Bursaries and Scholarships

While fee structures and exact costs vary from one tertiary institution to the next, the cost of tertiary education in South Africa has historically been high. And, as the poignant #FeesMustFall campaign highlighted, these fees seem to be on the upwards trajectory. While this paints a pretty grim picture for those hoping to attend university in the near future, there are ways to ensure that you can still study. Before you get yourself into a panic, research the bursaries and scholarships for which you might be eligible. Don’t worry, there are many of them around, catering for people with different academic results, directions and financial backgrounds. Here’s what you need to know.

One route to follow when looking for financial aid is that of a bursary. According to Bursaries South Africa, ‘bursaries are sponsorships given by companies to qualifying students to study further and achieve a great qualification for better work opportunities and a decent future.’ The company will typically pay a portion of or in special cases the complete tuition fee to eligible and deserving candidates.

Certain bursaries call for the student to ‘pay back’ the bursary by working for the company giving the bursary once the candidate has completed their course or degree. Others (most undergraduate bursaries) do not require the candidate to work the bursary back, and exist purely to provide financial aid to those who require it.There are a number of different bursaries available in South Africa; you should apply for all those for which you qualify to improve your chances of getting one.

The other option you have when it comes to seeking financial aid is to investigate suitable scholarships. Technically, scholarships are financial awards given to those who excel academically. More often than not, scholarships do not need to be worked or paid back. These are fantastic options if you are academically strong. And as with bursaries, there are many different options for scholarships in South Africa, so take your time to research which would be the best for you.

Monash South Africa offers annual scholarships to their best-performing students. Their scholarships cover anything from 25% to 100% of the annual tuition fees, but they do not cover the cost of textbooks, accommodation, food or travel. Nor do they give students an allowance. The fees are typically credited to a candidate's fee account and not directly into the student's private account. They have a thorough selection process, which will apply only to eligible candidates. First determine if you meet all the criteria before applying for this.

There are also some incredible scholarships available that will help South African students to study abroad as well as in South Africa. International scholarship options are excellent for those studying anything from an undergraduate degree to a postdoctoral programme. If you are academically strong, this is definitely an excellent option for you. But keep in mind that you will need to keep achieving to retain your scholarship.


There is another option if you are in desperate need of financial aid to study and are unsure if a scholarship or a bursary is right for you. The South African National Department of Education and Training provides the primary funding for the The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). They provide loans that are specifically reserved for prospective students looking to study at one of South Africa’s public universities. If this sounds like something that might suit your circumstances, check out our article on the NSFAS bursaries and scholarships.

There are many options for financial aid in South Africa; the real trick is finding one that is a perfect fit for you, your academic results and your financial standing. So, take a deep breath, do your research and apply for as many as you can. If you are looking for more advice on how to manage your finances in order to study or while studying, sign up for our Money Mailer. We want to do everything we can to ensure you start your financial life on the right foot.