed to cover the costs of tuition, accommodation, books, travel costs and personal expenses. Student loans are offered by most banks, private organisations like Fundi and public institutions like NSFAS. These loans must be repaid once you graduate and start working, but part of your loan may be converted into a bursary which you do not need to repay. Although, this would all depend on the organisation that has provided the loan. How much of your loan is converted into a bursary depends on your academic performance, and in the case of NSFAS this can be up to 40%.

Let’s move on to the bursaries provided by private organisations and businesses.

After visiting the NSFAS website, your next stop should be is EduOne’s funding platform, the biggest database of bursars in South Africa. It’s a one-stop resource for everything you will need to find and apply for funding to study.

Browsing through the database, it took me less than ten minutes to find the bursaries that I would be able to apply for. Bursaries are organised by faculty and can then be filtered by subject and a text search allowance items. It is important to note that most bursary applications for 2017 funding closed in November 2016. As such you should make sure you are considering bursaries for 2018 when looking at


Here are a few things to remember when looking for bursaries.

Am I eligible for this bursary?

As we have said, bursaries are often suited to specific studies. Some are for undergraduate degrees, others for postgraduate. A few are for both. Some require that you are already registered at a university or completed a year of study. The first thing you should make sure of is that you are eligible (meaning that you meet the requirements) for the bursary you are considering and that it supports the kind of studies you want to undertake.

What is supplied by the bursary?

Bursaries can either pay for all of your studies or they will pay a portion of it. Bursaries can pay for all, half or a quarter of your tuition, or they might have their own specific arrangement. Some of them also fund your books and equipment, transport, residence fees and even provide an allowance. Find out what support the bursary provides.

What is expected of me?

All bursaries have requirements. These often include South African citizenship, a matric certificate and evidence of academic achievement. Most bursaries also have requirements that need to be met after the bursary is awarded, such as maintaining a high academic performance. Make sure you are able to meet all of these requirements before applying and that you are prepared to meet the academic requirement set out by the bursary.

Go the extra mile

While you can’t apply to the same bursary twice, you can (and should) apply for more than one bursary. Write a good motivational letter and apply for as many bursaries as you qualify for, the extra effort will improve your chances of getting one.

EduConnect 2Cents

Bursaries are an excellent way to receive funding for your studies. Unfortunately they don’t always cover everything or you don’t get the bursary. In a perfect world there would be enough bursaries and funding for each and every student – but that time has not yet arrived. There are a few other ways to fund your studies. Some of these options are: part-time studies, getting a student job, student loans or studying through a learnership or apprenticeship.

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