The Harry Oppenheimer Trust was established in 1958 by the late Mr Harry Oppenheimer in memory of his father, Sir Ernest, and has a long tradition of investing in education and related fields. The Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship was initiated by the Trustees about 15 years ago and is the Trust's most prestigious award.

The award focuses unambiguously on excellence and exceptional scholarship. It is granted to candidates of the highest calibre to enable them to undertake a programme of cutting-edge, internationally significant work. The award seeks to attract world-class candidates with visionary ideas based on an exceptionally well-developed grasp of a field or topic.


The award carries a monetary value of R1.5 million.


The Trust calls for nominations from South African universities, science councils, research and policy institutes and other institutions or agencies of similar national standing. The Trust also considers applications from individuals who do not have specific institutional affiliations.

Candidates will be considered who:

  • are residents of South Africa (age is not a factor in selection)
  • are outstanding achievers who are very well established in their field
  • are regarded as leading scholars internationally, have undertaken advanced research for many years and have a track record of sustained intellectual effort
  • present submissions that describe a clearly focused and specific project that offers a 'visionary idea' that represents a paradigm shift in current thinking, seeks to make important discoveries and contributes significantly to new knowledge
  • demonstrate a commitment to transferring skills and building capacity in South Africa.

Special consideration will also be given to the following points:

  • the value of the proposed work: its particular application to teaching, research and development in South Africa; its potential to push the frontiers of knowledge in the given field or area of interest; its contribution to the advancement or application of knowledge in the service of society
  • the coherence and practicability of the proposed programme and its feasibility within the limit set for the award and the given timeframe of approximately one year
  • the candidate’s proven achievement and his or her ability to profit from the use of the award; by proven achievement, the Trust would be looking for candidates who have, inter alia:
    • attracted research funding on a competitive basis
    • published peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals or scholarly books through high-profile publishers
    • successfully supervised graduate students to completion o secured invitations to, and seats on, international bodies and institutions

Application and nomination procedure

Written submissions must be supported by the following information:

  • an up-to-date curriculum vitae
  • a complete list of publications (by way of an annexure)
  • a brief synopsis in lay terms (two to three A4 pages) of the work to be undertaken, together with a written motivation explaining the reasons for the work
  • details of the proposed work programme, including estimated timeframes and costs (specifying the major components of the budget and associated expenses – in the range of R1.0 million to R1.5 million i.e. within the limit set and based on realistic needs)
  • the envisaged outputs and outcomes
  • current reports from at least four highly-placed referees of international standing who are familiar with the candidate's work; referees should be properly briefed about the nature of the award and its significance so that their remarks are directed appropriately and their reports must be submitted under separate and confidential cover directly to the Trust - the Trust may elect to contact these referees or other experts for further information.

Nominations, applications and selection process:

  • The Trust will consider nominations from institutions (the preferred route) as well as applications from individuals who do not have specific institutional affiliations.
  • Institutions are requested to publicise the award internally and actively seek out and encourage their best candidates to apply, including candidates who may have been nominated or short-listed in prior years. There is no limit to the number of nominations that may be made by any one institution but each nominee will require formal endorsement in the form of letters from his or her vice-chancellor, principal, rector, chairperson or chief executive or one of their deputies (as appropriate).
  • Candidates without institutional affiliations may apply directly to the Trust.
  • The Trust will engage in a formal selection process and no correspondence on its decision will be entered into.

Payment and Reporting Funds will be disbursed in two instalments – an initial payment in advance and the second at the half-way stage, on submission of a progress report to the Trust. The fellow will be required to submit a reflective report (including commentary on the impact of the work) to the Trust within six months of completion of the programme.

For a list of previous UCT winners of this award, see UCT Research and Innovation.


For more information about this award, contact