Call for applications: Master's and doctoral scholarships for full-time studies in 2019

Unisa's closing date for applications: extended to 20 June 2018

The National Research Foundation (NRF) has opened the call for applications for master's and doctoral scholarships for full-time studies in 2019 .

The NRF is mandated by an Act of Parliament, the National Research Foundation Act (Act No. 23 of 1998) to: "Support and promote research through funding, human capacity development and the provision of the necessary research facilities, in order to facilitate the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge”.  The Scholarships are funded by the NRF core grant allocation from National Treasury, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) the International Institution for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) for Human Capital Development (HCD)."

Objectives of the programme

  • Support the development of a critical mass of globally competitive human resources in prioritised areas
  • Promote and advance science, research and innovation
  • Contribute towards the increase in the number and quality of South African postgraduate students
  • Provide exposure to local, regional and international research programmes in order to build long-lasting collaborative contacts
  • Build a pipeline of the next generation of skilled scientists and researchers in South Africa
  • Effect transformation in the percentage representation of postgraduate students from designated groups viz. black, female and persons with disabilities
  • Support the development of postgraduate training to meet the specific needs of the country in conjunction with the higher education sector and industry.

Areas of support

The scholarships are intended to support master's and doctoral candidates to pursue research studies in all areas of Science, Engineering, Technology, Social Sciences and Humanities, Including Priority Research Areas* at public universities. The list below presents the breakdown of the broad disciplines supported by the NRF:

Broad disciplines supported for master's and doctoral scholarships:

  • Accounting
  • Actuarial Science
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Astronomy
  • Auditing
  • Bioinformatics*
  • Biotechnology
  • Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Climate Change*
  • Computer Science
  • Demography Drug Discovery and Development*
  • Earth Sciences
  • Earth Observation*
  • Ecology
  • Economic Sciences
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Financial Management
  • Functional Genomics*
  • Geology (Global Change, Society and Sustainability*)
  • Health Sciences
  • Information Science
  • Information Systems
  • Indigenous Knowledge Systems*
  • Law
  • Mathematical Science
  • Marine Sciences*
  • Medicinal Plant*
  • Medical Sciences
  • Nanotechnology*
  • Nuclear Technologies in Medicine and Biosciences*
  • Palaeosciences*
  • Polar Science*
  • Physics
  • Renewable Energy*
  • Social Science and Humanities
  • Space Science*
  • Statistics
  • Transportation Studies
  • Tourism


NRF-TWAS Doctoral

Extension Support

Master's and Doctoral

Must register at a South African public university in 2019 on a full-time basis.

May be based at Science Councils and National Research Facilities.

Full-time master's or doctoral studies in South Africa are eligible to apply.

SA citizens, SA permanent residents as well as a limited percentage of foreign nationals who will register at a South African public university in 2019 on a full-time basis.

Citizens and permanent residents from developing countries in and outside Africa. South Africans are not eligible to apply.

Applicants applying for extension support at master's level should have commenced their degree in 2017.

NRF master's scholarship-holders who wish to register for Doctoral degrees in 2019 must apply for funding.

Visa and immigration laws of the applicant’s home country and South Africa must be met by the applicant. The applicant must secure his / her own Visa or study permit under the programme for study in South Africa.

Neither NRF nor TWAS will be responsible for assisting with visa requirements.

Must be current recipients of NRF scholarships for the current degree in 2018. Extensions will only be provided under exceptional circumstances and will only be granted for six (6) or twelve (12) months as the NRF expects all students to complete their qualifications within regulation time.

SASAC doctoral scholarships, details of the proposed research must demonstrate clear alignment with IIASA’s research programmes and national research priority areas (Advanced Systems Analysis; Ecosystems Services and Management; Energy; Evolution and Ecology; Air Quality and Greenhouse Gases; Risk and Resilience; Transitions to New Technologies; World Population and Water.)

Must be thirty five (35) years or younger on the 31st of December of the year of application for the doctoral scholarship.

Applicants applying for extension support at doctoral level should have commenced their degrees in 2016.

May not be living, studying or working in South Africa at the time of application.

Students who are not eligible for support

  • Students who already hold NRF funding for master's (in 1st year of funding) or doctoral studies (in 1st or 2nd year of funding) must not apply, they should submit a Progress Report (PR) to renew funding for the following year as per the Conditions of Grant.
  • Individuals that already hold a degree at the level at which they intend studying, are not eligible to apply
  • Students who are intending to register for or that are studying for a 100% master's by coursework, professional master's or doctoral degree.
  • Students pursuing master's studies who commenced their degree before 2018.
  • Students pursuing doctoral studies who commenced their degree before 2017.
  • Individuals that will be in full-time salaried, contractual or permanent employment while pursuing master's or doctoral studies.
  • Individuals that are on sabbatical leave from their employment (including those without paid sabbatical leave).


Value of the award

  • Merit Review-value Scholarship
    • Master's – R90 000 for 2 years
    • Doctoral – R120 000 for 3 years

  • Institutional Nomination Scholarship:
    • Master's – R50 000 for 2 years
    • Doctoral  - R70 000 for 3 years 


Application process 

All applications are submitted on the NRF Online system at

Late and incomplete applications will be rejected.

Click here for the framework document and click here for the funding guide.

*Posted by Mr Tau Moholoopa, Research Grants Assistant, Research Support Directorate: 012 429 3565 /

Publish date: 2018-05-23 00:00:00.0