Student debt appeals for 2023 and financial aid for 2024

18 January 2024

Dear colleagues and students

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) provision of student financial assistance is one of the cornerstones of our transformation initiatives to assist academically and financially deserving students. In our commitment to assist as many deserving students as possible, our projection for 2023 shows that at least R1.7 billion (unaudited) has been spent by key financial aid sponsors in support of UCT students. The funding received is less than that from prior years.

1. Introduction

One of the crucial funders for undergraduate students is the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). There are significant changes expected in the 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 big change in the NSFAS funding policy is the capping of funds allocated for students accommodation. This cap will significantly impact the university for NSFAS funded students. There is an expected R150 million shortfall in NSFAS funding for qualifying students in 2024. However, the university is actively working on finding ways to mitigate the impact of this funding shortfall on students. Students and prospective applicants are encouraged to apply to as many sources of funding as possible to meet the NSFAS accommodation funding shortfall. The university will also continue with its fundraising initiatives to help mitigate the impact of this shortfall; however, we anticipate that this shortfall will not be covered given the current economic challenges and that many students will face a fee debt related to the NSFAS funding accommodation cap. We would therefore like to appeal to all internal and external stakeholders who are willing to assist us financially in this regard to contact the Development and Alumni Department (DAD).

Information on other sources of funding is available on the financial aid bursary noticeboard, the Careers Service portal and the undergraduate and postgraduate bursary handbooks. As this is not an exhaustive list of other funding, students are encouraged to explore all UCT websites for other funding opportunities.

Despite the anticipated funding challenges of 2024, the university remains committed to assisting current financially needy students in good academic standing with a 2023 fee debt within our approved financial aid policies. We have therefore set aside a fee debt appeals budget for this purpose. In addition to the fee debt appeals budget, the university’s Council has approved that the total allowable debt at the time of registration of R10 000 for continuing students that were registered in 2023 will remain in place. However, any debt will continue to attract monthly interest charges and it is therefore important to minimise any debt accrued. All other fee payment policies remain unchanged as it applies to initial payment, for example with our Southern African Development Community (SADC) and international students’ registration requirements.

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 that meet the following criteria:
    • Gross family annual income under R600 000
    • Potential final year of study in 2024 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 4 below.

2. Undergraduate financial assistance

UCT financial assistance falls into various categories:

2.1 NSFAS funding for first time entering and continuing students

NSFAS currently funds first time and continuing students who come 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 the 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, we appreciate the effort put in by NSFAS in preparation for the 2024 academic year. The 2024 funding application window closes on 31 January 2024; and students have to apply on the MyNSFAS portal.

For 2024, NSFAS will continue to apply the accommodation cap to their funding for those in residence or private accommodation, as well as pay student allowances directly through their service provider. NSFAS funded students will therefore need to apply to other sources of funding to cover any shortfall in NSFAS funding, for example for residence accommodation fee debt such as vacation accommodation costs which are related to supplementary and deferred exams, as well as winter or summer term accommodation costs.

For students registered for less than 60 credits, NSFAS will only provide funding for tuition and books/learning materials allowance. All other study costs will have to be covered by applying to external sponsors for funding.

Students who opt to stay in private accommodation must ensure that the accommodation is accredited. Funding will not be provided for lease agreements within the NSFAS cap where the accommodation is not accredited. Information on accredited accommodation is available on the Off Campus Student Accommodation Services website. Private accommodation for NSFAS and UCT GAP-funded students must be submitted on the accommodation tile on the Peoplesoft Self Service portal with all required documentation.

NSFAS has not released the 2024 Funding Policy. Once released, applicable information will be shared with NSFAS funded students, on the Financial Aid tab on Vula and Amathuba.

2.2 NSFAS funding status for 2024

2.2.1 Applicants

Universities expect to receive feedback from NSFAS on eligible students when the National Senior Certificate (NSC) results are released for those that applied early. 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 NSFAS applicants take responsibility for tracking the status of their application on the MyNSFAS portal.

