How The NSFAS N+ Rule Applies To Unisa Students


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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme offers NSFAS bursaries to Unisa students, along with students from other universities and TVET Colleges. A very important rule to consider when it comes to NSFAS funding is the N+ rule.


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Being a student is a very expensive part of your career journey. This is where organisations such as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) steps in.

NSFAS provides funding in the form of NSFAS bursaries and loans to provide access to higher education. Students studying at one of the 50 TVET College or 26 public universities can benefit from this funding.

One university where NSFAS is accepted is the University of South Africa (Unisa), which is the largest open distance learning university in South Africa. Unisa students are taught using online platforms such as myLife and myMoodle.

An important aspect to consider when being funded by NSFAS is the N+ rule and how it applies to you as a Unisa student.

What is the N+ rule?

The N+ Rule is essentially a safeguard to ensure that NSFAS funding is used effectively. It sets a maximum timeframe for how long a student can receive financial aid for their studies.

N represents the minimum number of years it typically takes to complete your chosen qualification. The + symbol signifies an additional year to account for unforeseen circumstances that might delay your studies.

Currently, the N+ rule is set at N+1, meaning that students are given an additional year to be funded. Students with disabilities are eligible for extended funding under the N+2 Rule, providing an extra year of support.

How does the N+ rule apply to Unisa students?

For universities, the N+ rule considers the total number of years you've been registered at any public university in South Africa, regardless of NSFAS funding.

According to the NSFAS Eligibility Criteria and Conditions for Financial Aid, the N+ rule is applied to Unisa students in the following manner:

In the instance of distance university students studying at a non-contact university, the N period of study equates to double the minimum time required to complete the qualification.

This means that the N in the NSFAS N+ Rule is calculated differently for students enrolled in distance learning programmes at universities that don't require in-person classes, such as Unisa.

Usually, the N period reflects the standard time to finish a qualification. For distance learners at non-contact universities, the N period is double the standard time.

Why the Difference?

Distance learning programmes can be more flexible, allowing students to progress at their own pace. This could potentially lead to longer completion times compared to traditional classroom-based programmes.

By doubling the N period, NSFAS acknowledges this flexibility and provides extended funding to accommodate those who might take longer to finish their degree through distance learning.

NSFAS funding is based on the specific qualification you're registered for in a particular semester. If you decide to change your course of study from one semester to the next, the N period adjusts accordingly.

This is because the new qualification might take longer or shorter to complete than your original one.

If you switch qualifications and the remaining funding under your original N period (considering any semesters already spent studying) isn't enough to cover the entire new qualification, NSFAS funding will unfortunately be discontinued.

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