Student Funding

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)


For any enquiries, please contact Unisa's Directorate: Student Funding on 012 441 5463.


National Student Funding Aid Scheme (NSFAS)

Who qualifies for financial aid from NSFAS and what does it cover?

Financially needy and academically deserving students qualify for financial aid from NSFAS. It covers study fees and academic essentials, such as prescribed books and stationery. Accommodation, meals, pocket money and transport are not covered.


Is it renewable?

Yes, on proof of academic progress and subject to the availability of funds.


What documents must I submit as part of my application?

Certified copies of the following documents must be submitted as part of the application process:

  • Your (applicant) ID
  • Your proof of income (eg payslip, pension slip, affidavit stating source of income or a letter from your employer where no payslip is available)


Do I need surety to qualify for a loan?

No surety is required.


Is the loan transferable?

No, it can only be used for one academic year at one particular higher education institution.


What will happen to any unutilised credit on my student account?

Any unutilised funds are returned to the donor to reduce the loan amount or to serve as repayment on the loan.


What other financial options / packages are available?

  • Department of Labour (DoL) for students with disabilities
  • Unisa postgraduate bursaries for master's degrees (full research) and doctoral degrees
  • Funza Lushaka bursaries for students registered for teaching qualifications
  • Social Development bursary for students studying towards a social work qualification
  • Unisa Foundation bursaries
  • Edu-Loan


What is the difference between a loan and a bursary?

A loan is repayable with interest. A bursary is non-repayable and is awarded on academic merit.


Where must I submit my completed application forms?

Applications forms for NSFAS loans are available via the NSFAS website: www.nsfas.org.za


When can I expect to hear about the outcome of my application?

  • If you don't meet the NSFAS criteria, you will hear before registration opens.
  • Once your application has been processed and you meet the NSFAS criteria, you must register as soon as possible once registrations open. This will reflect as a temporary registration until your application for funding has been processed. 


If the university require money before I am allowed to register?

At the point of registration, you will be asked whether you have applied for funding. If you indicate "yes", the university will register you on a temporary basis. Your full registration will only be processed once your application for funding has been processed.

Is funding available for short courses?

Unfortunately not. Funding is only available for formal qualifications, such as diplomas and degrees.


What interest is charged on a NSFAS loan?

NSFAS does not lend money to students to make a profit. The interest charged on a NSFAS loan is far lower than that charged by financial institutions such as banks. Interest varies each year.


If my NSFAS application is successful, when will I start repaying the loan?

A loan is repayable as soon as you secure employment (irrespective of whether or not you have completed your qualification) and are earning an annual salary of R26 300 or more.  Arrangements for repayment should be made directly with NSFAS (021 763 3232) and not at the Directorate: Student Funding.


If my NSFAS application is successful, how do I repay the loan?

Repayments can be made in one of the following ways:

  • A deduction from your salary 
  • A payment by means of dedit order
  • A payment directly into the NSFAS account


Do foreign students qualify for financial assistance?

If you have obtained South African citizenship, you will qualify for funding. Proof should be submitted as part of your application.


When is the closing date for the first registration cycle?

Applications for semester 1 close on 30 November of each year.


Funza Lushaka bursary programme


What is the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme?

This is a multi-year programme that was launched in 2007 to promote teaching in public schools as the career of choice for able and committed South Africans. It is a national programme, which is run locally at each higher education institution. It is funded by National Treasury and executed by the Department of Education (DoE). The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) administers the programme on behalf of DoE through the Student Financial Aid office at each higher education institution.


Terms of the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme

  • Full-cost bursaries are available to enable eligible students to complete a full teaching qualification in an area of national priority.
  • Eligible students must meet the required admission criteria of their qualification of choice at the higher education institution to which they have applied for admission and the national selection criteria for the Funza Lushaka Bursary.
  • Selection for the bursary is done by each higher education institution in accordance with the selection criteria. Funds are allocated to each higher education institution for the programme.
  • Recipients of the bursary must apply online for the bursary each year. The recipients must also complete the place information as required each year.
  • Recipients of the bursary are required to teach in a provincial education department for the same number of years that they received the bursary. If the recipient does not want to accept the conditions of the bursary, the bursary is converted into a loan which is repayable with interest.
  • Once qualified, the provincial education department will place the bursary recipient in a suitable teaching post. If a particular provincial education department does not have a suitable teaching post, the recipient may be placed in an alternative provincial education department with a suitable post. 
    Please note: Bursary recipients may not choose the school at which they would like to be place. Placements cannot be deferred for any reason.


