How much does it cost to study at university and where can I get money to pay for my studies?

The fees for university study differ widely, and are determined mainly by the type of programme and the delivery mode. For example, distance learning is generally less expensive than full time attendance. You therefore need to contact the institution where you plan to study to determine the fee for the specific programme you want to enrol for.

Here are two examples to give you an idea of university fees in 2015: UNISA (for distance learning): and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University:

Sources of funding for post-school studies

Bursaries/Scholarships: Many private companies and government departments offer bursaries or scholarships to cover all or part of your studies. There are generally conditions attached to the bursaries, e.g. awarding the bursary for a specific area of study (e.g. mechanical engineering) or to a specific group (e.g. black women). There could also be ‘work-back’ conditions requiring recipients to work for the company for a period after graduating, and conditions relating to the required level of achievement.

Government funding through the NSFAS: The government established the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) specifically to assist students with academic ability from poor disadvantaged families. NSFAS provides loans and bursaries to students attending public universities and public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. Loans must be repaid to NSFAS after completion of the studies, but some loans may be converted into bursaries that do not have to be repaid. (

Loans from financial institutions: You could apply to banks and other financial institutions for student loans. You could also apply to Eduloan, a private company that works closely with the banks. Eduloan offers funding for tuition and other costs associated with studying at a university or other training institution. (

Grants from SETAs: The Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) make grants available for a variety of education and training priorities. The grants are generally paid to the employers who should apply for the grants from the SETA. The grants are available for the training of employees and for unemployed persons whose studies are funded by an employer. For example, FASSET, the SETA for financial, accounting and related services has a NSFAS Loan Repayment Grant (NLRG) to assist students to repay their NSFAS loans.

Private funds: If you are unable to access funding through any of the above-mentioned ways, you will need to fund your own studies. You may need to work part-time to fund your own studies, for example through tutoring school pupils or first-year students, working as a waiter or doing other part-time work. If you are fortunate, your parents or family members will be able to assist in paying for your studies.

Free training: There are many institutions that offer free training, especially via the internet. You might be able to access free training for part of your qualification, or to assist you to meet the admission requirements for the qualification that you want to enrol for.

Additional information on bursaries and study loans

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) has a comprehensive Bursaries and study loans information pack, It provides detailed information on different types and sources of funding for post-school studies, the conditions, requirements and study fields funded, as well as where and how to apply. It includes a comprehensive list of bursaries available from private companies, with details on applications.

The Careers Portal ( provides information on bursaries, scholarships, student loans and other opportunities available to fund university and other studies, together with the fields of study funded, requirements and details on how to apply.

Other institutions offer bursaries for specific study fields, for example, the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers provides information under ‘Bursaries and scholarships’ on its website: