Bursary Amounts in South Africa
Bursary Funding Levels for Undergraduate Studies in South Africa

For top-performing students seeking undergraduate degrees, bursaries provide invaluable financial support. But how much funding can you expect bursaries to cover? With awards ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of rands annually, understanding typical bursary amounts in South Africa is key to navigating your options.

This comprehensive guide explores common bursary funding tiers, key determinants of bursary amounts, rough funding ranges across bursary types, and strategies to maximize the financial support you can secure.

Bursary Amounts in South Africa


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Factors Influencing Bursary Amounts

Several key factors dictate bursary funding levels in South Africa:

Type of Bursary

  • Full bursaries cover all costs – tuition, accommodation, books, and living expenses. Full coverage is rare but possible.
  • Partial bursaries cover specific portions, like tuition only or a percentage of total costs. Most bursaries fall into this category.
  • Top-up bursaries supplement other funding sources. These provide smaller amounts filling gaps rather than total coverage.

Field of Study

  • Degrees aligned to national development priorities and skills shortages (STEM, accounting, healthcare) often attract higher bursary funding.
  • Less prioritized fields may receive smaller awards – sometimes only a few thousand rands.

Academic Performance

  • Outstanding academics can qualify you for top-up funding from providers seeking to attract top talent.
  • Maintaining your grades while studying can lead to enhanced awards in subsequent years.

Bursary Provider

  • Large corporate sponsors or government tenders allow for more sizable awards.
  • Small, community-based providers offer more modest funding aligned to their budget.

Common Bursary Types and Funding Levels

Understanding the usual funding scope of different bursary categories helps set realistic expectations:

Large Corporate Bursaries

  • Full cost – Full coverage of R250,000+ per year from major corporate sponsors is possible but extremely competitive.
  • Partial – Major companies like Eskom and Sasol provide funding from R100,000 to R200,000 for strategic skills.

Government Bursaries

  • Full cost – For teaching, medicine and other national priorities, government can provide R200,000+ in full funding.
  • Partial – Partial government bursaries still offer meaningful funding, often R50,000 to R150,000.

University Bursaries

  • Full cost – Extremely limited full university bursaries exist for top academic achievers facing financial hardship.
  • Partial – Most university bursaries provide partial funding from R15,000 to R100,000.

Foundation and NGO Bursaries

  • Full cost – A small minority of social justice funders provide full bursaries, but usually limited spots.
  • Partial – More commonly, foundations and NGOs distribute partial bursaries in the R20,000 to R70,000 range per year.

Strategies To Maximize Bursary Funding

While bursary amounts vary, by strategizing you can optimize the funding you secure:

  • Cast a wide net and apply to multiple providers per year to increase chances and accumulate funding.
  • Leverage aggregators like BursaryPortal to find smaller, niche bursaries other students may miss.

Uncover Top-Up Opportunities

  • Look for bursaries targeting top academic talent – these provide funding uplifts.
  • When accepting an initial bursary, ask providers if top-up funding may be available later for outstanding performance.

Seek Both Merit and Need-Based Aid

  • Apply for merit bursaries recognizing your academic abilities.
  • Also pursue need-based bursaries through detailed evidence of financial hardship.

Research Optimal Bursary Combinations

  • Determine which providers allow stacking multiple bursaries and maximize permitted combinations.
  • Be transparent with each provider on other funding you receive – don’t jeopardize existing bursaries.

Explore Bursary Networks and Referrals

  • Ask satisfied bursary recipients for referral tips and provider recommendations.
  • Follow bursary organizations on social media for alerts on new programs and expanded funding pools.

Build Relationships With Bursary Officers

  • Maintain contact with bursary officers to discuss your ongoing funding needs and performance.
  • Demonstrate your commitment – they may notify you of new bursary opportunities to retain promising students.

Supplementing Your Bursary Funding

Even sizeable bursaries may not fully cover costs. Complement funding through:

  • Part-time employment on evenings, weekends and holidays.
  • Tutoring, assisting lecturers and on-campus work opportunities.
  • Moderate student loans where necessary – use sparingly.
  • External scholarships – apply broadly.
  • Family contributions if affordable – avoid over-burdening parents.


With proper financial planning and a multi-pronged bursary acquisition strategy, you can secure optimal funding to minimize reliance on student loans. While full cost bursaries are rare, by researching typical funding tiers, targeting high-priority fields, excelling academically and applying diligently, you can obtain sufficient financial aid through partial bursaries.

Remain focused on your career goals rather than chasing the highest bursary payouts alone – finding alignment between your degree and a provider’s priorities is key. With hard work and resourcefulness, a customized combination of bursaries, part-time work and other funding can make your undergraduate dreams a reality.

FAQs on Bursary Funding Amounts

How do bursary amounts for private universities compare to public universities?

Private university bursaries tend to be higher given the higher tuition fees. However, far fewer bursaries for private institutions exist, given the priority placed on funding public university access.

If my household financial situation improves, could my bursary be decreased?

Yes, need-based bursary providers can request updated financial records and potentially reduce awards if they assess your need has decreased substantially.

What are examples of degrees with the highest and lowest bursary funding on average?

Highest funded degrees include medicine, specialist engineering fields, actuarial science, and occupation-specific fields like accounting and teaching. Lowest funded areas include general arts, humanities and social science programs.

How do I find out the exact rand amounts and coverage for a bursary opportunity?

The specific amounts and details are always listed in the official bursary program description. If unclear, contact the bursary provider directly for the funding specifications.

If I switch majors or universities, what happens to my existing bursary?

As bursaries are awarded for specific degrees and institutions, any changes without permission usually require repayment of the bursary and forfeiture of future disbursements.

Can I appeal or renegotiate my bursary amount after being awarded?

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, bursary amounts are generally fixed. However, high performance may result in enhanced awards for subsequent years of your degree.


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