South Africa
Bursary tips for international students

What you need to know about scholarships and bursaries for international students

Whether you’re looking for a bursary or scholarship, you can secure financing for your studies before coming to South Africa or while you’re already studying in the country.

Before we get into what to consider when applying for financial assistance, let’s break down the difference between a bursary and scholarship. Both refer to an organisation covering your studies without having to repay the money but differ in consideration to who gets the funding.

Bursaries vs scholarships

Educational and private organisations can offer both scholarships and bursaries. You may apply for both in your home country and study in South Africa. Once selected, both can cover all or a portion of your costs. Furthermore, some programmes may only consider you once you’re actively studying at a South African tertiary institution.

What is a bursary?

  • Bursaries are aimed at students who don’t have the financial means to cover education costs. While the backbone of bursaries is the financial consideration, other elements, such as academic performance, the sector of study, etc., can be factors in the selection process.

What is a scholarship?  

  • Scholarships are primarily awarded based on academic achievement. You may also qualify for a scholarship based on achievement or contribution in a particular sector or industry.

What to consider when it comes to bursaries and scholarships for international students

  • What does the funding cover, e.g. tuition, textbooks, study material, accommodation, spending money, etc.?  
  • Is there a cap on the payments? Study material might be covered up to a certain amount, for example.
  • Do your primary homework, like the qualifying criteria and deadline, what you must submit as part of the application, and the limitations.  
  • It’s important to know if you have to work for the sponsor for a period stipulated in the agreement. If this is the case, you might need to apply for a work visa after your studies are complete.
  • There may be specific stipulations, like returning to your community to apply the skills you’ve gained through your studies.
  • You might have to apply each year based on the funding rules.
  • You may have to maintain a certain academic standard to retain your bursary or scholarship.
  • Your prospective/ current university website or offices are good places to start your search.
  • Research scholarships and bursaries offered in your country that allow you to study abroad.

Avoid the scam

Applying for multiple opportunities is an excellent way to increase your chances of securing financial backing. If you have received numerous acceptance letters and have selected the best option, it’s your responsibility to inform the other sponsors.

If your chosen bursary or scholarship doesn’t cover everything, you might be able to negotiate for the shortfall to be covered by another sponsor. Should you take up more than one offer without disclosing, you could end up with a criminal record or be barred from continuing your studies because it could be considered fraud.

Another possible pitfall in the process could be unscrupulous people looking to take advantage of international students. Avoid third-parties who offer to take care of the process for you or request payments. Websites that ask for your payments and personal information, such as bank account details, are a red flag. A suspicious URL or links and excessive advertising indicate a fraudulent website. And finally, don’t respond to anyone offering you a bursary or scholarship you haven’t applied for.

NOTE: You can call 0860 010 111 to report scams and any suspicious interactions in South Africa.

As an international student, you are also allowed to work part-time. Learn more about working in South Africa while visiting on a study visa.

If you’re planning to study in South Africa, it is important to be prepared. Visit the international students page for more information.

Disclaimer: This article is solely intended for information. It does not constitute financial, tax or investment advice or recommendation. Please speak to a financial advisor or registered financial professional before making any financial decision(s).

Standard Bank, its subsidiaries or holding company, or any subsidiary of the holding company and all of its subsidiaries make no warranties or representations (implied or otherwise) as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose of the information provided in this article or that it is free from errors or omissions.