What Is The NSFAS N+ Rule?

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If you're a NSFAS student or hoping to become one, knowing what the N+ rule is could then be very important for you. This rule deals with the duration which you can receive the NSFAS bursary for.


The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) looks at the duration of NSFAS bursaries according to the N+ rule. What is this N+ rule though? Let's get into it.

N+ can be seen as an equation for calculating the number of years a student would be allowed to be funded by NSFAS.

Currently, the N+1 rule is in place for all students which means that students only have N+1 years to finish their qualification. All students with disabilities qualify for N+2.

The N+1 Rule applies to all students who receive financial aid from NSFAS.

“N” is minimum number of years allocated to complete a qualification (i.e. record time). The “+1” refers to the extra year that a student may need to complete the qualification (making the maximum time). 

N+ Rule For institutions

The N+ Rule for universities is based on the duration of a student's registration within the higher education sector, while for TVET colleges, it is based on the number of academic terms funded by NSFAS.

An additional funded academic term from entry to exit levels may be granted for repeating purposes. However, occupational programs are exempt from the N+ Rule, as they are structured around employment contracts that do not accommodate the N+1 period of study.

Should you have submitted a NSFAS application but had it declined with the reason being 'Exceeded N+ Rule Enrolment', this then means that your term for when you can be funded has run out. NSFAS explains it by saying:

This means you have been studying for longer than the minimum allocated time for you as well as the extra year you have been given to complete your qualification.

NSFAS has previously clarified that the N+1 rule refers to all the years that a student has been registered for tertiary study at any public university in South Africa, and not based on whether the student was funded by NSFAS or not.

The rationale for the rule being applied in this way is based on the principle that NSFAS is assisting students achieve their first qualification for University students.

Should a student change their qualification, the N would then change from one academic term to the next. However, if the duration of the new qualification exceeds the allowed N+, the student will no longer receive NSFAS funding.

NSFAS N+ Rule Appeals 

Some students may lose their funding with the reason being they’ve exceeded the N+Rule. However, they may submit appeals related to the N+Rule under the following circumstances

  • The student’s failure to complete their academic term successfully is due to severe ill health for an uninterrupted period of two or more months of the academic term or during examinations, or there has been death in his/ her immediate family during the academic term, or the student was the subject of a violent crime, or the student was pregnant and gave birth during the academic term
  • A student with a disability and a medical report which indicates that the student failed to complete their academic term due to the nature of their disability and the institution has evaluated that the student has the propensity to complete their qualification within the additional academic term.
  • The student is a university student who can prove that he/ she has 50% or less final year course credits to complete and achieve his/ her qualification and the institution has evaluated that the student has the propensity to complete their qualification within an additional academic term. 
    • University students who fall into this category will be funded similar to distance university students, provided that their appeal is successful
  • The TVET student who can prove that he/ she has two or less subjects left to complete their Report 191 qualification or three or less subjects to complete their NC(v) Qualification and the institution has evaluated that the student has the propensity to complete their qualification within an additional academic term.
    • TVET students who fall into this category will be funded similar to distance TVET students, provided that their appeal is successful.

Students may not submit an appeal if they have reached N+2 or N+3 in the case of a student with disability. 

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NSFAS applications are closed with almost 2 million applications already submitted. Should you NSFAS application be rejected, you can submit a NSFAS appeal.


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