NRF Bursary Programme: Your Guide to Educational Funding

The National Research Foundation (NRF) bursary programme plays a pivotal role in supporting postgraduate students in South Africa. It is designed to cultivate and promote research within various fields to ensure a robust knowledge economy. The bursary offers financial assistance for students undertaking honours, masters and doctoral studies and is geared towards alleviating the financial burden, thereby enabling focus on research and innovation.

With an emphasis on transforming the research landscape, the NRF bursary encompasses a range of funding options, catering to different levels of postgraduate education. The bursary covers full or partial funding of study and includes provisions for specific needs, such as assistive technology devices for persons living with disabilities, through a separate application process.

Entering the academic year 2024, the NRF continues to adapt its bursary and scholarship programmes to better serve South African students and align with national priorities. This ensures the foundation remains responsive to the evolving educational and research environment, while promoting excellence and sustainability in the country’s research efforts. The process of applying for an NRF bursary involves registration on the NRF Connect system, which is an indispensable step for interested candidates.

Understanding the NRF Bursary

The National Research Foundation (NRF) Bursary plays a critical role in advancing research and development by providing financial support to postgraduate students. This section explores the history, objectives, and impactful contributions of the NRF in the realms of science, technology, engineering, humanities, and social sciences.

History and Purpose of NRF

The National Research Foundation (NRF) was established with the goal of nurturing research to contribute to knowledge production and innovation. Funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the NRF Bursary scheme is rooted in a commitment to transform and expand the scientific research landscape in South Africa.

Key Objectives of NRF

  • Equity of Access: Ensuring that a diverse population of postgraduate students can pursue research in critical fields.
  • Success and Throughput: Providing tools and resources for scholarly success and timely completion of research projects.

NRF’s Role in Research and Development

The NRF Bursary is designed to support doctoral, Masters, and Honours candidates keen to delve into postgraduate research across varied disciplines. By offering bursaries and scholarships, the NRF effectively:

  • Promotes New Knowledge by financially backing research endeavours.
  • Nurtures Knowledge Workers who are pivotal to sustaining the growth of the knowledge economy.

Eligibility Criteria

The National Research Foundation (NRF) bursaries for the 2024 academic year have clear-cut eligibility criteria that potential applicants must meet to be considered. These requirements ensure that the funding is allocated to candidates with proven academic merit and who meet additional specific conditions based on the category of funding they are applying for.

General Requirements for Applicants

Applicants for NRF postgraduate funding must be either South African citizens or permanent residents. There is also an entry age requirement; candidates should be 28, 30, or 32 years or younger for honours, master’s, and doctoral studies respectively, in the year of application. Consideration is also given to financially needy applicants and those living with a disability.

Specific Criteria for Different Funding Categories

  • Honours Funding
    • A minimum overall average of 65% in the final undergraduate year of study.
  • Master’s Funding
    • For those completing an honours degree, a 65% minimum average is required.
    • Applicants concluding a four-year degree must also have a 65% average.
      • Doctoral Funding
    • A minimum of 65% at the master’s level is necessary.

These specific academic averages serve as preliminary filters to ensure that funds are awarded to students capable of performing at the requisite level of excellence.

The Application Process

In navigating the NRF Bursary application process, applicants must follow a series of specific steps, have certain documents at hand, understand the NRF Connect system, and know the post-submission protocol.

Steps to Apply for NRF Funding

  1. Check Eligibility: Applicants must first ensure they meet the eligibility criteria set out for the NRF funding.
  2. Create an Account: One needs to create an account on the NRF Connect system before proceeding with the application.
  3. Fill Out the Application: Complete the application form provided on the NRF Connect system with the required information.
  4. Submit Progress Reports: Current beneficiaries seeking continuing support must submit a Progress Report through the system.
  5. Finalise Submission: Review and finalise the application before the stipulated deadline.

Key Documents Required

  • Application Consent Form: A signed consent form must be uploaded to the NRF Connect system.
  • Certified Academic Records: Applicants must provide their most recent certified academic records.
  • Proof of Registration: If already registered at a university, proof of registration is required.

