Broadening financial aid

18 March 2019 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

I write to inform you that an important executive decision was recently taken that will have the effect of further broadening financial aid to poor students studying at UCT.

Our decision will mean that financial assistance will now, for the first time, be extended to students who have registered for postgraduate diplomas (PG Dips and Certificates) and have made an appeal for their outstanding fees from 2018 to be cleared. This applies to students who are eligible for financial aid and have not been academically excluded. This will not apply to online programmes. 

This decision means that UCT has further broadened financial aid to groups of students who were never assisted before. In 2018, for the first time, we extended financial aid to students in financial need studying towards postgraduate honours degrees. 

We have a comprehensive financial assistance programme (GAP funding) that caters for students whose combined household income does not exceed R600 000. 

Early in 2019 students who had fee debt for 2018, but had not secured financial assistance yet, were invited to apply for an academic grace period for 2019. This grace period ensured that students who had a temporary fee block could attend classes and participate in their courses while trying to secure funding. It also allowed them to access course resources (excluding assessment outcomes) until the fee block was lifted. The grace period ended on Friday, 15 March 2019. 

As financial assistance is secured (via financial aid or other means) and fee debt is cleared, the student is cleared for registration. By broadening the financial aid available to students in financial need studying towards postgraduate diplomas, we enabled a number of students to register.

In 2018 UCT spent and facilitated approximately R1.3 billion on undergraduate and postgraduate financial assistance. While we commit a significant portion of our own resources, other funders also contribute towards assisting UCT students, including the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the National Research Foundation (NRF), corporate sponsors, non-governmental organisations and private donors.

It is worth noting that in 2019 UCT’s student financial aid falls into three categories:

  • NSFAS funding for students from households earning no more than R350 000 
  • GAP funding for students from households earning above the NSFAS threshold (R350 000) but not more than R600 000. GAP funding is exclusively funded by UCT.
  • Sibling rebate funding for students who are South African citizens, or have permanent residence, and have siblings at UCT who are also studying towards a full-time undergraduate degree and whose household income is below R750 000. 

We are constantly in contact with NSFAS to ensure that students whose financial aid is still pending are provided with the necessary confirmation by NSFAS. Students who may have challenges getting their allowances are encouraged to contact the financial aid office as soon as possible. 

As part of our commitment to provide laptops to all first-year NSFAS students, we have already distributed close to 800 laptops to first-time-entering students by end of February 2019. 

Poverty is a horrible reality and financial assistance to poor students is critical to academic success. As the UCT executive we will continue our dedicated efforts to find solutions, wherever possible, to issues that hamper students’ trajectories to academic success. 


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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