Impact of funding on academic performance: An exploration of two South African universities

Keywords: academic performance, student funding, South Africa, higher education, average individual scores


Empirical evidence on the relationship between student funding and academic performance is unclear. Some studies have found a positive relationship and others have suggested a negative one, whilst even others, suggest no relationship. Acknowledging that a range of factors, other than funding, impact on student success, this paper contributes most explicitly to a small, but emerging, literature on the relationship between student funding and academic performance, proxied by the average individual academic mark for the year. Descriptive and inferential statistics were applied on data of a sample of 29 619 students registered at two South African universities for the 2018 academic year. Results suggest overall that there is a moderately positive and significant relationship between the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary funding and average scores. At institutional level however, we find that this relationship is no longer significant, and negative at one and weak at the other university. The results also show that the extent of the effect of other variables on academic performance differs across institutions and when funding types are taken into account. Relevant policy consideration from the findings are highlighted.

Research Articles