What The NSFAS N+Rule Means For Unisa Students


Understanding the N+Rule is critical for students benefitting from NSFAS funding. This is because the rule dictates how long a student can receive funding. 


Struggling to afford university fees? The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) can help! They offer bursaries to deserving students at universities like Unisa, alongside TVET Colleges across South Africa.

But before applying, it's important to understand the N+ rule and how it affects your funding timeframe.

NSFAS acts as a lifeline for many students, providing financial aid through bursaries and loans. This opens the doors to higher education at any of the 26 public universities or 50 TVET Colleges in the country.

The University of South Africa (Unisa) is Africa's largest open distance learning university, making it a perfect choice for busy individuals. Unisa leverages online platforms like myLife and myModule to deliver a flexible learning experience.

Unisa is one of the 50 universities NSFAS will cover students at. For NSFAS-funded Unisa students, the N+ rule is a crucial factor.

What the N+ rule is

The NSFAS N+ rule is there to ensure NSFAS funds are used effectively while supporting your studies. But what exactly does it mean?

The N+ Rule defines the maximum timeframe you'll receive financial aid. The 'N' represents the standard number of years it typically takes to complete your chosen qualification while the '+' signifies the additional time a student will be funded for to account for unexpected circumstances that could slow down your studies.

Currently, most students operate under the N+1 Rule. This means you'll receive funding for the standard programme duration plus an extra year for flexibility.

Students living with a disability qualify for the N+2 Rule, offering an extended year of funding.

How the N+ rule applies to Unisa students

For university students in South Africa, the N+ rule takes into account your total registration history at any public university, not just the time you were funded by NSFAS.

According to the NSFAS Eligibility Criteria and Conditions for Financial Aid, the N+ rule is applied to Unisa students as follows:

In the instance of distance university students studying at a non-contact university, the N period of study equates to double the minimum time required to complete the qualification.

The N+ rule works a little differently for distance learners at universities like Unisa. 

The "N" in N+ represents the typical time to complete your qualification. NSFAS adds an extra year (the "+") for Unisa students to account for unforeseen circumstances.

The "N" for distance students, such as those at Unisa, is doubled. This acknowledges the unique challenges of self-paced, remote learning.

Why do Unisa students get more time?

Distance learning programmes offer more flexibility, allowing students to progress at their own pace. This flexibility might result in longer completion times compared to traditional classroom-based programs.

By doubling the N period, NSFAS acknowledges this flexibility and provides extended funding to accommodate those who might take longer to complete their degree through distance learning.

NSFAS funding is contingent upon the specific qualification for which a student is registered in a given semester. If a student decides to change their course of study from one semester to the next, the N period adjusts accordingly.

This adjustment is necessary because the new qualification may require more or less time to complete than the original one.

If a student switches qualifications and the remaining funding under their original N period (accounting for any semesters already spent studying) is insufficient to cover the entirety of the new qualification, NSFAS funding unfortunately ceases.

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