The National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa offers masters and doctoral scholarships for full-time studies in 2019 open to applicants who must register at a South African public university in 2019 on a full-time basis.

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.

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

Worth of 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 


  • 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.
  • Citizens and permanent residents from developing countries in and outside Africa. South Africans are not eligible to apply.
  • Must be thirty five (35) years or younger on the 31st of December of the year of application for the doctoral scholarship.
  • May not be living, studying or working in South Africa at the time of application.

How to Apply

  • All applications are submitted on the NRF Online system
  • Late and incomplete applications will be rejected.

Deadline: applications close 11 June 2018

Click here for more details and to apply

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