Stellenbosch postgraduate students might soon have to make do without merit bursaries.
Earlier this semester, students were left confused when the website for postgraduate funding stated that it would no longer be possible to apply for postgraduate merit bursaries.
The university is revising its postgraduate funding model and one of the bursaries under review is the merit bursary.
However, the university denied that it is no longer interested in rewarding academic excellence and stated that budget restrictions have led to the review of merit bursaries.
Martin Viljoen, spokesperson for the University of Stellenbosch, said: “The formula and format is still under discussion but the eventual goal is that an incentive fund will still reward academic excellence on postgraduate level.
“Among others, there is now an incentive to encourage students to complete their studies within the minimum allowed period.”
Chantal Swartz, manager of postgraduate student funding in Stellenbosch, said that due to financial pressures that are being felt nationally and internationally, they are being forced to review the requirements for postgraduate funding.
“It has been a very careful and well thought out process. It did not happen overnight, it happened over a few months,” she said.
“We do not want to, in any way, compromise academic excellence,” said Swartz.
Due to the throughput rate of the university not being what it should be, the university is considering the following: “For your Masters and your PhD, which are the research bursaries, we will incentivise you if you complete your degree in the minimum period. Then we will give you a bursary at the end of your studies,” said Swartz.
Kaliope Geldenhuys, a third year BA Development and Environment student, was one of the students left confused by disappearance of the merit bursary on the website. “I was really looking forward to being rewarded for all the hard work and sacrifices that my family has made.
“I wanted to be able to prove to my family and myself that my hard work had been recognised by the university,” Geldenhuys said.
Swartz said that they cannot confirm any of the changes yet. “We can only tell students that it is in the process of being revised and the intention is not to disadvantage any student,” said Swartz.
Swartz added that a differentiated approach would be taken per faculty. The aim of investing the “limited funding more wisely, while still maintaining academic excellence and supporting financially needy students” is the university’s main concern
Viljoen said that while the bursary is under review the university cannot accept applications. The new bursary scheme is expected to be approved in December 2017 by the Senate. – Dalaine Krige