Understanding the NRF Connect System

Applicants must use the NRF Connect system to apply for the bursary. This online platform is where one can:

  • Register for an account to manage applications.
  • Submit all necessary application forms and supporting documents.
  • Receive notifications about the status of the application.

It is crucial that applicants familiarise themselves with the NRF Connect system, as manual applications are not accepted.

What to Do After Submission

After submission, applicants should:

  • Regularly Check for Updates: Monitor the NRF Connect system for any updates or communications regarding the application.
  • Prepare for Possible Interviews: Some programmes may require an interview as part of the selection process, so applicants should prepare accordingly.
  • Await Outcome: It is important to wait for the official communication from the NRF about the outcome of the application.

Scholarship Categories

The National Research Foundation (NRF) bursary programme offers a diverse range of funding categories to cater for students across various levels of higher education in South Africa.

Undergraduate and Honours Funding

The NRF provides bursaries for undergraduate students who exhibit academic excellence, targeting those intending to pursue honours. Eligibility criteria include achieving a minimum average of 65% for major subjects in the student’s final undergraduate year.

Master’s Funding

Postgraduate students aiming to attain a Master’s degree may apply for the NRF Master’s funding. These scholarships are conditional upon students maintaining a minimum average of 65% at the honours level or in the final year of a four-year degree.

Doctoral Funding

Doctoral funding is aimed at supporting students undertaking doctoral studies. Candidates are required to have achieved a minimum of 65% at the Master’s level to be considered for this form of NRF support.

Unique Funding Streams

The bursary programme presents unique funding streams, such as scholarships linked to NRF-funded researchers. Students working under NRF funded projects, like SARChI or the Thuthuka programmes, must select the option ‘Scholarship linked to NRF-funded research’ during their application process.

Funding Guidelines and Framework

The National Research Foundation (NRF) provides a structured approach to postgraduate funding through its detailed application and funding guides alongside a comprehensive scholarship framework designed for the 2024 academic year. These documents serve to direct potential candidates on eligibility, financial assessment, and the specific benefits the scholarships offer.

Understanding the Application and Funding Guide

The Application and Funding Guide for NRF Honours Scholarships is a critical document for applicants. It details the necessary steps and requirements to qualify for funding in the 2024 academic year. Candidates should reference this guide to ascertain the alignment between their academic pursuits and the funding criteria set by the NRF.

Assessment of Financial Need

For the NRF Postgraduate funding, a pivotal factor is the assessment of financial need. Applicants are required to demonstrate their financial status, with particular attention to household family income. The NRF seeks to ensure equity of opportunity by financially assisting those deemed as financially needy and providing partial cost of study support where applicable.

Coverage and Benefits

Postgraduate scholarships under the NRF offer different levels of support, ranging from tuition fees to living expenses. The benefits available to scholars can cover either the full cost of study or the partial cost of study, depending on the assessment of financial need. The Postgraduate Scholarship Framework for 2024 outlines these intricacies and ensures applicants know what funding they can apply for.

NRF Scholarship Enhancement Opportunities

The National Research Foundation (NRF) provides specialised support opportunities to ensure inclusive and comprehensive coverage for its scholarship beneficiaries. These enhancement opportunities cater specifically to candidates with disabilities and extend support for Master’s and Doctoral students.

Funding for Candidates with Disabilities

The NRF acknowledges the additional challenges faced by individuals living with disabilities and offers support to ensure such candidates can pursue their research ambitions without undue financial strain. Disability support through the NRF is designed to cover additional costs that may arise due to disability-related needs. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Specialised equipment
  • Assistive devices
  • Additional tutoring or assistance costs

To be considered for disability support, candidates must provide a medical certificate confirming their disability. Funding allocations are assessed on the basis of the individual’s requirements, and the NRF strives to facilitate an inclusive research environment for all scholars.

Extension Support for Master’s and Doctoral Students

The NRF recognises that research programmes may sometimes require additional time beyond the initial funding period. To accommodate this, extension support has been formulated for both Master’s and Doctoral candidates. Extensions are evaluated case by case, reflecting the NRF’s commitment to academic excellence.

