Pretoria – The Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) is offering a number of bursaries for postgraduate studies in the 2020 academic year.

  • 6-12 Honours bursaries at R60,000 each (funding for one year)
  • 6-12 Masters bursaries at R90,000 per year for a maximum of two years
  • 2-5 Doctoral bursaries at R120,000 per year for three years.

The number of bursaries allocated per each level of study will be determined by the number and quality of applications for each level.

Programme background:

The FBIP is a long-term programme to generate, manage and disseminate foundational biodiversity information and knowledge so that this can be managed, secured, disseminated and applied to address the needs of society. The programme is funded by the Department of Science & Innovation (DSI), and managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

 Study field:

Successful applicants will be expected to carry out projects that include aspects of taxonomy (e.g. species revisions or new species descriptions), DNA barcoding, generation of species occurrence records / data (e.g. biodiversity surveys) or the application/use of such data in addressing questions relevant to global change or the bioeconomy (eg. predicting changes in species’ distributions associated with climate change, or impacts of climate change on phenology).

Eligibility criteria for applicants applying for Honours, Masters & Doctoral studies:

  • The bursaries are open to South African citizens and South African permanent residents.
  • Applicants must register at a South African public university in 2020 on a full-time basis and may be based at any South African public research institution including Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), Science Councils and National Research Facilities.
  • Individuals who will be in full-time salaried, contractual or permanent employment while pursuing Honours, Masters or Doctoral studies may not apply.
  • Students who are registering for the second year of their Masters or Doctoral studies will be eligible for one year of funding in the case of Masters or two years of funding in the case of Doctoral studies. Students registering beyond these time frames are not eligible for these FBIP bursaries.
  • Students who will already have a postgraduate bursary from NRF or another state-funded organisation are not eligible to apply for these bursaries. Students who will hold another bursary from a non-public source for their studies may be considered, depending on the bursary value.

 Selection Criteria (Honours, Masters & Doctoral studies):

  • All applications will be assessed by the FBIP using the criteria below. In the case of honours students who do not have a project, a letter describing potential areas of focus for projects and studies and a letter from the anticipated project supervisor or Head of Department or School need to be submitted.

 The following criteria will be used to assess applications:

1.   Academic record and time taken to complete previous degree  30
2.   Relevance of proposed project to the FBIP focus  40
3.   Support of supervisor and motivation for why the bursary is needed  30


  • A prioritisation process for applicants scoring a minimum overall score of 60% in the scorecard will be carried out according to NRF equity targets (see below) and with a maximum allocation of two funded students per supervisor.
  • Historically Disadvantaged Institutions will be prioritised.

 Equity and redress

While ensuring that only applications that meet the FBIP review and selection criteria are supported, the selection procedure will prioritise support for appropriately qualified applicants from designated groups in line with the national imperative of enhancing equity of postgraduate student access, success and throughput using funding.

In accordance with NRF policy, postgraduate bursaries will be allocated as follows in terms of race and gender:

  • 80% Black (African, Coloured, and Indian)
  • 55% Women (African, Coloured, Indian and White).

 What the bursary covers:

The bursary allocation is intended to cover registration fees and / or living expenses. Project supervisors are expected to cover the running costs of projects.

Financial control

These awards will be managed in terms of standard NRF financial policies and procedures. Once SANBI has notified the successful applicants they will be expected to register at the university where they will be studying, and to request the university to nominate them on the NRF system for the bursary. The payment of the grant to successful applicants will be administered by the Grant Management and Systems Administration (GMSA) Directorate of the NRF to the relevant universities. The university/institution will in turn administer the funds on behalf of the successful applicant to the value of the full sum awarded by the NRF.

Note: Postgraduate students, may only hold one Scholarship of Bursary from the NRF or another state-funded organisation at any one time.

 Application process:

Please follow the link to complete the application form for 2020 support and submit the form with the required documents listed below. Please name each document clearly. Files must be <10MB.

  • Full CV;
  • Certified copy of a South African Identity Document (ID);
  • Academic transcript showing marks for courses studied;
  • Certified copy of highest qualification;
  • Statement of acceptance and support from their prospective supervisor / Head of Department. It is the responsibility of the applicant to contact the respective institution to apply for acceptance and to secure a supervisor for the study;
  • Project outline (1-2 pages) or in case of honours students who do not have a project, a letter describing potential areas of focus for projects and studies needs to be submitted.
  • Letter of motivation for scholarship (1/2 -1 page).

Closing date: 17h00 on 28 January 2020

Download FBIP call for scholarships 2020 PDF


Dr Lita Pauw


Telephone: 012 843 5113