NRF-Nuffic Doctoral Training Programme in South Africa

Posted by | May 17, 2020 | Funding Opportunities in Africa, South Africa

NRF-Nuffic Doctoral Training Programme in South Africa

NRF-Nuffic Doctoral Training Programme

South Africa aspires to produce more doctoral graduates as a means of increasing its global competitiveness, high-level research skills and knowledge production. One way to achieve this is by creating international partnerships and networks between scientists and research institutions, with a focus on training doctoral students.

The National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa has a mandate to promote and support research through funding, human capacity development and the provision of the necessary research infrastructure. In order to realise this mandate, the NRF has made a substantial commitment and investment towards supporting the next generation of researchers to intensify and strengthen African and global networks.

In recognition of the long standing collaboration between South Africa and The Netherlands in education and research, and with the ambition to strengthen postgraduate training while enhancing sustainable collaboration between South African and Dutch higher education institutions (HEIs), an agreement was signed in 2017 between the NRF and Nuffic (Netherlands organisation for internationalisation in education represented locally in South Africa by Nuffic’s Netherlands Education Support Office). This agreement is an implementing arrangement under the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the fields of science and technology between the governments of South Africa and The Netherlands (2015).

Through this partnership between the NRF and Nuffic, doctoral funding will be provided for South African citizens and permanent residents to study full-time in The Netherlands (i.e. single site mode). Institutional level agreements between Dutch HEIs and Partner Institutions in South Africa to enable full-time joint doctoral degrees will also be supported (i.e. split site mode).

In addition, the NRF is implementing a new Postgraduate Funding Policy in 2020 wherein postgraduate funding allocations will be underpinned by the principles of equity of opportunity; representivity; prioritisation; and enhanced access, success and throughput. This Postgraduate Funding Policy gives effect to the Ministerial guidelines for improving equity in the distribution of DSI/NRF Bursaries and Fellowships (2013). Citizenship, age, gender and disability will be considered in the allocation of funding, with transformation of the postgraduate cohort as the core objective. Financial need, is for the first time, included as a criterion for determining the level of funding. To attract and retain a diverse range of students, funding levels will be increased to cover the full cost of study for students who meet required criteria.



The objectives of this funding instrument are to:

  • Strengthen cooperation and internationalisation between Dutch HEIs and Partner Institutions in South Africa through joint supervision of doctoral candidates;
  • Foster sustainable institutional collaboration between South African and Dutch HEIs, contributing to the bilateral research agendas;
  • Promote and advance science, research and innovation;
  • Support the development of a critical mass of globally competitive knowledge-workers in South Africa in prioritised areas;
  • Contribute towards increasing the number and quality of South African postgraduate students in all areas of Science, Engineering, Technology, the Social Sciences and Humanities; and
  • Effect transformation in the percentage representation of postgraduate students from designated groups, namely black, female and persons with disabilities.

Doctoral Training Modalities

The two modalities of doctoral training that will be funded are:

(i) Full-time doctoral studies at a Dutch HEI, referred to as the Single Site Mode, and;

(ii) Full-time doctoral studies jointly developed and implemented by a Dutch HEI and a Partner University in South Africa, referred to the Split Site Mode and resulting in a joint degree from the partner institutions.

Application Process

Applications for funding for doctoral studies in the 2021 academic year must be submitted through the NRF Online Submission System at – NRF Postgraduate Scholarships.  Students must first identify the university where they will be registered for their postgraduate degree before submitting an application to the NRF.

Important Documents:

pdf NRF-Nuffic Doctoral Training Programme in South AfricaNuffic Doctoral Funding Framework 2021

General Application Guide 2021

Cut-off Dates for Submission to the NRF

Closing date for single site applications: 1 June 2020

Designated Authority (DA) Cut-off date for split site applications: 14 August 2020 (Please liaise with your institution regarding their internal closing date)

Please refer to the application and funding documents when completing the online application form at every step of the process.

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