Student debt appeals for 2022 and financial aid for 2023

17 January 2023

Dear colleagues and students

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) provision of student financial assistance is the cornerstone of our transformation initiative to assist academically and financially deserving students. In our effort to assist as many deserving students as possible, our projection for 2022 shows that at least R1.9 billion (unaudited) has been spent by a number of key financial aid sponsors in support of UCT students. This amount is an increase of R100 million compared to what UCT spent on student financial aid in 2021.

Key to this support is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), National Research Foundation (NRF), UCT’s own funding, Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP), government entities, South African corporates, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), foundations, trusts, donors and alumni. The support provided to undergraduate students has increased over the last several years and close to 50% of undergraduate and 30% of postgraduate students receive funding support.

One of the most important funders for undergraduate students is NSFAS. There are significant changes expected in NSFAS funding policy, which includes academic progression requirements for renewal of funding. All funders have academic requirements and NSFAS has now included such a requirement for renewal of funding. It is therefore imperative that students focus on meeting funder renewal requirements and access the available support structures if needed.

The other big change anticipated is the capping of the amount NSFAS will allocate to funded students for accommodation. This will have a significant impact on the university for NSFAS funded students. UCT is actively working on finding ways to mitigate the impact of this funding shortfall on students, which is significant with an expected R220 million shortfall in NSFAS funding for qualifying students in 2023. The university will continue with its fund-raising initiatives to help mitigate the impact of this shortfall. However, in the short-term we anticipate that this shortfall will not be covered given the current economic challenges. We, therefore, appeal to all internal and external parties who are able to assist us financially to meet the funding shortfall for NSFAS students to contact the Development and Alumni Department (DAD).

Notwithstanding the anticipated 2023 funding challenges as a result of the changes expected in NSFAS funding of undergraduate students, the university remains committed to assisting current financially needy students in good academic standing who have 2022 fee debt to complete their studies within UCT’s approved financial aid policies. UCT has therefore set aside a fee debt appeals budget for this purpose. In addition to the fee debt appeals budget, the university’s Council has raised the allowable debt at the time of registration from R1 000 to R10 000 for continuing students that were registered in 2022. All other fee payment policies remain unchanged as it applies to initial payments, as well as SADC and international students’ registration requirements. Students can contact the Fees Office if they require more information about any fees related queries.

As a guide, appeals are considered in two different categories:

  1. Undergraduate: The Student Financial Aid Office manages appeals from undergraduate South African or permanent resident students who meet the following criteria:
    • Gross family income under R600 000
    • Potential final-year of study in 2023 within the N+2 rule
  2. Postgraduate: Appeals from postgraduate students should be directed to the Postgraduate Funding Office. Postgraduates can submit an appeal based on legitimate reasons, listed in Section 3 below.

1. Undergraduate financial assistance

UCT financial assistance falls into various categories:

1.1 NSFAS funding for first time entering and continuing students

NSFAS currently funds first-time and continuing students from households with an annual income of no more than R350 000. First-time applications for NSFAS financial aid (as well as funding renewal for students who already receive NSFAS funding) are handled centrally via NSFAS. Although a student may have applied to study at several universities, only one financial aid application directly to NSFAS is required. While this has its own challenges, including reliance on NSFAS for confirmation of funding, UCT appreciates the effort put in by NSFAS in preparation for the 2023 academic year. The 2023 NSFAS funding application window closes on 31 January 2023. It is important that qualifying students apply on time.

1.2 NSFAS funding for 2023

1.2.1 NSFAS applications

As indicated above, NSFAS applications for 2023 funding close on 31 January 2023. You can still submit an application if you have not applied and meet the eligibility criteria.

Universities expect to receive feedback from NSFAS on eligible students when the National Senior Certificate (NSC) results are released. However, some students may not yet have received a funding application outcome, due to outstanding documentation required to finalise the application. It is therefore important that students take responsibility for tracking the status of their NSFAS application on the myNSFAS portal.

For applicants who are ineligible for NSFAS funding, but who can prove that their gross family income is below R350 000 per annum, NSFAS will have an online appeal process for a review of the application outcome. Applicants’ appeals on the NSFAS funding decision must be made directly to NSFAS using the online myNSFAS appeals platform. NSFAS allows for a limited timeframe to appeal after the funding decision is made, and it is therefore important that applicants monitor their NSFAS funding status.

Students who are financially ineligible for NSFAS will be considered for UCT GAP funding (see Section 1.3). These students will be sent a UCT GAP funding application to provide proof that the gross household income is between R350 001 and R600 000 per annum.

