How To Get a Bursary for Nursing in South Africa

Nursing is a noble profession that plays a crucial role in the healthcare system of South Africa. However, the journey to becoming a qualified nurse often comes with significant financial challenges.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide aspiring nursing students with a detailed roadmap to finding and securing bursaries that can help fund their education and pave the way for a rewarding career in nursing.

Key Takeaways

  • Nursing bursaries in South Africa are available from various sources, including government departments, nursing institutions, and private organizations.
  • Provincial health departments offer bursaries that often come with guaranteed employment after graduation.
  • Many nursing colleges and universities provide institution-specific bursaries for their students.
  • Private companies in the healthcare sector offer bursaries as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  • Online bursary search engines and aggregators can help discover a wide range of opportunities.
  • The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) provides comprehensive financial support for eligible students.
  • Highlighting academic merit, emphasizing financial need, and exploring specialized nursing fields can strengthen bursary applications.
  • Meeting deadlines and adhering to application requirements is crucial for success.
  • Most bursaries are reserved for South African citizens or permanent residents.
  • Bursaries typically don’t require repayment but may come with service agreements.

By following this comprehensive guide and maintaining a proactive approach to your bursary search, you’ll be well-positioned to secure the financial support needed to pursue your nursing education in South Africa.

Understanding Nursing Bursaries in South Africa

Nursing bursaries are financial awards provided to students pursuing nursing qualifications. These bursaries are typically offered by various entities, including government departments, private organizations, and educational institutions. Unlike loans, bursaries usually do not require repayment, making them an attractive option for students facing financial constraints.

Types of Nursing Bursaries

  1. Full Bursaries: Cover all study-related expenses, including tuition, accommodation, and sometimes living expenses.
  2. Partial Bursaries: Cover a portion of the total costs, often focusing on tuition fees.
  3. Merit-Based Bursaries: Awarded based on academic excellence and potential.
  4. Need-Based Bursaries: Awarded primarily based on the student’s financial situation.
  5. Work-Back Bursaries: Require recipients to work for the sponsoring organization for a specified period after graduation.

Searching for Nursing Bursaries by Provider

Government Departments

Provincial health departments in South Africa are significant providers of nursing bursaries. These bursaries often come with the added benefit of guaranteed employment after graduation, addressing both the student’s financial needs and the province’s healthcare workforce requirements.

Example: Gauteng Department of Health Bursary

  • Eligibility: South African citizens residing in Gauteng
  • Qualifications Covered: Various nursing programs, including 4-year Bachelor of Nursing degrees
  • Application Period: Typically opens in the second half of the year for the following academic year
  • Requirements:
    • Proof of residence in Gauteng
    • Academic transcripts (Grade 12 results for new applicants)
    • Motivation letter
    • Proof of household income

Table: Provincial Health Department Bursary Contacts

ProvinceContact EmailWebsiteGauteng[email protected]Gauteng HealthWestern Cape HealthEastern Cape Health


  1. Research each provincial department’s specific requirements and deadlines.
  2. Prepare a strong motivation letter highlighting your passion for nursing and commitment to serving in public health facilities.
  3. Be prepared for potential interviews or assessment tests as part of the selection process.

Nursing Institutions

Many nursing colleges and universities in South Africa offer institution-specific bursaries for their students. These bursaries can be particularly advantageous as they often come with additional support structures within the institution.

Example: Gauteng College of Nursing Bursary

  • Eligibility: Students accepted into nursing programs at the Gauteng College of Nursing
  • Coverage: May include tuition, accommodation, and a stipend for living expenses
  • Selection Criteria: Academic merit, financial need, and commitment to the nursing profession

Application Strategy:

  1. Contact the financial aid office of each nursing institution you’re interested in attending.
  2. Inquire about both institution-specific bursaries and any external bursaries they may administer.
  3. Pay close attention to application deadlines and requirements, which may differ from external bursary deadlines.

Private Organizations

Many private companies, particularly those in the healthcare sector, offer nursing bursaries as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives or to secure future talent for their organizations.

Example: Life Healthcare Bursary

  • Target: Students pursuing nursing qualifications
  • Benefits: May cover tuition, textbooks, and provide a monthly stipend
  • Commitment: Often requires recipients to work for Life Healthcare after graduation for a specified period

Other Notable Private Bursary Providers:

  • Netcare
  • Mediclinic
  • Discovery Health

Application Tips:

  1. Research the values and mission of the organization offering the bursary.
  2. Tailor your application to demonstrate alignment with the company’s ethos and goals.
  3. Highlight any relevant volunteer work or experience in healthcare settings.

Utilizing National Bursary Search Engines

Online bursary search engines and aggregators can be invaluable tools for discovering a wide range of nursing bursary opportunities. These platforms collect and present information from various sources, making your search more efficient.

