Bursaries in South Africa for Foreigners
Obtaining Bursaries in South Africa as an International Student

For top international students, South Africa provides an appealing tertiary education destination. With globally ranked universities, cultural diversity, and a lower cost of living than countries like the US, UK, and Australia, South Africa offers academic excellence at an affordable price.

However, international enrolment fees can still create financial barriers. This is where bursaries become invaluable in making South African universities accessible. By providing grant funding that does not require repayment, bursaries empower high-achieving international students to pursue their academic aspirations, unhindered by finances.

While bursaries for foreign students are limited compared to South African citizens, they do exist. By understanding eligibility criteria, leveraging academic abilities, and crafting persuasive applications, international students can secure funding support.

Bursaries in South Africa for Foreigners


Bursaries for 2024 Undergraduate South Africa – Funding Your Education

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Assessing Eligibility for Bursaries as a Foreign Student

When researching bursaries as an international student, assessing eligibility is step one.

Consider the following:

Openness to Foreign Students

  • Some bursaries are exclusively for South African citizens, but many accept both local and foreign students. Focus your efforts here.
  • Fields where South Africa has skills shortages, like engineering, health sciences and accounting, often provide the most open bursary opportunities.
  • University-specific bursaries for foreign students may have fewer applicants, improving your chances.

Academic Requirements

  • Outstanding grades are pivotal. Aim to be top of your class with near perfect scores in your chosen field.
  • Awards, academic Olympics results and extracurricular enrichment demonstrate advanced abilities.
  • Required subjects may differ. Local language skills may not be essential.

Financial Need

  • Provide comprehensive proof of inability to self-fund studies, including household income statements and bank records.
  • Confirm documents required and submit well ahead of deadlines to avoid disqualification.
  • Accurately convey your specific financial situation through supporting statements.

Finding Relevant Bursary Opportunities

Cast your bursary search net wide by exploring these key avenues:

Bursary Search Platforms

  • Utilize aggregators like Bursaries24.com and EduConnect that allow filtering by field, nationality and degree type.
  • Save extensive searches and set email alerts for new additions matching your criteria.
  • Search both generic platforms and field-specific portals like LawBursaries.co.za.

University Bursary Offices

  • Larger universities like Wits, UCT and UP offer bursaries for foreign students. Contact their international student support offices.
  • Smaller universities may have less funding but also less competition from foreign applicants.

Government and Parastatal Bursaries

  • Programs like the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Medical Research Council (MRC) bursaries accept foreign students.
  • Target organizations like the CSIR and HSRC aligned with your field of study.

Corporate Bursaries

  • Leading companies like Sasol and Investec provide some foreign student coverage for strategic skills like engineering.
  • Multinationals recruiting globally may offer expat bursaries to attract foreign talent.

Crafting Compelling Bursary Applications

With eligibility and opportunities identified, your focus shifts to creating outstanding applications. Strategies include:

Thoroughly Review Requirements

  • Note required documents, submissions, referencing formats and word counts for each application.
  • Follow all instructions meticulously – inconsistencies signal lack of care and may disqualify you.

Start Preparations Early

  • Begin collating documents, confirming referees and drafting essays 12-18 months before studies start.
  • Many providers have early annual deadlines – don’t miss out by leaving applications late.

Showcase Academic Excellence

  • Emphasize academic achievements through transcripts, awards and enrichment programs.
  • For upcoming studies, convey your preparation and commitment to outstanding performance.

Demonstrate Alignment

  • Research the provider and customize your application to show how your goals align with their values.
  • For corporate bursaries, highlight why you would be an ideal future employee.

Explain Financial Need

  • Candidly convey your family’s financial situation and inability to cover international tuition and living costs.
  • Provide recommendations on how receiving a bursary will enable your academic success.

Secure Strong References

  • Choose referees who can speak in-depth about your abilities, achievements and character. Long-standing teachers or mentors are valuable.
  • Brief referees on key points you want emphasized to the provider. Guide them to support your application narrative.

Exhibit Passion and Persistence

  • Convey genuine passion for your chosen field of study and career aspirations in your motivation letter.
  • If unsuccessful initially, request feedback, refine your approach and reapply showing tenacity.

Supplementing Your Application as an International Student

Bolster your candidacy by proactively:

Establishing South African Connections

  • Contact researchers at target universities to discuss your research interests and explore collaboration opportunities. This provides a local endorsement.
  • Join South African professional associations in your field while still in high school to build your network.
  • Publish academic papers with South African co-authors when possible to strengthen ties.

Seeking Alternative Funding Support

  • Apply for external scholarships from philanthropic foundations and trusts supporting international education.
  • Explore teaching assistant or tutor roles at universities that provide tuition remission and a salary.
  • Consider moderate need-based loans from providers like Fundi to fill any partial funding gaps.

Enrolling in Accelerated Programs

  • Complete an undergraduate degree in just two years through accelerated programs, reducing costs.
  • Leverage matriculation agreements allowing fast-tracking from certain international high school qualifications.
  • Validate existing credits through recognition of prior learning assessments.


With proper planning, leveraging academic talents, and dedicated application efforts, international students can access life-changing bursaries for undergraduate studies in South Africa. While competitive, by targeting bursaries open to foreign students, emphasizing financial need, and conveying your passion, you drastically increase your prospects of securing full or partial funding.

Commitment and perseverance are key – be willing to apply broadly and repeatedly until successful. The investment of time and effort is well worth opening the door to an internationally ranked, affordable South African university degree through bursary funding support.

FAQs on Bursaries for Foreign Students

What key factors should international students emphasize in bursary applications?

Showcase academic excellence, accurately demonstrate financial need, highlight alignment with the bursary provider’s goals, and convey genuine passion for your chosen field of study.

What types of alternative funding can supplement bursaries?

Scholarships, part-time employment, teaching assistantships, research grants, moderate loans, family contributions if possible, and bursaries from your home country are options.

How can I maximize my chances when applying for competitive bursaries?

Apply as extensively as possible, emphasize academic achievements, secure strong references, follow instructions perfectly, start early, and contact providers directly to express interest.

What should international students taking South African university entrance exams focus on?

Local language skills are less critical. Emphasize proficiency in subjects directly related to your degree, especially math, science, accounting and language skills in your field’s dominant international language.

If my bursary covers tuition only, how can I fund other costs?

Seek additional partial bursaries, apply for residence assistant roles offering free lodging, minimize living expenses through shared accommodation, utilize university food vouchers, and work part-time where possible.

What happens if I change my program or university after receiving a bursary?

As bursaries are awarded for specific programs and universities, any changes without the provider’s permission usually require the bursary to be repaid and forfeited for future years. Avoid changes to prevent this.


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