Bursary Guide: CSIR (Council for Scientific & Industrial Research)

The CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) offers bursaries to students wishing to pursue tertiary education in various scientific fields.


The CSIR is one of South Africa’s foremost scientific research and development organisations, with operations extending throughout most of the country that are responsible for scientific advancement across many different fields. Overall, it is the largest scientific R&D organisation in the whole of Africa, accounting for more than 10% of the continent’s R&D budget. As such, it has an important role to play in the advancement of African science and the development of new technologies in Africa.

The history of the CSIR begins with its establishment by an Act of Parliament in 1945. Originally intended to be a national science council or ‘think tank’, the mandate of this newly formed body was to oversee multidisciplinary research, innovation in different technological fields, and and development of both science and industry in areas that would have a positive impact on the South African society and economy as a whole.


science lab


During its 75-year tenure, the CSIR has been responsible for many scientific advancements and technological developments that have seen considerable application and value within South Africa, Africa at large, and even globally. The first of these to be internationally recognised was the Tellurometer, a new type of machine for measuring distance developed at the CSIR by Trevor Wadley in 1956.

Seeing the commercial application in such an invention, the CSIR was quick to set up its own patenting division in 1957, becoming one of the first R&D organisations in the world to do so. By 1959, the CSIR held some 75 patents, many of which continue to generate royalties even today.

Other inventions developed by the CSIR include the first injectable medicine produced from plants, a satellite-based fire warning system, a computer for the blind, and a monitoring system that used ultrasound to detect and prevent train derailments. Perhaps the most prominent example of technology developed by the organisation are the lithium-ion batteries used in almost every laptop and mobile phone around the world. Recent inventions include the world’s first digital laser and three-dimensional underwater imaging system.


Bursary program overview


The CSIR’s bursary program is aimed at prospective students looking to pursue a career in research, technology, development, and innovation in many different scientific fields. By so doing, it aims to extend the opportunities for such education to promising young minds who would otherwise be unable to afford the training and skills development they need to make their unique and potentially world-changing ideas come to fruition and be developed into usable and profitable products.

By encouraging this kind of creative scientific thinking and providing opportunities for it to grow, the CSIR hopes to lay the groundwork that will help to solve many of South Africa’s technological problems, and potentially those of the entire world.

Aimed primarily at undergraduates, but including an honours component, the CSIR bursary program is open to all candidates who qualify academically, and puts particular emphasis on attracting more women and black students to the scientific, engineering, and technology disciplines.



In addition to providing educational opportunities, the bursaries also afford a mutually beneficial opportunity for successful candidates to join the CSIR team following the completion of their studies, and contribute their knowledge to the organisation while also gaining experience and developing key skills in their chosen field in what is a forward-thinking and cutting-edge research environment.

In accordance with the CSIR’s commitment to upholding the principles of the Employment Equity Act of 1998, preference is given to applicants from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those with disabilities. This policy ensures that the bursaries go towards creating an environment at the CSIR and in the South African R&D field as a whole that supports diversity and enables the sharing of different viewpoints and ideas.

To qualify for a CSIR bursary, applicants must be South African citizens, have achieved a minimum of level 5 for Grade 11 English and level 6 for Grade 11 Physical Science and Mathematics, and be enrolled at a recognised tertiary institution. For current undergraduate and/or prospective honors students, all previous subjects must have been passed to guarantee eligibility.


Qualifications covered


CSIR bursaries are open to students who are enrolling in undergraduate or honours level qualifications, preferably in fields relating to science, mathematics, engineering, or technology. Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Science qualifications are preferred. For candidates wishing to apply for University of Technology qualifications, a separate BTech bursary is available. All bursaries are offered exclusively for qualifications that are for full-time studies.




CSIR bursaries are well-endowed, and provide many benefits to successful candidates that can significantly lighten the load of tertiary education. The bursary package is intended to be as comprehensive as possible, and as such, covers tuition fees in full. Registration and other administrative fees are also covered. An allowance is made for books, stationery, and any other equipment that may be needed over the course of the candidate’s studies.

Accommodation and meals at a hostel or residency run by the institution at which the bursary recipient is enrolled is also covered at a rate determined in conjunction with the institution itself. Furthermore, successful candidates are provided with an extra allowance for a laptop, as well as a monthly stipend for day-to-day living expenses. All told, these benefits provide almost all the financial support that is needed to ensure that bursary recipients are able to complete their degrees with flying colours.


Application process


Applying for a CSIR bursary is a straightforward process. Prospective candidates can obtain the necessary forms from the CSIR website, or request them via email. An online application portal is the preferred method, and can be found at the above address. By using this method, candidates can select their desired bursary for their chosen field, upload any necessary supporting documents, and submit with ease. An email will be sent to confirm receipt of the application. Applications close on 19 June of each year.

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