The foundation has initiatives like NRF-MINDS, DAAD-NRF, and NRF-SASAC, which aim to support students via various interventions such as additional time for research completion if certain conditions are met. The criteria for extension support may include, but are not limited to:

  • Demonstrated academic progress
  • Justification for the extension request
  • A supporting statement from the supervisor

The Postgraduate Development Programme (PDP) is another support framework designed to bolster the success rates of postgraduate students, potentially aiding in extension requests for deserving candidates.

Postgraduate Student Development and Support

The National Research Foundation offers robust support to postgraduate students, promoting development in various disciplines including law, bioinformatics, agricultural sciences, and technology. This support extends to practical career guidance and professional programmes tailored to the dynamic, interdisciplinary landscape of modern research.

Mentorship and Career Guidance

The NRF fosters an environment where mentorship is paramount. Experienced professionals offer career guidance to postgraduate students, preparing them for future roles in education and high-demand sectors like space science and astronomy. Mentorship programs are designed to align students with seasoned researchers and professional officers, ensuring that theoretical knowledge is paired with real-world application.

Professional Development Programmes

Through its Professional Development Programmes, the NRF is committed to the enhancement of high impact disciplines such as physics and computer science. It offers specialized training and development initiatives, aimed at building a comprehensive knowledge base in the social sciences, allied with high-intensity capability development (HICD) strategies. Programmes are structured to incorporate advanced technologies and methods, equipping students with the expertise needed to thrive in competitive research environments.

Critical Dates and Deadlines

Managing deadlines is crucial for applicants to ensure successful submission of their applications. A clear understanding of the specific cut-off times and announcements is imperative for prospective awardees of the NRF bursary.

Application Cut-off Times

The National Research Foundation (NRF) stipulates that the closing date for new applications for the DSI-NRF Postgraduate Student Funding for the 2024 academic year was set on April 5, 2023. All continuing students required to submit a Progress Report had a separate timeline and were not to make a new application. The NRF follows a structured schedule, typically announcing the One Call for Applications in March 2023 during what is referred to as Review Period 1. Subsequent calls for applications fall under Review Period 2, with deadlines provided in Appendix 1 of the application guide.

  • First Call (Review Period 1): March 2023
  • Second Call (Review Period 2): Dates specified in Appendix 1

Scholarship Award Announcements

The NRF informs applicants of their application status and awards in a systematic manner after the review of submitted materials. Award announcements typically follow after the assessment and review periods have concluded. Applicants are advised to monitor their email and the official NRF channels for updates on award allocations. Specific dates for these announcements may vary and will be communicated by the NRF following the closure of the application process.

It is always recommended that applicants verify the exact dates for both cut-off times and scholarship award announcements on the official NRF website or contact the support services to ensure they are receiving the most current information.

Helpful Resources

Navigating through the available resources for the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bursary can be simplified with the help of structured guides, online platforms, and official documents. These resources offer comprehensive support for prospective and current postgraduate students seeking funding.

NRF and SARAO Guides

The NRF and the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) provide detailed guides for applicants. These guides cover application procedures, funding eligibility, and award regulations.

  • NRF Postgraduate Scholarships Application and Funding Guide: A document that outlines the application process and funding rules for the NRF Honours, Masters, and Doctoral Scholarships for the 2024 academic year.
  • SARAO Postgraduate Scholarships Application Guide: Offers instructions and criteria for students applying for SARAO scholarships, ensuring applicants understand the expectations and requirements.

NRF Connect Online Portal

NRF Connect serves as a critical online platform for engaging with the NRF.

  • Registration and Applications: Prospective applicants can register an account on the NRF Connect portal to submit their scholarship applications.
  • Progress Reports Submission: Current scholars are required to submit bi-annual progress reports through NRF Connect to maintain their funding.

Official NRF Statements and Documents

Official statements and documents from the NRF give clarity on policies and procedures.

  • DSI-NRF Framework Documents: These provide a structure for the postgraduate application and funding processes in line with the NRF’s strategic objectives.
  • NRF Statement of Expectation for Postgraduate Training: Details the NRF’s vision and criteria for postgraduate research, ensuring scholars align their studies with national research priorities.

