TWAS-NRF Doctoral Fellowship Programme 2020/2021 for study in South Africa (Fully Funded)


Application Deadline:14 August 2020

South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) are working in partnership with TWAS to advance science in developing countries through the NRF-TWAS Doctoral Fellowships.

Universities will set their own internal cut-off dates for applications and applicants must abide by those dates.

Programme Details

  • TWAS-NRF Doctoral Fellowships are tenable at research institutions in South Africa for a maximum period of three years. They are awarded to scientists from developing countries (other than South Africa) to enable them to pursue PhD research in the natural sciences.
  • NRF will provide travel to and from South Africa, a standard monthly allowance which should be used to cover living costs, such as accommodation, food and health insurance. The monthly stipend will not be convertible into foreign currency.The language of instruction will be English.


Applicants for these fellowships must meet the following criteria:

TWAS-NRF Doctoral programme:

  • be citizens or permanent residents of a developing country* (other than South Africa);
  • must not be living studying or working in South Africa or any developed country;
  • applicants who were previously employed or studying towards a degree, or undertaking research in South Africa, and have returned to their country of origin, but have been in their country of origin for less than two (2) years, are not eligible to apply;
  • must have obtained minimum of 65% at the masters’ level in order to apply for doctoral funding;
  • must register at a South African public university in 2021, 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;
  • must be a maximum of 32 years of age by 31 December of the year of application;
  • must have obtained an MSc degree in a field of natural sciences;
  • must have proof of evaluation of all foreign qualifications (obtained from non-South African universities) evaluated by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) or proof that the applicant has submitted his/her qualifications to SAQA for evaluation. Failure to submit proof will result in the application being rejected;
  • provide evidence that s/he will return to her/his home country on completion of the fellowship;
  • not take up other assignments during the period of her/his fellowship;
  • provide an official letter from a host South African institution, department or laboratory and motivation from the applicant’s host;
  • provide English language proficiency certificate (if available at the time of the application). If not available, this will be required before any NRF funds will be released to the student and must meet the following requirements of the English Language Proficiency Academic test: IELTS 6.5 (no band less than 6.0); or TOEFL (paper) 575 (TWE 4.5); or TOEFL iBIT (min. 20); or Cambridge minimum 58,
  • present a detailed research project that must be registered and approved by the host institution and provide a letter of support from the prospective host supervisor;
  • be financially responsible for any accompanying family members.

*The list of 151 eligible developing countries is available in the Framework document you may download at the bottom of the page.


Stage 1:

Application for acceptance at South African Institutions

Applicants must contact institutions in South Africa or potential supervisors to obtain a placement into the doctoral research training programme. For details of recognised HEIs and other Public Research Institutions click here.

  • Applicants must provide an official letter from their host South African institution, department or laboratory and motivation from the applicant’s host. It is the responsibility of the applicant to contact the respective institution to apply for acceptance. In addition, it is also the responsibility of the applicant to secure a supervisor for the study;
  • The research project must be registered and approved by the host institution (a letter of support from the prospective supervisor must be attached to the application.
  • Universities will set their own internal cut-off dates for applications and applicants must abide by those dates.

Application for evaluation of foreign qualifications from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)

Applicants must have all foreign qualifications (obtained from non-South Africa universities) evaluated by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA). Proof that at least the applicant has submitted his/her qualification for evaluation at SAQA must be submitted with the application, failing which the application will be rejected.

Applicants are advised to start this process early to allow time for processing. Information on the process can be accessed by logging on to On the SAQA website, navigate to Service – Evaluation of Foreign Qualifications – General Information. Applicants must strictly adhere to all the instructions and provide all applicable documents to avoid delays and rejection of applications. Applicants are advised to courier all application documents to SAQA directly.

Stage 2:

Submitting your application

Applicants must apply for the NRF – TWAS Doctoral Fellowship for 2021 by accessing the link: on the NRF Online application system 

On accessing the link, please follow the detailed guidelines in the step -by-step “Application and Funding Guide for 2021 academic year”. You can see or download the guide at the bottom of this page.

Remember to submit your application upon completion.

The deadline for applications is 14 August 2020.

No applications will be accepted after the deadline. Therefore, it is recommended to submit your electronic application as early as possible.

  • The call for applications where you will find the programme details, eligibility criteria, required documents and certificates as well as the online application form will only be available once the call opens. Applicants must be aware that NRF and TWAS will not accept applications submitted by any other means except via the online application portal.
  • Incomplete applications will not be considered as will applications that do not meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Contact the university postgraduate or research office for queries related to institutional processes and deadlines
  • Queries concerning the call for applications to the TWAS-NRF Fellowships programmes should be directed to the contacts below:


TWAS Fellowships Office

ICTP campus, Strada Costiera 11, 34151 Trieste, Italy

Tel: +39 040 2240 314, Fax: +39 040 2240 689

E-mail: [email protected]

National Research Foundation, South Africa

Ms Thandeka Mthethwa

Professional Officer: Grants Management and Systems Administration (GMSA)

Telephone:   012 481 4163

Email address:  [email protected]

For More Information:

Visit the Official Webpage of the TWAS-NRF Doctoral Programme 2020/2021


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