The Research Development Fund (RDF) is managed by the Office of Research Development and enabled by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) through the University Capacity Development Grant. It offers seed funding for research running costs to support research towards a masters or doctoral degree, post-PhD training or bridging funds for newly appointed researchers. The basis of the RDF application is a detailed funding proposal with clear aims and objectives which are matched to specific activities, outputs and outcomes.


  • Provide seed funding for early and mid-career researchers who are registered for masters or doctoral degrees.
  • Foster research productivity among early and mid-career researchers with a PhD by providing seed funding for research running costs.
  • Facilitate post-PhD training for researchers who have completed their doctoral qualification to develop and submit research grant applications to external funders.
  • Support the research productivity of newly appointed early and mid-career researchers by providing bridging funds.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Applicants must be emerging researchers with academic, administrative or joint academic and administrative professional appointments at Nelson Mandela University. In general, this includes Professional, Administrative and Support Services (PASS) members of staff who are pursuing masters and doctoral degrees.
  • Newly appointed emerging researchers must be in their first or second year of appointment.
  • Applicants pursuing masters or doctoral degrees must be registered and have a proposal approved by the Faculty Postgraduate Studies Committee.
  • Applicants who hold a doctoral degree must pursue research that will yield peer-reviewed accredited outputs (e.g. publication in DHET accredited journals) and/or conference presentations. They must also intend to develop and submit research grant applications to external funders.
  • Professional, Administrative and Support Services (PASS) members of staff are eligible to apply for RDF.

Ineligible Applicants for Internal Research Grants:

  • Researchers who received or hold a valid NRF A, B, C, Y or P rating.
  • New Generation Academics Programme (nGAP) academics who are in their first and second year of appointment are excluded from applying. They should apply instead for the DSI-NRF Research Development Grant.
  • Applications from postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and lab technicians or similar will not be accepted
  • These grants may not be held concurrently with grants than provide funding for lecturer replacement such us the NRF-funded Black Academics Advancement Programme.

Application Process:

  • Application for the Research Development Fund must be submitted online at:
  • Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • All applications must include a recommendation from the Head of Department (HOD) and the relevant Director of School (DOS). Applicants are kindly requested to follow up with the relevant parties to ensure that recommendations are submitted timeously.
  • This call has no closing date, applications received will be reviewed each month and outcomes communicated to applicants.

Award and Period of funding:

  • The RDF funds research running costs up to a maximum of R40,000. The grant should be expensed in the academic year in which it is awarded. No carry-over of unspent funds will be permitted, and the funding is not transferable to another grantholder. A detailed, well-motivated budget should be submitted and may include the items listed below:
    • Materials and supplies
    • Small research equipment
    • Proposal development
    • Research / technical / ad hoc assistants
  • Items that are not funded by the RDF are as follows:
    • Funding for activities related to obtaining a second masters or doctoral degree.
    • Registration and tuition costs for the masters or doctoral degree (kindly seek HR assistance in this regard).
    • Bursaries or scholarships for postgraduate students.
    • Teaching replacement (this category is covered through the Teaching Relief Grant).
    • Conference travel (this category is covered through the Conference Travel Grant).
    • Basic office equipment (desks, chairs, filing cabinets, photocopiers, printers).
    • General stationary, photocopying and printing costs.
    • Telephone, fax and internet costs.
    • All ICT equipment (personal laptops, computer hardware, and purchase or renewal of software licenses) is excluded, unless for specialised equipment and software licences expressly motivated as part of the research running costs.
    • Professional society memberships, journal subscriptions (unless strongly motivated where the journal cannot be sourced by Nelson Mandela University or via partner institutions).
    • Publication Fees (this funding is provided by the Department of Research Support and Management once a paper has been accepted for publication).
    • Books, unless well motivated and supported for a specific purpose. Kindly note that all book purchases are to be made through the library and as per policy, they will then be bar coded and placed on permanent loan to you.
    • Costs for finalisation of thesis - editing and printing (this funding is provided separately by the Office of Research Development).
    • Any budget request listed as: “miscellaneous”, “other” or “etc.”

Conditions of the award:

  • All funding from other sources must be reported to the Office of Research Development and the total funds received by the applicant shall not exceed the total expenses.
  • For funding towards obtaining a postgraduate qualification, evidence must be shown of:
    • Significant progress made towards obtaining the qualification; and
    • Inter alia conference presentations and/or publications in DHET accredited journals.
  • For Post-PhD funding towards a specific research project and bridging funds for new staff at Nelson Mandela University, evidence must be shown of:
    • Significant progress made towards meeting the aim and objectives of the project; and
    • Peer-reviewed accredited outputs (e.g. publication in DHET accredited journals) and/or conference presentations.

Documents to be submitted with the application:

  • Detailed, well-motivated budget
  • Motivation for Funding
  • Project Proposal
  • Relevant supplementary information


  • Successful applicants agree to post-grant reporting requirements and will be required to provide proof of progress in terms of envisaged outputs.


IMPORTANT: The Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (POPI Act) has been promulgated and implemented on 1 July 2020. All personal identifiable information provided by applicants shall be treated in accordance with this statute and only used for academic and academic administration purposes, as indicated by the Nelson Mandela University Privacy Policy. By applying, emerging researchers provide consent for use of all their personal identifiable information provided to the university for the aforesaid purposes.


This grant is enabled by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) through the University Capacity Development Grant (UCDG)


Contact information
Ms Jadine Januarie
Research Development Administrator
Tel: 041 504 2027

Office of Research Development