1.2.2 Continuing students funded by NSFAS in 2022

NSFAS will make the funding renewal decisions for students funded in 2022 as academic results are submitted by the university. The results for students who have supplementary and deferred exam results can only be submitted to NSFAS at the end of January 2023, and therefore the funding decisions can only be expected thereafter.

Students funded by NSFAS in 2022 are not required to reapply as NSFAS will apply their academic progression and N+1 funding rules to consider whether funding renewal requirements are met.

Students must track the status of their NSFAS renewal on their MyNSFAS portal to ensure that they are able to meet the NSFAS deadline to submit an appeal if required.

1.2.3 Transferring students

Students who have transferred to study at UCT and were NSFAS funded previously must verify their eligibility for continued funding and remember that the N+1 funding rule still applies even if one changes universities, as all years of study at a university are counted (including study at UNISA).

The university is unable to take responsibility for students whose funded years are exceeded due to changing their programme of study or transferring from another university and starting a new programme from academic year 1.

Continuing and transferring students who have a provisionally funded status and who change their programme of study may be affected by the N+1 rule, which will be recalculated by NSFAS on the new programme of study submitted with the student registration cost data. Such students may become ineligible despite their funding status.

1.3 UCT GAP funding

UCT offers GAP funding programme, providing financial assistance for the “missing middle” – those students from families with an annual gross household income above the NSFAS threshold of R350 000 but less than R600 000 per annum.

GAP funding is exclusively financed by UCT in line with the terms and conditions. This financial support and commitment extends above the amount that the government offers for students in financial need. Information on UCT’s GAP funding programme eligibility criteria and funding rules is available on the financial aid website.

Students who are declared financially ineligible by NSFAS can be considered for GAP funding. These students can apply for UCT GAP funding and will be required to provide proof that the gross household income is between R350 001 and R600 000 per annum and will have to meet the policy terms and conditions. Students who meet GAP funding eligibility can contact the Student Financial Aid Office on for application assistance.

For postgraduate students with debt, appeals should be directed to the Postgraduate Funding Office. Postgraduates can submit an appeal based on legitimate reasons, as agreed by the Postgraduate Studies Funding Committee.

1.4 UCT Sibling Rebate Bursary

The UCT Sibling Rebate Bursary programme provides reduced tuition costs to undergraduate siblings who do not qualify for NSFAS financial aid or GAP funding. This is for students from families with a combined annual household income of between R600 000 and R750 000 per annum with two or more undergraduate siblings at UCT at the same time. Qualifying students are eligible for a bursary equivalent to 20% of the tuition fee for the year. Further information on the Sibling Rebate Bursary programme, as well as the sibling rebate application form, is available on the UCT website. Applications close on 15 May 2023.

1.5 Other funding

Funding from corporates, non-governmental institutions, sponsors and other key funders is provided directly to eligible students but is administered with the assistance of UCT as the university provides all the necessary documents (academic transcripts and fees statements) and other information required by the funders after registration. The requirements for academic and financial eligibility are determined by these funders and tend to vary according to programmes of study. All students remain responsible for their fee debt, so any delays with funding confirmations or pay-outs must be addressed directly by the student.

2. Undergraduate funding appeals

The university has actively fundraised and set aside limited funding from its own resources to assist students with fee debt or who have not met the academic performance renewal requirements for financial aid and GAP funding. Funds are limited and the criteria outlined below will be applied to ensure fair and equitable access subject to available resources.

2.1 Appeals for 2023 funding that has been stopped due to poor academic performance in 2022

It needs to be emphasised that every financial-aid sponsor, including NSFAS, UCT, corporates and non-governmental organisations, has minimum standards that students must meet to be guaranteed continued funding.

2.1.1 NSFAS funded students N+1 rule exceeded and final year of study 2023

The N+1 rule applies to all NSFAS funded students (the minimum duration of the programme vs a count of the number of years of study in universities).

Students who have exceeded the N+1 rule may appeal on their MyNSFAS portal for NSFAS N+2 funding, provided they are final year and not carrying a full course load.

NSFAS will confirm the criteria for N+2 final year of study funding on their appeals platform. It is therefore important that NSFAS students check their NSFAS funding status on their MyNSFAS platform.

NSFAS requires all 2022 funded students to use their national ID as their username on the MyNSFAS platform. Your password remains unchanged. Appeals can only be submitted within a 30-day window. Please check your NSFAS funding status on your MyNSFAS portal, and do not miss the appeal deadline.

UCT may consider providing bursary and loan funding for students who are in their final year and do not meet the NSFAS N+2 appeal for funding criteria. UCT will receive an appeals list from NSFAS and will consider students declined for N+2 years of funding.

