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Conditions of Award


The University of Cape Town places major emphasis on equity development among its staff and in its student body. A central consideration is the recruitment of new academic staff from demographic groups previously excluded from academic life by apartheid legislation. To this end, UCT has inaugurated a set of innovative programs that recruit black people and women early in their academic careers. Known collectively as the Equity Development Program (EDP), these forms of support provide a combination of fellowships and study opportunities in partner universities abroad. The EDP is co-ordinated by the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED).

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF) is an established and successful US equity development program that the funders, the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, have agreed to extend to South Africa as part of UCT's EDP. This is the only component of the EDP that will recruit undergraduate students. The aim is to identify exceptionally promising black students at a very early stage and, through the provision of financial support, mentoring and stimulating academic activities, to establish them on an academic career track that will lead to their becoming scholars in their field in South Africa.

Details of MMUF at UCT are set out below.

Selection Process

Black students who are entering the final year of a three-year first degree or the third year of a four-year professional degree will be eligible for selection as MMUF fellows. Up to five fellows will be selected annually.

Students considered for recruitment to the MMUF program will:

  • have an established track record;
  • have expressed enthusiasm for research; and
  • be well known to the academic staff who have taught them.

Students are expected to perform above the average for the class as a whole, preferably in the top third. Students in a three-year degree program will be expected to apply for admission to an appropriate Honours program as a condition of the award. 

Applicants will be expected to have a background that includes community service and established extra-curricular activities. UCT would like applicants to submit an essay of approximately 500 - 750 words in support of the application, on one of the following topics:

  1. Reflect critically on your success at UCT thus far and future developments, OR
  2. Reflect critically on how YOUR home/community environment has contributed towards or impacted on your progress (social/academic) at UCT, OR
  3. Write an essay about someone (or something) you regard and value very highly, and relate the way in which this someone (or something) has inspired and influenced your life choices/path thus far.

Applicants will be interviewed by a selection panel.

Program Co-ordination

The MMUF program is co-ordinated by an administrative and academic co-ordinator in CHED. The fellows benefit from a range of developmental activities focusing on the use of information technology, communication skills and expository writing, as well as other appropriate topics.

Program Structure

The structure of UCT's program will follow closely the approach adopted by established MMUF partners. It will have the following aspects:

  • UCT-MMUF fellowships will span two years: the final year of the undergraduate degree and a one year Honours program, or the final two years of a professional four-year program. Students who have come through an extended curriculum program will be eligible for selection on merit in the same way as students who have come through the regular curriculum.
  • UCT MMUF fellowships provide financial support. This includes a term time stipend and summer stipend. The actual amounts awarded each year will be determined by the Selection Committee who will take into account the loan forgiveness component required by the funders. Students in receipt of other bursaries are not precluded from applying.
  • UCT MMUF fellows will receive stipends for one or more months of the summer vacation each year that they are on the program. These will support carefully planned vacation work in which students work as part of a project in their chosen field of study. MMUF fellows will be attached to experienced researchers and specialists who can contribute, through the practical experience of "doing research", to the students' personal development and sense of academic mission.
  • UCT MMUF fellows will travel to the US for a "summer institute" of the kind offered by Emory University as part of the established MMUF program. This will take place at a MMUF partner institution during the mid-year vacation (four weeks in June-July). STUDENTS WHO APPLY FOR THE FELLOWSHIP MUST BE PREPARED TO NEGOTIATE WRITING THE JUNE EXAMS AT UCT EITHER BEFORE THEIR DEPARTURE TO THE US OR ON THEIR RETURN which is subject to Faculty agreement. UCT will in turn host a three-week program for its UCT MMUF fellows and five selected MMUF fellows from the US at suitable times.
  • Continuation of the award to a second year will be subject to satisfactory performance.

Loan Forgiveness

Loan forgiveness, which is an established aspect of the MMUF program in the US, will also be an element in the program at UCT. Students selected for the MMUF program will become eligible for loan forgiveness once they register for either a Masters or a Doctoral degree at the UCT.