Higher Education Funding Options For Students In South Africa

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There are various forms of financial assistance available for those who wish to pursue tertiary education but are in need of funding to do so. If you are struggling to find a way to fund your studies, here are some financial service providers that offer financial assistance you may wish to consider.



Mention and Explain Three Forms Of Financial Assistance For A Student In Higher Education Institutions

Pursuing higher education is incredibly expensive for many students and their parents to afford out of their own pockets, meaning they are in financial need.

Luckily, there are many different types of funding in South Africa that helps students pay for their higher education studies, via financial aid. These include scholarships, fellowships, bursaries and student loans.

5 Types of Financial Assistance

Typically, students in South Africa who are in need of financial support to pursue tertiary education will have their tuition fees paid for, as well as other student expenses; these expenses include textbooks, food, student accommodation and transportation, whether that's at a university or TVET college.

It's important to take note that financial aid is awarded to students enrolled in or looking to study at public universities and colleges, and won't always apply to private institutions. There are 26 public universities and 50 TVET colleges in South Africa where students can pursue their studies. 

Financial Assistance for Students in South Africa

Receiving financial aid is also dependent on the scholarship/bursary/loan provider's stipulated criteria/conditions and whether or not students meet them.

These are the types of funding options for higher education:

Scholarships as funding options to cover studies

Scholarships are financial sponsorships that are awarded to students who excel academically or in a sport. They can either cover the student's full tuition fees or a portion of them.

When receiving or applying for scholarships, there are specific requirements you will have to meet, like maintaining a certain academic average or taking part in a particular sport or cultural activity at the university or college.

The advantage of a scholarship is that the student does not need to pay it back unless they fail to meet the requirements throughout their studies. 

Visit the opportunities section on our website to find out more about available scholarships. 

Student Loans from local banks in South Africa

A student loan or study loan is when a student borrows money from an institution or a bank to cover their fees. Student loans typically need to be paid back once students find employment.

Different banks and different loans will have different interest rates. It is important to know how the loan you intend to choose charges interest. Some institutions have a huge interest mark up in comparison to others. 

You can apply for a student loan from banks such as Nedbank, FNB, Standard Bank and many others.

It is important to note that when applying for a study loan, you should make sure that the institution is registered to provide this loan to avoid future complications, and that you and your parents/guardian applying don't have bad credit. 

You will also have to apply and meet certain requirements to qualify for a student loan.

Government and Private Company Bursaries

Government and private company bursaries are academic sponsorships that are provided to academically eligible students or students who require university financial aid. 

This kind of funding usually covers the full price of study including study material such as textbooks, tuition fees, accommodation and sometimes pocket money for living expenses. In some cases, students are meant to pay the bursary back by providing service to the company or institution. If the student has to retake a module, they likely have to fund that module themselves.

Private companies usually award bursaries to students in fields of learning that will be useful to the company and are likely to employ the student after their studies are complete as a way for the student to pay back the financial aid. 

Government bursaries have a similar method, but this only applies to jobs or services that the government of South Africa provides, like teachers or certain types of lawyers.

Fellowships from companies or institutions 

A fellowship is a merit-based scholarship for advanced study of an academic subject given to subsidise the cost of education. 

Fellowships are usually scholarships for people who have already earned their degree and who are pursuing additional education, like jobs that require PhDs or other postgraduate qualifications.

Similar to bursaries, fellowship students need to repay the financial aid by offering the company or institution a service in the field of their studies. You can visit our opportunities section to find out more about any fellowships in South Africa that may be available.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is the largest bursary scheme in South Africa, offering a bursary that awards students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds a chance to study at a tertiary institution by providing them with financial assistance.

Many students search for financial aid, but not all will qualify for NSFAS funding. The NSFAS bursary is awarded to students who come from households with a combined annual income of below R350 000.

Aside from financial need, there are a number of other requirements students need to meet to be funded by NSFAS. While completing their higher education qualifications, the student will also need to obtain a certain academic average to continue receiving financial aid.

The bursary covers the full cost of study including study material, tuition fees, student accommodation and sometimes pocket money for living expenses.

While NSFAS certainly helps thousands in providing financial aid in covering student expenses, the scheme is simultaneously exclusionary to some student groups in South Africa, such as the missing middle and won't fund second qualifications.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary does not need to be paid back by the student after having completed their studies. 

Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP)

Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP) is a Support and Funding model for financially needy South African students that fall under the categories of "poor" and "missing middle" students. 

These students in financial need are in a position where they do not qualify for NSFAS, but are not able to fund their studies themselves. The bursary is for students in South Africa with a household income between R350 000 and R600 000 per annum.

The bursary covers the full costs of study including study material, tuition fees, accommodation and sometimes pocket money for living expenses.


Feenix is a student programme that uses the process of crowdfunding to help students fund their tertiary education. They assist students with avoiding debt that they will ultimately be left with once they have completed their studies.

Feenix is always open to donations and collaborations to help fund the students of South Africa.


Fundi is a South African Education Finance specialist. They aim to help students achieve a tertiary qualification, by covering the costs of higher education institutions through educational loans serving as financial aid.

They cover study loans, short courses, accommodation loans, executive loans, MBA funding, study device loans and educational tools. 

There are a number of requirements you will need to meet to apply and qualify for funding from Fundi.

General financial aid requirements students must meet in order to qualify for funding

  • must be a citizen of South Africa
  • a good academic record and/or academic merit
  • achieved excellent academic results, academic performance or have above average marks
  • financially disadvantaged backgrounds or have a proven financial need and/or combined parent income that does not exceed a stipulated amount
  • no other student loan or bursary
  • acceptance to a university or Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college in South Africa
  • studying part-time or full-time, depending on the financial service provider's requirements

Some banks or companies offering financial aid will stipulate their own criteria that students in South Africa must meet and may ask that bursaries/student loans/scholarships be paid back over time

It is best to consider all options available before deciding which one may be best for you.

You will also need to consider whether these options cover accredited public universities, private universities and TVET colleges in South Africa, as well as the other student expenses involved.

If you require assistance with choosing financial aid options that helps students pay for tertiary education in South Africa, you can always visit your college or university’s financial aid office.


Suggested Article:

NSFAS brochures and pamphlets at a NSFAS application centre

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme provides funding to disadvantaged students studying at higher education institutions. Students must meet specific requirements in order to be funded by the bursary scheme. 

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