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January 2021 edition

NRF postgrad funding: Re-imagine your future

Written by: More Matshediso

Enabling young people to further their studies plays a big role in skills development, which leads to employment opportunities and innovation.  Dr Thabiso Motaung is a beneficiary of the NRF Postgraduate Scholarship.

This is according to Dr Thabiso Motaung (PhD), who is a lecturer and supervisor for postgraduate research projects at the Department of Biochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Pretoria. 

Motaung (34), who is originally from QwaQwa in the Free State, is a beneficiary of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Postgraduate Scholarship.

“The NRF funded my Master of Biotechnology between 2009 and 2010. Because of this opportunity, I was able to complete my dissertation in the identification of yeast fungal strains of clinical, medical and pharmaceutical significance,” says Dr Motaung. 

He was also lucky enough in 2011 to obtain a scholarship from the NRF to do a doctoral thesis, and he was nominated for additional NRF funding between 2016 and 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow with the Agricultural Research Council and the South African Sugarcane Research Institute. 

“The funding period from doctoral to postdoctoral years was indeed life-changing for me as it offered a rare and exciting opportunity to develop skills and facilitated my inauguration into the challenging academic world,” says Dr Motaung.  

He believes education enables youngsters to escape challenges such as poverty, drug addiction and criminal tendencies, all of which affect South African youth, especially in townships and rural areas.

How to apply?

The Department of Science and Innovation and the NRF are calling for new applications for NRF Postgraduate Student Funding for the 2021 academic year. The closing date is 18 December 2020. 

According to the NRF, all continuing students who are eligible for a second or third year of funding must submit a progress report and not a new application.

The NRF minimum academic requirement for postgraduate funding is 65%. Applicants for honours, masters and doctoral funding must be 28, 30 and 32 years of age or younger respectively in the year of application. 

Full-cost-of-study bursary applicants must be South African citizens or permanent residents who are either financially needy (combined household family income less or equal to R350 000 per annum), living with a disability or exceptional academic achievers. 

Partial-cost-of-study funding will be awarded to 5% of international students and South Africans who do not qualify for full funding but meet other minimum funding criteria.

Scholarships are intended to support honours, masters and doctoral candidates to pursue studies in all areas of science, engineering, technology, social sciences and humanities.