Each resource has been formulated to assist with a specific aspect of the bursary application or management process, from initial inquiry to successful scholarship administration and compliance.

Post-Application Follow-Up

Once an application is submitted for DSI-NRF postgraduate student funding, applicants must adhere to specific monitoring and reporting requirements, and be aware of the criteria for the renewal of ongoing funding. This ensures continued support and alignment with the funding agency’s expectations.

Monitoring and Reporting Requirements

Postgraduate recipients of DSI-NRF funding are required to facilitate their progress through regular Progress Reports. These reports are essential for:

  • Tracking the student’s academic progression.
  • Evaluating the alignment with the agreed upon research objectives.

These requirements are not merely bureaucratic but are designed to support students by identifying challenges and milestones in a timely manner.

Renewal Criteria for Ongoing Funding

To qualify for continued support, students must demonstrate:

  1. Satisfactory academic performance.
  2. Adherence to project timelines.
Renewal CriteriaDescription
Academic ProgressMust meet institutional academic standards
Report SubmissionTimely delivery of Progress Reports is mandatory

Students should consult the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on postgraduate funding for detailed information on the standards and deadlines that are crucial for funding continuation. It is in the student’s best interest to remain informed of these criteria to ensure uninterrupted financial support for their studies.

Additional Insights and Support

The NRF Bursary not only provides financial aid for postgraduate studies but also ensures successful candidates can access top-tier research facilities, bolstering their academic pursuits with state-of-the-art resources.

Institutional Research Facilities

Institutions across the UK are equipped with dedicated facilities that support a wide array of research disciplines. These facilities are integral to fostering a robust environment for scholarly advancement. Universities typically provide access to:

  • Laboratories: Equipped for various scientific and engineering research activities.
  • Libraries: Curating extensive collections of research publications and databases.
  • Technology Centres: Offering advanced computational tools and software.

National Research Facilities Overview

The UK’s national research facilities are cornerstones in the scientific community, functioning as hubs of innovation and knowledge dissemination. They include:

  1. National Laboratories: Leading in cutting-edge research and collaboration.
  2. Observatories: Specialising in astrophysical and atmospheric studies.
  3. Engineering Workshops: Developing and refining new technologies.

These facilities provide unparalleled opportunities that are critical in driving forward the nation’s research capabilities.

Common Questions and Misconceptions

This section addresses typical queries concerning the eligibility and funding stipulations of NRF bursaries, specifically delving into academic performance requirements and the particulars of the funding criteria.

Academic Achievement Expectations

The National Research Foundation (NRF) sets clear benchmarks for academic performance. Applicants are often uncertain about the requirements for funding, and it is commonly believed that only exceptional academic achievers are eligible. In reality, while exceptional achievement is acknowledged and can be advantageous, the NRF has a minimum academic requirement of 65% for postgraduate funding. This standard ensures that candidates are capable and committed to their studies, yet it is approachable enough to support a broad range of proficient scholars.

Understanding the NRF Funding Criteria

When it comes to funding criteria, candidates may misconstrue the inclusiveness of the NRF bursary. The criteria are multifaceted, and candidates must comprehend the NRF scholarship funding criteria. The inclusion of financial means assessment through an ISFAP – Application Consent Form is a common point of uncertainty. Those previously funded by NSFAS or ISFAP may wonder if the financial means test applies to them; the answer is affirmative. This process assesses the combined net family income to ensure fair and targeted financial support. The criteria are made to be transparent and equitable in supporting deserving postgraduate researchers across a spectrum of disciplines.

NRF Bursary Impact Stories

The National Research Foundation (NRF) bursary has significantly influenced the lives of postgraduate students and the trajectory of research in South Africa. Through generous funding, it supports outstanding academic achievers and fosters research breakthroughs.

Testimonials from NRF Scholars

Students who have benefitted from the NRF Bursary scheme frequently share their gratitude and detail the transformative effect it has had on their studies and future prospects. For instance, several scholars have received funding amounting to up to R180,000 per year for Master’s studies. This substantial support has not only eased their financial burden but has also allowed them to focus intently on their academic pursuits without the distraction of financial constraints.

