The Thuthuka Programme, initiated in 2001, is central to the NRFs human capital development strategy in so far as it relates to advancing the equity and redress agenda within the research sphere. The programme is located within the ICP sub-directorate, which falls within the Human and Institutional Capacity Development directorate at the NRF. Operating within the ever evolving higher education landscape the programme aims to develop human capital and to improve the research capacities of designated (i.e. black, female and disabled) researchers, ultimately redressing historical imbalances. This is done in partnership with South African public institutions of higher learning and research institutions. The programme seeks to achieve this through its specific research grant which funds grant holders participating in research from a wide range of scientific disciplines. The grant supports well-structured research projects with achievable aims and sound methodologies which support the study’s objectives and demonstrate the prudent use of funds.

Whilst the primary aim of the Thuthuka programme remains to promote professional development of researchers from designated groups, participation of non-designated individuals are not excluded. The programme not only contributes to the NRF’s strategic goal of creating a maximum number of high-quality PhDs to drive the knowledge economy, but also to the organisation’s vision of growing a more representative science and technology workforce. Thuthuka is designed to deliver a comprehensive package to assist under-represented researchers materially through its funding products and educationally through the value-adding support projects.

  • Support researchers from designated groups in their pursuit to attain a formal post graduate qualifications or a NRF rating;
  • Improve the research capacity of individual researchers from designated groups;
  • Foster a culture of research excellence and to aid in the development and expansion of the national knowledge-based economy by boosting research outputs and human capital development; and
  • Effect a transformation in the demographic composition of the established researcher community with respect to gender, race and persons with disabilities.

Target groups

The grant supports basic research that seeks to facilitate government's equity and redress agenda within the research domain. The grant supports individuals from under-represented groups who wants either advance from MA to PhD level, or supports PhDs to become independent researchers who will ultimately assume positions of academic leadership:   

  • Blacks;
  • Coloureds;
  • Indians;
  • Women; and
  • People with disabilities.

Although not explicitely targeted, white South African are encouraged to apply for particpation in this programme.