NSFAS will not consider an N+3 funding appeal. UCT may consider such an appeal in exceptional circumstances for students in their final year of study who have a course or two to complete. NSFAS funded students that are N+3 years can email to activate the appeal tab to submit an appeal. NSFAS academic renewal requirements not met

Students who have not met the NSFAS academic progression requirements and are still within N+1 years of study will be required to submit an appeal on their MyNSFAS portal, with the supporting documents NSFAS requires based on the reason for the appeal. The details will be provided by NSFAS on your MyNSFAS portal.

NSFAS requires all 2022 students to recreate their username and password, and you may need to do this if not previously changed. Appeals can only be submitted within a 30-day window. Please check your NSFAS funding status on your MyNSFAS portal, and do not miss the appeal deadline.

2.1.2 UCT funded students

UCT applies the same NSFAS (national) funding rules to the students it supports. The university may fund NSFAS and GAP students for an additional year (N+2 years) if they are potential graduates for 2023, subject to academic and financial eligibility.

As academic performance is a crucial requirement stipulated by most funders, it is therefore important for students to ensure that they can demonstrate their efforts and commitment in their academic performance to secure continued funding.

Students on GAP funding in 2022, who failed to meet the academic requirements for renewal, can submit an appeal to the Student Financial Aid Office provided they are within the N+2 rule and have made sufficient academic progress to complete their programme of study or are finalists for 2023 within N+3.

For all academic appeals received, consideration will be given to whether a funding concession was previously made in respect of academic progression requirements not being met and whether there has been continuous academic underperformance. It is important that submitted appeals contain all information relevant to enable  proper evaluation.

What you need to do: Students can submit an online appeal by logging onto their PeopleSoft Student Portal. This function is only available to GAP-funded students who did not meet the minimum academic progression requirements.

Due to limited budget availability and to ensure fairness of access to limited resources, appeals will not be considered for N+4 funding.

UCT funding for approved students who meet the policy criteria (eg who exceed the N+ rule) will be a UCT student loan and top up bursary funding subject to approved cost of study.

2.2 Students with fee debt from 2022 who were on GAP funding

Each appeal will be assessed individually based on the reason for the debt. Debt not related to tuition and accommodation charges for academic activities will not be considered.

The appeals tab will only be available to students who have a fee block.

What you need to do: Financial aid students with debt can submit an online appeal by logging onto their PeopleSoft Student Portal. Where the online appeal form is not available, please email the Student Financial Aid Office at for assistance to activate the online appeal tile in PeopleSoft Student Self Service.

2.3 Debt appeals for students not on financial aid or GAP funding (including appeals from students who have not been means tested)

Students who have outstanding 2022 fees, but have not been means tested, can appeal and be considered on financial need and academic merit, subject to funding availability.

These appeals will be means tested, and successful students will be asked to pay a contribution based on gross family income. Appeals will only be considered from students whose gross family income is less than R600 000 per annum; who have submitted an application for funding to NSFAS for 2023 (where applicable); who are studying towards a first undergraduate qualification; and who are South African citizens or have South African permanent residency status.

What you need to do: Email the Student Financial Aid Office at for assistance to activate the online appeal tile in the PeopleSoft Student Portal. If funding is awarded to enable a student with a fee block to register, the funding provided will be in the form of a repayable loan, and the appropriate documents will need to be signed before registration is permitted. Please note that all appeals are considered on financial and academic grounds. Where academic information is not final, it will impact on the ability to finalise the appeal outcome.


Students can expect an outcome to their appeals by 10 February 2023. It is therefore important to submit a detailed appeal with supporting documents as soon as possible so that the appeal outcome can be communicated early. Complex appeals may take slightly longer, and students are kindly requested to limit repeated email enquiries as volumes have increased significantly, thereby impacting the ability to respond to new requests timeously.

2.4 SADC and international students’ undergraduate financial assistance

Despite UCTʼs efforts to extend, as far as possible, the limited resources available, funding for undergraduate students goes primarily towards supporting South African students, or those with permanent residency in the country. Unfortunately, UCT is not able to provide relief for international students, including Southern African Development Community (SADC) students, because of constraints on its own resources and due to restrictions imposed by funders, which often stipulate that only South Africans or students with South African permanent residency may be assisted with funding. No appeals from these students will be considered.

3. Postgraduate student funding

Most postgraduate funding is administered through the Postgraduate Funding Office (PGFO). This includes awards funded through the NRF, science councils, philanthropic organisations, companies and UCT itself.

The first call for applications for 2023 postgraduate funding has closed and further funding information on those applications still open is available on the e-noticeboard. Departmental awards are announced and awarded through the specific departments but are also processed through the PGFO.