Recommended Search Queries:

  • “nursing bursaries South Africa 2024”
  • “healthcare student funding South Africa”
  • “bursaries for nursing students SA”

Key Bursary Aggregator Websites:

  1. ZA Bursaries
  2. My International Scholarships
  3. Bursaries Portal

Effective Use of Aggregator Sites:

  1. Create accounts on multiple platforms to receive notifications about new opportunities.
  2. Use advanced search filters to narrow down results by field of study, province, and funding amount.
  3. Set up email alerts for new bursary listings that match your criteria.
  4. Keep a spreadsheet to track application requirements, deadlines, and submission status for each opportunity.

National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is a government program that provides comprehensive financial support for tertiary education, including nursing degrees. While not specifically a bursary, NSFAS funding can be a crucial resource for many nursing students.

Key Features of NSFAS:

  • Coverage: Tuition fees, accommodation, meals, books and learning materials, and in some cases, a personal care allowance
  • Eligibility: South African citizens from households with a combined annual income of less than R350,000
  • Repayment: Follows an income-contingent loan model, where repayment only begins once the graduate is employed and earning above a certain threshold

Application Process:

  1. Applications typically open in September for the following academic year
  2. Apply online through the NSFAS website (
  3. Submit required documents, including proof of income and academic records
  4. Await the outcome, which is usually communicated before the start of the academic year

Pro Tip: Even if you’re applying for other bursaries, consider submitting an NSFAS application as a backup option or to cover any gaps in funding.

Additional Strategies for Successful Bursary Applications

Highlighting Academic Merit

Many nursing bursaries prioritize academic excellence. To showcase your academic achievements:

  1. Provide Detailed Transcripts: Include not just your overall grades but also subject-specific marks, especially in science and mathematics.
  2. Highlight Relevant Achievements: Mention any academic awards, science fair participation, or healthcare-related projects you’ve undertaken.
  3. Demonstrate Growth: If your grades have improved over time, emphasize this upward trajectory in your application.

Emphasizing Financial Need

For need-based bursaries, effectively communicating your financial situation is crucial:

  1. Provide Comprehensive Documentation: Include recent bank statements, proof of household income, and any relevant tax documents.
  2. Craft a Compelling Narrative: In your motivation letter, articulate how financial constraints impact your ability to pursue nursing studies without compromising the quality of your application.
  3. Demonstrate Resourcefulness: Highlight any part-time work, community service, or creative ways you’ve attempted to fund your education.

Exploring Specialized Nursing Fields

Some bursaries target students interested in specific nursing specialties. Consider exploring opportunities in:

  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing

Strategy: In your applications, express genuine interest in these specialties and how they align with your career goals. Research current challenges or advancements in these fields to demonstrate your commitment.

Meeting Deadlines and Requirements

Adhering to application deadlines and requirements is critical:

  1. Create a master calendar of all relevant deadlines
  2. Set reminders at least two weeks before each deadline
  3. Begin gathering required documents well in advance
  4. Submit applications early when possible to avoid last-minute technical issues


Securing a nursing bursary in South Africa requires diligence, strategic planning, and attention to detail.

By leveraging government initiatives, institutional resources, private sector opportunities, and online platforms, aspiring nursing students can significantly increase their chances of obtaining financial support.

Remember that the journey to becoming a nurse is challenging but immensely rewarding. With persistence and the right support, you can overcome financial barriers and focus on your ultimate goal of making a difference in healthcare.


Q1: Can international students apply for nursing bursaries in South Africa?

A1: Most nursing bursaries in South Africa are reserved for South African citizens or permanent residents. International students should explore scholarships offered by their home countries or international organizations. Some universities may have limited funding for exceptional international candidates, but these are rare.

Q2: Is there an age limit for applying to nursing bursaries?

A2: Age limits vary depending on the bursary provider. Many are targeted at school-leavers or young undergraduate students. However, some bursaries cater to mature students or those pursuing nursing as a second career. Always check the specific eligibility criteria for each bursary.

Q3: Do I need to repay a nursing bursary?

A3: Unlike loans, bursaries typically do not require repayment. However, many come with a service agreement, requiring you to work in a specific sector (often public healthcare) for a set period after graduation. Carefully review the terms of any bursary before accepting.

Q4: Can I apply for multiple bursaries simultaneously?

A4: Yes, it’s generally advisable to apply for multiple bursaries to increase your chances of securing funding. However, be transparent in your applications and prepared to make a decision if offered multiple bursaries, as some may not allow you to hold concurrent awards.

Q5: What happens if my academic performance drops after receiving a bursary?

A5: Most bursaries have minimum academic requirements for continued support. If your performance drops below these standards, you may risk losing the bursary. Communication is key – if you’re struggling, reach out to your bursary provider to discuss your situation and potential solutions.


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