Bursaries, scholarships & loans: Here's how to fund your studies

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There are different types of financial aid for studies. Bursaries or scholarships are funding for deserving students, either to encourage them in a specific field or to reward them for achievements in academics, sport or leadership. You don't need to repay a bursary, unless you drop out before you finish your studies, and some bursary donors may require you to work at their company after you've graduated. If you don't get any bursaries, you can take out a student loan. These have to be repaid, with interest, once you complete your studies.

You can apply for loans or bursaries from government, universities, private companies and banks.

Government funding

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) offers financial aid to students who have academic potential to succeed in an institution of higher learning and training but lack who the financial means. Previously, NSFAS funding was in the form of a student loan for university students with a portion of this loan being converted into a non-repayable bursary if outstanding marks were achieved. However, in December 2017, the then South African President announced that all NSFAS grants will be in the form of completely non-payable bursaries for students studying at public universities and TVET colleges from 2018 going forward. 

This meant that all South African students from poor and working-class families can study at a public tertiary institution, at no cost. NSFAS is an entity of the South African government and its funding covers for registration fees, accommodation, transport, prescribed learning materials and food.

You qualify for NSFAS if your family earns a combined household income of not more than R350 000 per year or are beneficiaries of state social grant.The NSFAS also administers certain government bursaries, such as the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme for prospective public school teachers, and the Department of Social Development bursaries for social work students.

University financial aid

Each university has a financial aid office that assists students with loan and bursary applications. This should be your first stop for any financial aid, including university funding, NSFAS loans and external bursaries. 

Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Durban University of Technology

Mangosuthu University of Technology  

  • Bursaries: https://www.mut.ac.za/mut-bursaries/
  • Phone numbers: +27 (0)31 907 7111 (General enquiries) +27 (0)31 907 7462 (Bursaries) +27 (0)31 907 7353 (NSFAS)
  • Closing dates for funding applications: See website.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University 

North West University

Potchefstroom campus:

Vaal Triangle campus: 

Mafikeng campus:

Rhodes University

Sol Plaatjie University

  • Financial aid: Apply directly on the NSFAS and Fundza Lushaka websites.
  • Phone number: +27 (0)53 491 0000 (Switchboard)

Stellenbosch University

Tswane University of Technology

University of Cape Town

University of Fort Hare

University of Johannesburg

University of KwaZulu-Natal

University of Limpopo

University of Mpumulanga

  • Financial aid: Apply directly on the NSFAS and Fundza Lushaka websites.
  • Phone number: +27 (0)13 002 0001 (Switchboard) +27 (0)13 002 0052/09 (Financial aid)

University of Pretoria

University of South Africa

University of the Free State

Walter Sisulu University

University of Venda

University of the Western Cape

University of Witwatersrand (Wits University)

University of Zululand

  • Bursaries: University of Zululand Bursaries
  • Phone numbers: +27 (0)35 902 6000 (Switchboard, main campus) +27 (0)35 902 6006 (Switchboard, Richards Bay campus) +27 (0)35 902 6307 (Financial aid)
  • Closing dates for funding applications: Contact financial aid office.

Vaal University of Technology

  • Financial aid and bursaries: https://www.vut.ac.za/fees-and-bursaries/
  • Phone numbers: +27(0)16 950 9000 (General enquiries, Vanderbijl campus) +27(0)11 929 7400 (General enquiries, Ekurhuleni campus) +27(0)17 631 1990 (General enquiries, Secunda campus) +27(0)54 332 3304 (General enquiries, Upington campus)
  • Closing dates for funding applications: Contact university.

External bursaries

Many private and state-owned companies offer bursaries in various fields. For updated lists of bursaries available to South African students, visit these websites: 

Student loans

Student loans are offered by all major banks as well as Eduloan, who specialises in funding for education.


ABSA student loans 

FNB student loans

Nebank student loans

Standard Bank student loans


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Also see:

SA's universities and colleges: contact details

How much did a first year at a SA university cost in 2018?

What if I don't get into my dream university or course?

Matrics, here's all you need to know about the National Benchmark tests

Help your child to study abroad

Should I take a gap year?

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