Education


SA student loans and bursaries

South Africa is home to many world-class universities and colleges, and you're smart and want to get ahead in life. How are you going to pay for your studies?

Studying is an expensive undertaking. You can expect to pay between R20 000 and R30 000 for each year of undergraduate study at a South African university. Specialised or professional degrees, such as medicine and engineering, can cost much more.

South Africa also has a wide range of private colleges, where tuition fees can be higher than at the subsidised public institutions.

Be sure to consider your options before deciding how to pay for your studies, and apply for any award or bursary for which you're eligible.

University financial aid

If you have already enrolled at a university, or are considering doing so, their financial aid office should be your first stop. (See the list of university websites on the right.)

Most universities offer bursaries or grants to students that have excelled in their previous studies, or on the sports field.

Check with your university's financial aid office whether you are eligible for any of these bursaries or awards, and make sure that you apply before the closing date, which is usually in October of the year preceding the start of your studies. Some can be as early as March, so it's worth checking the date.

National financial aid

If you are a South African citizen you may be eligible for a National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) loan for study at one of the country's public higher education institutions.

The NSFAS, a statutory body funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training, provides study loans to academically able but financially needy students.

Much of an NSFAS loan can be converted into a bursary, which does not then need to be repaid, depending on one's academic progress. A 100% pass rate would result in a 40% bursary rebate on an NSFAS loan.

The size of the initial NSFAS loan ranges from R2 000 to R30 000. You should apply at your university's financial aid office. (See the list of university websites on the right.)

External bursaries

Many South African companies as well as provincial government departments offer bursaries to promising students.

The terms of these bursaries vary tremendously. Contract bursaries require you to “pay back” the bursary by working at the company once you’ve completed your degree – giving you a job and work experience immediately after your graduation. Many mining and engineering companies, in particular, provide contract bursaries.

A booklet known as the Bursary Register is published every year and includes a full list of bursaries available in your particular field. While copies are available at most high schools and at your university's financial aid office, you can also order a copy from:

Student loans

All of South Africa's major banks offer student loans, both to South Africans and to non-South Africans with valid study permits. Bank loans, unlike NSFAS loans, will also cover studies at a private institution.

When applying for a bank loan, you will have to show proof of registration at an educational institution. You'll also need somebody, such as a parent or guardian, to sign surety for you.

Although you will only need to start repaying your bank loan once you've completed your studies, you will need to keep up the interest payments throughout the term of the loan.

Bursaries for teachers

Funza Lushaka is a government-funded bursary scheme aimed at promoting teaching in public schools.

Students planning to complete a teaching qualification (in a subject area identified as a national priority by the Department of Basic Education) can apply for full-cost bursaries – which cover the cost of tuition, books as well as living expenses.

Recipients of these bursaries have to be South African citizens and will be required to teach at a public school for the same number of years that they receive the bursary. While recipients may request to be placed at a school in a particular province, they cannot choose the school.

Note that you need a student number to apply for a bursary and you can apply for a Funza Lushaka bursary through your university.

Paying your own way

You can also choose to pay your own way. By taking a year off to work before studying, or by working part-time while pursuing your studies, you can gain valuable work experience while earning to finance your degree.

You'll have to be disciplined, however, to make sure that you set aside enough time for both your studies and your work, and to make sure that you don't fall behind in either.

Websites with bursary information

  • GoStudy SA: lists bursaries according to field of study and includes bursary values, as well as a link to specific sites.
  • HCI's National Bursary Scheme, which offers 1 200 bursaries a year to financially needy undergraduate students.
  • Funding opportunities from the National Research Foundation, which is one of the Department of Science and Technology's key science councils.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

Updated: 16 April 2012

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