For applicants that are ineligible for NSFAS funding, but where the applicant 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. Appeals must be made directly to NSFAS using the online myNSFAS appeals platform. NSFAS allows for a limited timeframe (30 days) to appeal after the funding decision is made.

Students who are financially ineligible for NSFAS funding will be considered for GAP funding (please see section 2.3 below). 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.

2.2.2 Continuing students funded by NSFAS in 2023

NSFAS will make funding renewal decisions for students funded in 2023 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 2024, and therefore the funding decisions for these students can only be expected thereafter.

Students funded by NSFAS in 2023 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.

2.2.3 Transferring students

Students that 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, as all years of study at a university are counted – including study at UNISA.

The university cannot take responsibility for students whose funded years are exceeded due to students changing their programme of study or transferring from other universities and starting a new programme from academic year one.

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 on the submission of student registration cost data. Students who change programmes may find that NSFAS withdraws registration cost approval despite the provisional funding status, if the N+1 rule is reached due to the change.

2.2.4 NSFAS app

NSFAS now has an app that will enable applicants and students to easily monitor their funding status and submit an appeal if required. The app is compatible with both IOS and Android devices.< .

2.3 UCT GAP funding

UCT offers GAP funding, a financial assistance programme for the “missing middle” – those students who come from families with an annual household gross income above the NSFAS threshold of R350 000 but no more than R600 000 per annum.

GAP funding is exclusively financed by UCT in line with the funding policy terms. Information on UCT’s GAP funding programme 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 they should meet the funding policy terms and conditions. Students that meet GAP funding eligibility can contact the Student Financial Aid Office on for application assistance.

Note that GAP funded students that receive N+2 funding will only be granted bursary assistance towards tuition costs, excluding winter and summer term studies undertaken. 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.

2.4 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 UCT GAP funding.

It 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.

For more information on the programme visit the financial aid website. Applications close on 15 May 2024.

2.5 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 (ie academic transcripts and fees statements) and other information required by the funders.

The requirements for academic and financial eligibility are determined by the funders and tend to vary according to programme 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. Information on other student funding opportunities is available on the UCT bursary webpage.

3. 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 UCT GAP funding. Funds are limited and the criteria outlined below will be applied to ensure fair and equitable access subject to available resources.

3.1 Appeals for 2024 funding that have been stopped due to poor academic performance in 2023

It is crucial to emphasise that every financial aid sponsor, including NSFAS, UCT, corporates and non-governmental organisations, have minimum standards that students must meet to be guaranteed continued funding.

3.1.1 NSFAS funded students N+1 rule exceeded and final year of study 2024

The N+1 rule applies to all NSFAS and UCT funded students. It stipulates the minimum duration of the programme versus the count of years of study in universities.

Students that have exceeded the N+1 rule may appeal on the 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 and submit an appeal.

UCT may consider providing bursary and/or loan funding for final year students who do not meet the NSFAS N+2 appeal criteria. UCT will receive an appeals list from NSFAS and will consider students declined for N+2 years of funding. However, students assisted by UCT will not be eligible for full funding support, and it is important to apply to other sponsors for funding.

N+3 appeals for funding will not be considered due to limited availability of funding. NSFAS academic renewal requirements not met

Students that have not met the NSFAS academic progression requirements for the renewal of NSFAS funding and are still within N+1 years of study, will be required to submit an appeal on the MyNSFAS portal, with the required supporting documents. The details will be provided on the MyNSFAS portal.

3.1.2 UCT funded students

UCT applies the same NSFAS (national) funding rules to the students it supports. Funding may be extended to NSFAS and UCT GAP funded students for an additional year (ie N+2 years) if they are potential graduates for 2024, subject to academic and financial eligibility.

As academic performance is a crucial requirement stipulated by most funders, students must demonstrate their efforts and commitment in their academic performance to secure continued funding.