  • Student A’s Experience: Funded through the NRF, they attained a 65% average in their final undergraduate year, leading to Honours funding that propelled them into a successful research career.
  • Student B’s Journey: With the NRF bursary, they have been able to dedicate themselves fully to doctoral studies without part-time work, ensuring a concentration on groundbreaking research without the stress of financial worry.

Research Breakthroughs Funded by NRF

The promotion of fundamental research by the NRF bursary has led to considerable achievements. By allocating resources to high-calibre postgraduate students, the NRF has facilitated research that pushes the boundaries of knowledge and technology. Scholarships are awarded based on stringent academic requirements, such as a minimum of 65% at Masters level for Doctoral funding, ensuring that only exceptional scholars drive research forward.

  • Advancements in Science: Researchers supported by the NRF have contributed critical insights into various fields, from sustainable energy solutions to medical breakthroughs.
  • Development of Technology: Strategic investments by the NRF have also furthered technological advancements, making South Africa a competitive player in the global research community.

Contact and Communication

Effective communication is a cornerstone for the success of any academic funding body. The National Research Foundation (NRF) ensures that its prospective and current bursary recipients have access to clear and reliable contact information, as well as engagement channels for feedback and community participation.

NRF Contact Information

The NRF offers various direct lines of communication for bursary-related queries:

  • Corporate Communications: This department can be reached for general inquiries. An email can be sent to the address made available through search results, presumably
  • Technical Support: For technical issues with the NRF Connect system, the NRF support desk is available during office hours. Emails should be addressed to
  • Bursary Inquiries: Specific to bursary questions, authorities have designated contacts. For instance, Ms. Zodwa Mahlangu has previously been listed as a contact point for the funding opportunity and application process.

Prospective and current bursary holders are encouraged to visit the NRF website for the most current and comprehensive contact details.

Feedback Mechanism and Community Engagement

The NRF values feedback from its stakeholders which includes the academic community and bursary recipients. This feedback helps in improving services and the bursary programmes. Several platforms are available:

  • Online Submission System: Users can provide feedback related to their application experience.
  • Surveys and Questionnaires: Occasionally, the NRF may use these tools to gauge community satisfaction and gather insights on its bursary schemes.
  • Public Engagements: Seminars, webinars, and other public events offer opportunities for direct interaction with the community.

For a more structured or formal engagement, the NRF has avenues for stakeholders to relay their experiences, suggestions, or complaints to the institution, contributing to a transparent and responsive relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the specifics of the National Research Foundation’s (NRF) bursary scheme can be complex. This section addresses critical questions related to eligibility, application processes, closing dates, financial details, and funding scope for candidates seeking NRF bursary support.

What are the requirements to qualify for an NRF bursary?

To qualify for an NRF bursary, applicants must meet academic merit criteria and be enrolled or accepted to enrol in a recognised South African university. Eligibility usually extends to honours, masters, and doctoral degree programmes with varying specifications for each level of study.

How can one apply for the NRF bursary for the 2024 academic year?

Applications for the 2024 NRF bursary are typically submitted via the NRF Online Submission System. Applicants should prepare necessary documents, which often include academic records, proof of university registration or acceptance, and a research proposal if applicable.

What is the closing date for NRF bursary applications in 2024?

The NRF usually announces specific closing dates for bursary applications each academic year. Applicants are advised to check the NRF website well in advance, as application deadlines are strictly enforced.

What type of financial allowance does the NRF bursary offer?

NRF bursaries tend to provide allowances covering tuition fees, living expenses, and sometimes travel and research costs. The bursary may fully or partially fund postgraduate students depending on the funding category.

For which academic courses does the NRF provide funding?

The NRF provides funding across a broad spectrum of academic courses, mainly focusing on research-intensive degrees including honours, masters, and doctoral studies. The scope of funded courses aligns with national research priorities.

What are the stipend amounts for honours students funded by the NRF as of 2023?

As of 2023, the NRF provides specific stipend amounts for honours students which are stipulated in their call for applications. This annual amount is subject to change and should be verified against the latest NRF call documents for accuracy.

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