Division: 

The HICD offers a range of bursaries and scholarships and postdoctoral research fellowships.

DST-NRF Innovation Bursary Scheme

The Innovation scholarships reward excellence for students enrolled for research-based Honours, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in specified scientific fields. The innovation study fields include astronomy, biotechnology, cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science, ecology, engineering, mathematical sciences, medical sciences, nanotechnology and physics. Students in the Social Sciences and Humanities are also supported.

DST-NRF Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowships

The White Paper on Science and Technology is premised on the NSI. The Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship works towards building a strong knowledge-based economy across all sectors of the population, to drive innovation that will improve the lives of ordinary South Africans.

The Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship began in 2005 as a partnership between the NRF and the DST, with the specific focus of building a strong knowledge-based economy that would see South Africans sharpening their research capabilities at the Postdoctoral level. The innovations that emerge from the research conducted by the fellows in this programme will also boost the country’s standing in the international scientific community.

NRF Freestanding Scholarships

The NRF provides financial support to successful candidates in Science, Engineering and Technology and the Social Sciences and Humanities to obtain a research-based Honours, Master’s or Doctoral degree in South Africa or abroad.

The NRF is mandated by an Act of Parliament – the National Research Foundation Act (Act No. 23 of 1998) – to support and promote research by funding human capacity development and providing the necessary research facilities. This support facilitates the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge.

The Freestanding programme supports full-time students at South African public higher education institutions, Science Councils and national research facilities. A small number of scholarships are also made available to South African students who wish to pursue their doctoral studies on a full-time basis at recognised universities abroad.

NRF Postdoctoral Research Fellowships

The NRF Postdoctoral Research Fellowships aim to support Postdoctoral fellows in SET and SSH, and encourage them to spread their sphere of influence and learning by committing to projects at institutions other than those from where they graduated.

The NRF Postdoctoral Research Fellowships are open to all areas of science and technology, social sciences and humanities. Young, talented Postdoctoral fellows of all nationalities are welcome to apply. Postdoctoral research fellows are given complete independence and freedom to pursue their own research directions. Like all other NRF freestanding fellowships, fellows are free to choose the host organisation that will give them the best research training environment in terms of access to relevant equipment and facilities.

The fellowships are available to South African and non-South African citizens for full-time research at institutions in South Africa. Outstanding foreign candidates are also considered for full-time research in South Africa.

Exceptional Doctoral graduates who received their Doctoral degrees in the last five years and who wish to undertake Postdoctoral research training are encouraged to apply.

Extension Bursary Support Programme

The Extension Bursary Support Programme is intended to increase graduation and throughput rates for Master’s and Doctoral students by providing additional funding for up to 12 months.

To accelerate the throughput of Master’s and Doctoral graduates, a one-year extension bursary is offered to existing NRF-supported Master’s and Doctoral bursary holders. Priority is given to academically deserving but financially needy students, and those who are in the process of finalising their dissertation or thesis for examination and/or submitting a manuscript to an accredited journal.

Scarce Skills Development Fund

The Scarce Skills Development Fund (SSDF) addresses the severe shortage of various critical skills in South Africa, and supports Honours, Master’s, Doctoral students and Postdoctoral fellows through various strategic projects.

The Skills Development Act (No. 97 of 1998) provides a framework for addressing the severe shortage of skills in South Africa, and aims to make the learning system more responsive to the skills requirements of industry. In this Act, the Departments of Labour (DoL), Education (DoE) and the DST were mandated to ensure training in scarce skills at higher education and training institutions, especially in the fields of SET. The National Skills Fund (NSF) contributes towards the SSDF for targeted students. In 2010, the NSF migrated to the newly proclaimed Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

Research Career Advancement Fellowship

The subject of career pathing for emerging researchers, and in particular postdoctoral researchers, has been receiving a great degree of attention because of reduced academic employment opportunities. In South Africa, the situation is exacerbated by the dearth of research positions for emerging researchers and the limited number of academics who can serve as mentors.

The DST has made available funding for Research Career Advancement Fellowships to strengthen research capacity and scientific research leadership in Science, Engineering and Technology. This will be done by creating positions for senior postdoctoral Fellows who have shown interest in furthering careers in research and academia and have demonstrated the potential and ability for research leadership.

DST-NRF Professional Development Programme

The DST-NRF Professional Development Programme aims to accelerate the development of scientists and research professionals in key research areas at Science Councils and the national research facilities. The programme supports South African citizens and permanent residents studying or conducting research on a full-time basis, to gain and obtain research exposure and experience in various fields, aligned to selected host research programmes and projects.

Senior researchers from the Science Councils, national facilities and recognised research institutions can apply to the funding programme to host Doctoral or Postdoctoral research fellows within their institutions. Research projects must be aligned with national priorities in any academic discipline within the priority research areas for South Africa. This includes all fields of Science and Technology, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, including the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Study Support for Completing Part-time Doctoral Students

The completion rates of Doctoral students can be improved if the large proportions of part-time students are afforded dedicated time away from work pressures to complete their dissertations. Priority will be given to those students finalising their thesis for examination and/or preparing to submit a manuscript to an accredited journal. Students who are academically deserving but financially needy will be given priority.

In selecting applicants for consideration for funding, the following criteria will apply:

  • applicants must either be South African citizens or in possession of South African permanent residency;
  • an applicant may not concurrently hold the study support with another NRF scholarship or any other scholarship from a South African government source; and an applicant must be currently registered for a doctoral degree and in the final year of research activities.

Collaborative Postgraduate Training Programmes

The postgraduate training programmes should ideally be inter-university partnerships and/or public-private partnerships with government, industry and universities; all working toward a common objective to produce and sustain a growing stream of well-rounded postgraduates to address national needs.

Support will be provided in the following manner:

  • Individual Capacity: seventy percent (70%) of funding will go towards financing the training of individuals. This will be used to build intellectual capital by creating an environment that supports learning and individual growth opportunities by providing bursaries, fellowships and facilitating study visits, in-country and abroad, for postgraduates and postdoctoral research fellows.
  • Institutional Capacity: thirty percent (30%) of the funding will go towards resourcing institutions. This will be determined by the existing institutional capacity and the resources that are presently needed to pursue a successful research and postgraduate training programme.

DST-NRF Internship Programme

The DST-NRF Internship Programme aims to attract and retain skilled human capital within the National system of Innovation through mentoring to develop skills and competencies among the next generation of academics and researchers in South Africa.

This internship programme enables young unemployed graduates and postgraduates in the Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) fields to enhance their skills and competencies.

Introduced in 2005, the internship programme serves as an enabling platform that gives students the opportunity to enhance their competencies. Interns are hosted at various public and private sector institutions
in the SET field.