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About PhD Admission

Admission is by formal application only.

It is general departmental policy to admit only PhD applicants who have a strong track record of research and hold a Master’s degree or equivalent.  Our expectation is a minimum of 70%, or the GPA equivalent, at Masters level.  We do, however, consider each application on its own merits - i.e. this is a guideline and not a rule.

In addition, the department will only accept students who wish to work in a research field where the department has expertise.

As the Doctoral Degree Board (DDB) policy requires, a full PhD proposal should be submitted on admission or within 6 months of registration where applicants are admitted on a provisional basis with the opportunity to work on their proposal under supervision.

It is important to recognise that applicants with funding/scholarships are not favoured in the process of admission; that is, scholarships should not be awarded with the presumption that the Department will accept the applicant.

Deadlines - application and registration

1.  Applying:

PhD applicants may apply at any time, but if you are aiming to register before 1 May (see 2.1. below), then it is advisable to apply before 1 April in order to allow for sufficient time for the application to be processed and reviewed.  Candidates should ensure that all required documentation is provided.

Please note that there are times during the academic year when responses are likely to be delayed.  In particular, the period from mid-December to end-January (academic staff are on annual leave until end January, administrative staff tend to take their annual leave between mid-December and mid-January), as well as the start of each semester when the university is busy with registering and assisting the new cohort of students, as well as dealing with start of term matters.  Applicants are requested to bear this in mind when applying.

2.  Registering:

Registration takes place after the formal application has been processed and only if a student has been accepted - either provisionally or with full approval.

First-time registrations:

  1. New PhD students may register throughout the academic year but it must be before 1 May if it is to count as the first academic year of study (towards the minimum period of registration).  This is pertinent for those candidates who would like to graduate within the minimum legislated time of 2 years; UCT supports 3-5 years to complete a PhD.
  2. If a new PhD student registers after 30 June they are granted a 50% rebate of the annual course fee for that year.  See the UCT Fee handbook for details and confirmation.

Returning candidates: must register by no later than 28 February each year.

Formal Application Procedures

UCT application information, and the link to the online application form, will be found on the UCT Applications page.

You will be required to supply supporting documentation.

In order to apply online you will need a working email address and your South African identity number or, if you are an international applicant, your passport number.

Once the application has been submitted online the Faculty will refer it to the department for consideration. 

Supporting Documentation - what to provide when you apply

The following documents should be submitted as part of your formal application:

  1. A full research proposal or preliminary research proposal of about 3 pages consisting of the following:

    * Title – Hypothesis and Thesis Question
    * Aims and Objectives
    * Rationale (why it is important)
    * How it fits into the broader literature in the field

  2. Your transcript (the official marks from institutions attended, together with an explanation of the marks structure, if needed)

  3. A sample of your academic writing - this should be a chapter of your Masters thesis or an academic article you have written

  4. Your curriculum vitae

All of the above requested documents must be provided in order for a proper assessment to be made.

Presenting your Proposal

If your documentation and proposal have been approved for potential registration, as well as a suitable supervisor assigned, the next step is to present your proposal to a panel of staff within the department for approval.  This will take place either before official registration or, if you are accepted for provisional registration, within 6 months of registering.

Once proposals receive departmental approval, these are sent through to the faculty for submission to the DDB and final approval.

Provisional registration

The department's postgraduate committee may recommend registration on the understanding that this period of enrolment will be spent doing further work to the proposal, under supervision, to prepare the proposal for departmental, faculty and final Doctoral Degrees Board approval.  If the revised proposal is not completed within six months of registration, or is not approved, there will be no continued registration into a second year of study.

Presentation of your proposal will be required during this period of provisional registration.

During this first period of registration, the annual registration fee is levied as per normal, as well as any other required UCT fees such as the annual fee for International students.  See the UCT Fee handbook for details.

Contacting Potential Supervisors

It is preferred that applicants lodge a formal application with UCT before any personal dialogue is opened with potential supervisors.  Applicants are advised to look at the staff profiles on our staff page for an idea of the research areas covered by staff in our department.  The appointing of a supervisor will depend on whether there is relevant expertise in the department and whether staff have expressed interest in supervising the proposed topic.