HSAFP Eligibility and Selection Process

HSAFP was established to provide educational enrichment for educationally disadvantaged South African midcareer professionals. Individuals who have shown considerable skill in their chosen fields stand to benefit from advanced training, and, it is hoped, can use that advanced training to further South African political, social, and economic progress. Thus, candidates who have just completed, or who have not yet completed, a first degree are not selected unless this degree is being pursued concurrently with, or subsequent to, experience in the workplace. Fellows usually range from 30- to 45-years-old.

The program is open to all South Africans who qualify. Priority will be extended to mid-career applicants from historically marginalized or underrepresented groups, including applicants from rural areas outside urban centers. HSAFP seeks to expand its reach to institutions and organizations across South Africa in a continued effort to draw the broadest possible range of candidates for the program. In addition, the University – reflecting the current South African constitution – has expanded its applicant pool to extend to all South Africans, regardless of ethnicity or race. Ideal candidates are those who seek to model ethical leadership, knowledge sharing, and serve as a resource to improve and transform their communities and South Africa. Applicants whose interest in the program is only in seeking an advanced degree or professional certification to advance their own career interests are not ideal candidates. Alumni of the program are expected to remain involved after the completion of their fellowship and serve as ambassadors for the fellowship.

Fellowship applications are submitted directly to the Center for African Studies, and a committee of HSAFP alumni, Harvard University faculty, and Center staff interview short-listed applicants in South Africa. Successful candidates must then apply and be admitted to the specific Harvard school where they intend to study. Admission to any Harvard program, including for HSAFP finalists, remains solely within the authority of the Admissions Committee of each Harvard school or program—not with the Center for African Studies.

Applicants must determine well in advance whether, if awarded a fellowship, they can be granted leave by their employers to study at Harvard for the duration of their intended program dates. Most graduate programs run from August until May; however, some programs require fellows to begin residence as early as the end of June. Executive education programs at Harvard Business School can require a mix of both on-campus and off-campus modules over the course of several months. No candidate should accept an interview unless they have been assured that such leave will be granted.

Applications are opened annually in January to citizens and permanent residents of South Africa, with applications due in April. The Center for African Studies conducts an administrative review to ensure candidates have submitted a complete application; applications that are missing required components, have circumvented word limits, and/or otherwise failed to follow application instructions are disqualified. Following administrative review, candidate applications are shared with the portfolio/program directors of the participating schools. In consult with the portfolio/program directors, the Center for African Studies Oppenheimer Faculty Director, CAS Executive Director, and HSAFP Program Director identify a short-list of candidates to be interviewed.

Short-listed candidates are invited to participate in an interview with a Selection Committee comprised of the HSAFP Faculty Director,  the CAS Faculty Director, the CAS Executive Director, the HBS Africa Research Center Executive Director, and HSAFP program alumni. Interviews are typically 30 to 45 minutes in length and provide an opportunity for the Selection Committee to learn more about the candidate beyond his or her application as well as for the candidate to ask any questions they have about the program and Harvard. Beginning with the 2020 application cycle, interviews were moved to a virtual format (Zoom) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We anticipate that 2022 interviews will also be conducted virtually.

The Selection Committee, under the direction of the HSAFP Faculty Director John Mugane, makes the final deliberation on which candidates will be offered a fellowship. The Selection Committee evaluates its decisions based on a candidate’s academic strengths, disadvantages faced or adversity overcome, financial need, chances of admission and ability to succeed in the program, and the expected impact a candidate will have on South Africa upon his or her return. Candidates are evaluated in their entirety; that is, there is no single factor or distinction by which decisions are made.

Following selection, candidates who are awarded a fellowship will be invited to apply for admission to the graduate or professional school. Candidates who are not awarded a fellowship but who are shortlisted for interviews will be provided with summary feedback from the Selection Committee. Candidates who were not selected are eligible to reapply to future cohorts. Beginning with the 2021 application cycle, CAS will also share summary candidate profiles and review comments with members of our Africa Advisory Board and Leadership Council, who serve a role in promoting the fellowship and recruiting applicants.  

For the 2020 application cycle, a total of 71 applications were received, 12 candidates were shortlisted for interviews, and five candidates were awarded fellowship slots, pending their admission to the participating graduate and professional schools. For the 2021 application cycle, we anticipate awarding one fellowship for HKS-MC/MPA, one fellowship for the GSAS (either Special Student or Visiting Fellow), one fellowship for HSPH-MPH, one fellowship for HLS-LLM, and two fellowships for HBS (either HBS-AMP, HBS-GMP, or HBS-PLD).

Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions page with any questions. Further inquiries about the Harvard South Africa Fellowship Program should be addressed to Nthatisi Quella, Africa Office Director with the subject line "HSAFP Query."