Applications


Where can I find the application form?

All applications should be submitted online via the Funza Lushaka website: www.funzalushaka.doe.gov.za


Where can I find out more about the bursary programme?

Please visit the Funza Lushaka website (www.funzalushaka.doe.gov.za) or contact a funding advisor at Unisa's regional offices.


What are the priority areas?

To be considered for this bursary, you must show commitment to a teaching career, including interest in workding with young people, enthusiasm for a professional career in teaching, readiness to face and surmount difficult challenges, and personal integrity.

The bursary programme is designed to boost recruitment into teaching, especially in the priority areas.

The priority areas are as follows:

  • Foundation Phase (Grades R-3): Foundation Phase (with a preference for African Languages)
  • Intermediate and Senior Phase (Grades 4-9):  Preference will be given for a teaching major in TWO of the following - Languages, Mathematics, Natural Science & Technology
  • FET Phase (Grades 10-12):  Preference will be given for a teaching major in TWO of the following - Accounting, Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Technology, Civil Technology, Computer Applications Technology, Economics, Electrical Technology, Engineering Graphics and Design, Geography, Information Technology, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Mechanical Technology, Physical Sciences, Languages, Technical Mathematics and Technical Science


Are there official quotas for the distribution of bursaries by programme, year or study or priority area?

No. The number of bursaries awarded is determined by the amount of funding available.


Will late applications be accepted?

No late applications will be considered.


Who may apply for the bursary?


May first-year students apply for the bursary?

Yes. First-year students in appropriate programmes may apply for the bursary.


May Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) students apply for the bursary?

Unfortunately not. Bursaries are only available for the initial education of teachers.


I'm a distance learning student who is registered on a part-time basis. May I apply for the bursary?

Yes, provided that you meet the necessary admission requirements and the terms and conditions of the bursary. The intention of the Funza Lushaka programme is to secure candidates for the teaching profession. A student who has been offered both a Funza Lushaka bursary and another bursary may choose to forfeit the other bursary or to accept a reduced Funza Lushaka bursary with reduced service obligations.


Funza Lushaka bursary

How much is the Funza Lushaka bursary worth?

The bursary covers all the recipient's essential expenses: tuition, accommodation, books and monthly living expenses. Travelling costs (at an economical rate) may be included if the the recipient would otherwise not be able to accept the bursary.


If I'm offered a bursary, may I accept less per annum than the total amount on offer?

Yes. Your service obligations will then be reduced pro rata.


May I accept the bursary for less than the number of years required to complete my programme?

Yes, provided that the bursary covers the year in which the teaching qualification is completed.


I failed a year. Will I receive the bursary for the extra year?

The bursary period will be extended to cover one additional year in a degree programme or the time required for completion of one additional course in the PGCE programme. Only one such extension will be granted. Any additional time required will be at the recipient's own cost.


Who pays for costs incurred over and above the allocated bursary amount?

The student is responsible for all additional costs.


Is the bursary renewable?

Yes. The bursary is awarded for one academic year at a time. On proof of academic performance, the bursary may be renewed each year until the recipient has qualifed as a teacher.


Service agreement


Must I sign a service agreement if I'm awarded a Funza Lushaka bursary?

Yes. You must understand the agreement before you sign it. Please ensure that you keep a copy of the service agreement.


How many years will I have to teach in terms of my service agreement?

Recipients are required to work back one year for each year they receive a bursary.


If I change from a NSFAS loan to a Funza Lushaka bursary, will the years on the NSFAS loan become part of the service agreement?

No. The NFAS loan and the Funza Lushaka bursary have different conditions.


Who determines the placement of newly qualified teachers in terms of the programme?

Qualified recipients of the bursary must apply for appropriate public school positions with the provincial education department of their choice. The relevant provincial education department will determine whether or not there is a suitable position available. If there is not, the applicant will be offered employment in a provincial education department that has a suitable vacancy. Offers of employment will be made, subject to the Employment of Educators Act, 1988, and the South African Schools Act, 1996.


Are Funza Lushaka bursary recipients eligible for School Governing Body posts at public schools?

Only when they have fulfilled their contractual obligations to a provincial education department.


Are foreign students eligible for a Funza Lushaka bursary?

Unfortunately not.