3.1 Postgraduate financial support for honours, masterʼs and doctoral students funded by UCT

The university has financial aid available for qualifying postgraduate students, on a similar basis to undergraduate financial aid and using the same income thresholds for eligibility. Funding through excellence awards for meritorious students serves to strengthen the university’s commitment to transformation at postgraduate level.

The purpose of such funding is to provide financial assistance to honours, masters, and doctoral students that will contribute either in part (Merit and PG-GAP), or, in certain cases in full (PG Financial Aid), towards the costs of attendance at UCT, and is not intended to be used for historical fee debt relief. Funding of occasional studies, professional degrees with a research component less than 33.3%, postgraduate diplomas and certificates is excluded at postgraduate level.

These funding opportunities are administered by the PGFO via the online UCT PG Financial Aid application. Applicants for need-based funding will agree to undergo a UCT means test using the information provided by the applicant. The output will determine the applicant’s eligibility for a full financial-aid or GAP tuition bursary.

UCT merit and UCT need-sourced funding from the university’s general operating budget (GOB) are divided into four categories of awards:

1. PG Financial Aid

Applicants whose combined annual household gross family income is less than R350 000 are eligible for funding to cover their full cost of attendance (FCOA). Note: Students who qualify for full financial aid will not receive a separate merit award as this is incorporated in their full financial package already.

2. PG GAP Tuition Bursary

Applicants whose combined household gross family income for the year is between R350 001 and R600 000 are eligible to receive funding to cover a percentage of their tuition fees. This award does not include support towards lodging in UCT residence or private accommodation, or monthly allowances. Note: Students who obtained a grade point average (GPA) >70% in their previous degree qualification also qualify for a merit award.

3. UCT Merit (honours merit, masters/doctoral research scholarship)

Applicants whose previous career GPA for their final year courses are 70% or above qualify for a merit award. The GPA threshold may be waived for doctoral students depending on the quality of their research proposal, and their track record during their master’s degree. These are partial funding awards (honours is valued at R20 000, whereas master’s and doctoral is valued at R30 000) and can be held with other funding up to the career limit (career limits: honours: R180 000; masters R241 000 and doctoral R300 000).

4. Vice-Chancellors Research Scholarship

Applicants who are recognised as the most academically excellent (UCT masters and doctoral students who are registered for research degrees), will receive R5 000 as a top up to other funding awarded. These scholarships will be allocated at the beginning of each year after other UCT funding has been awarded. Where the FCOA is not covered, PG Financial Aid may be offered to cover the balance.

3.2 International and refugee students at postgraduate level

A limited number of scholarships is available to postgraduates who are residents of countries other than South Africa. These are awarded on a competitive basis with emphasis given to academic merit and to the seniority of the candidate. The scholarships do not provide full-cost support and all UCT international and refugee student scholarships recipients should secure supplementary funding. Thus, applicants must ensure that they have sufficient additional financial support for their studies. The scholarships are renewable for the duration of the course of study, subject to satisfactory progress being maintained, up to a limit of one year at honours level, two years of master’s study and three years of doctoral study.

3.3 Postgraduate diplomas

No financial aid support is available for advanced diplomas, postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas

3.4 Postgraduate appeals

Postgraduate students can submit an appeal based on legitimate reasons, as agreed by the Postgraduate Studies Funding Committee, which include:

  1. request reassessment of the online funding application for changed financial circumstances
  2. exemption from rule to hold awards concurrently
  3. extension of funding tenure
  4. request to hold funds that exceed maximum award limit
  5. deferral of award, and
  6. change to programme of study.

The appeals form is available on the website. Completed appeals forms should be submitted to the Postgraduate Funding Office on

Please note: No appeal for financial aid support is available for advanced diplomas, postgraduate certificates, and postgraduate diplomas. No appeal is available for international and refugee fee debt.

3.5 Postgraduate student 2022 fee debt

UCTʼs postgraduate funding policy precludes the use of bursary and scholarship awards for historic fee debt relief. Fee debt accrued in 2022 may only be considered under exceptional circumstances as outlined in the appeals category (a) above. Should you qualify under exceptional circumstances kindly email for the appeals application form or source the application form via the Postgraduate Funding Office website.

Unfortunately, there is no other form of funding available through the Postgraduate Funding Office for the relief of historic fee debt.


For more information on postgraduate funding, please contact the office on 021 650 3622 or email

More information about the funding provided by the Postgraduate Funding Office is available on their website.

We wish all our students success during this period and hope the information provided will inform their next course of action. Should you require further information, please contact the relevant undergraduate or postgraduate office.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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