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Research Master's

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Admission to Research Master's

Admission is by formal application only.

Applicants for the Masters by Research should have a strong academic record at the Bachelor and Honours levels. 

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

Admission to Master's degrees in general

For admission at Masters level students must have a BA (Hons) or BSocSc (Hons) degree or equivalent qualification.

External candidates and UCT Honours students must apply via Central Admissions.  For UCT students, the Postgraduate Committee decides when the results of the Honours Independent Projects have become available.

South African Bachelors degrees are three years in duration.  If you have a four-year undergraduate degree, you might be eligible for straight admission into the Masters programme.  International students seeking clarification on their qualifications may want to look at the South African Qualifications Authority website.  They will, for a fee, provide an official evaluation of foreign qualifications and what their equivalencies are with respect to South African qualifications.

Deadlines - application and registration

Applying: Research Master's applicants may apply at any time, but keep the various registration deadlines in mind (see 2 and 3 below).  Allow for enough time (at least 1 month is recommended) for the assessment process to be completed in order to make the registration deadlines.  Please ensure that all required documentation is provided.  Bear in mind that university holidays may impact on assessments.  Mid-June to mid-July, as well as mid-December to end-January, are times when academic staff are generally on leave or research leave and the department is unlikely to be reviewing applications at that time.

First-time registrations:

  1. New Masters research (100% dissertation) 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 time of 1 year, and may also impact scholarship funding.  
  2. If a new PhD or Masters research (100% dissertation) student registers before 30 June they are charged the FULL annual fee.
  3. If a new PhD or Masters research (100% dissertation) student registers after 30 June they are granted a 50% rebate of the annual course fee.

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


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 faculty approval.  If the revised proposal is not completed within three 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 for the thesis is levied as per normal.

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.