Students on UCT GAP funding in 2023, 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. For all academic appeals received, consideration will be given to whether a funding concession was previously made in respect of academic underperformance. It is important that submitted appeals contain all information relevant to enable a proper evaluation.

What you need to do: Students can submit an online appeal on the PeopleSoft Student portal. This function is only available to UCT GAP-funded students who did not meet the minimum academic progression requirements and are within N+2 years of study.

Due to budget constraints, appeals for funding will not be considered for N+3 or more years of study.

UCT funding for approved N+2 students that meet the policy criteria (eg that exceed the N+1 rule) will only cover tuition and a meal allowance. Students will be required to apply to other sources for funding for all other costs.

3.2 Students with fee debt from 2023 who were on UCT GAP funding

Each appeal for fee debt 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 on the PeopleSoft Student portal will only be available to students that have a fee block to register.

What you need to do: Financial aid students with debt can submit an online appeal on the PeopleSoft Student portal. If the online appeal form is not available, please email the Student Financial Aid Office at for assistance.

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

Students with outstanding 2023 fees, but have not been means tested, can appeal and be considered on financial need and academic merit and 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 where the gross family income is less than R600 000 per annum and an application for funding has been submitted to NSFAS for 2024 where applicable.

What you need to do: Email the Student Financial Aid Office at for assistance. 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 students must sign the appropriate documents 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 by 15 February 2024. It is therefore important to submit a detailed appeal with supporting documents as soon as possible so that decisions can be communicated as soon as reasonably possible subject to appeal volume and complexity. Complex appeals may take slightly longer, and students are kindly requested to limit repeat email enquiries.

3.4 SADC and international students’ undergraduate financial assistance

Despite UCTʼs efforts to extend the limited resources available, funding for undergraduate students primarily supports South African students, or those with permanent residency in the country. Unfortunately, UCT cannot provide relief for international students, including SADC students, due to resource constraints and 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.

4. 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 2024 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. Students are advised to enquire with their academic departments for scholarship possibilities.

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

The university provides financial aid for qualifying postgraduate students using similar eligibility criteria as for undergraduate financial aid. 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, master’s, 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 of less than 33.3%, postgraduate diplomas and certificates are excluded at postgraduate level.

These funding opportunities are administered by the PGFO via the UCT PG Financial Aid application, which is an online application. Applicants for need-based funding will agree to undergo a UCT means test using the information provided by the applicant. UCT merit and UCT need-sourced funding from the university’s general operating budget (GOB) are divided into four categories of awards:

4.1.1 PG financial aid

Applicants whose combined annual household gross family income is less than R350 001 are eligible for funding to cover their full cost of attendance.

Note: Students who qualify for full financial aid will not receive a separate merit award as this is incorporated in their full financial aid package already.

4.1.2 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 residences or private accommodation, or monthly allowances.

Note: Students who obtained a grade point average (GPA) of more than 70% in their previous degree qualification also qualify for a merit award.

4.1.3 UCT merit (honours, master’s/doctoral research scholarship)

Applicants whose previous career GPA for their final year courses is 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 R190 000; master’s R254 000 and doctoral R315 000).

4.2 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 academic merit and seniority of the candidate. The scholarships do not provide full cost support and all recipients should secure supplementary funding. 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.

4.3 Postgraduate diplomas

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

4.4 Postgraduate appeals

Postgraduate students can submit appeals 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 application form is available on the website. Completed appeal forms should be submitted to the Postgraduate Funding Office on

Please note: No appeal is available for international and refugee fee debt.

4.5 Postgraduate student 2023 fee debt

UCTʼs postgraduate funding policy precludes the use of bursary and scholarship awards for historic fee debt relief. Fee debt accrued in 2023 may only be considered under exceptional circumstances as outlined in the appeals category (a) above. Should you qualify under exceptional circumstances kindly email with your fully completed appeals application form. 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 +27 (0)21 650 3622, email, or visit the website.

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


Emer Prof Daya Reddy
Vice-Chancellor interim

Read previous communications:

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.