Careers Portal

Faculty and Research


PhD Programme

Faculty & Research

GSB PhD Programme

The GSB PhD programme is an essential component of our research strategy and PhD students are a vital part of our research community. PhD students should graduate from the GSB not only with an internationally recognised PhD qualification, demonstrating thought leadership on their area of specialisation, but also a broader understanding of and passion for research.

When considering an application for registration for a PhD, the University Senate will be guided by the GSB Director and evidence that the candidate is in possession of a recognised Master’s degree (or in special circumstances, at the discretion of the Senate, an approved Bachelor’s degree or qualification recognised by the Senate as equivalent). Candidates must demonstrate that they have the necessary competencies in research methodology and practice that are required for the completion of an independent study research degree.   

Anyone wishing to enrol in the GSB’s PhD programme will need to submit an online application via The application will need to include the following:

  1.  A preliminary proposal of about five pages in length or about 2500 words. The purpose of the proposal is to make a case for the research to be undertaken, and it will need to show that the applicant has the ability to identify a pertinent research question, has at least an initial grasp of the relevant literature, and has some of the necessary competencies in research methodology and practice that are required for the completion of an independent study research degree. The proposal should include (not necessarily in the following order):
    1. An abstract of 100 words;
    2. An outline of the essential background literature;
    3. The rationale of the proposed research, with reference to the intended practical and theoretical contributions;
    4. The key question(s) to be addressed and the main objectives (and if appropriate, hypotheses) of the research;
    5. The approach to be taken in doing the project, in terms of research design and data generation and analysis methods;
    6. References.
  2. A curriculum vitae
  3. An academic transcript
  4. Two appropriate references
  5. A covering letter, which should include:
    1. A motivation for embarking on a PhD
    2. A motivation for choosing the GSB
    3. At least one nomination for an appropriate supervisor based at the GSB, and a justification of this choice. (For a full list of GSB faculty and their research interests, please visit click here)

The PhD programme commences at the beginning of each year. For registration in 2014, applications need to reach us by 15 November 2013. Applicants will be notified by 30 November.

Applications will be assessed by the GSB Research Working Group, or a predefined sub-set thereof. The nominated supervisor(s) will be invited to this discussion. A joint decision will be made to confirm that the applicant can register for a PhD at the GSB, after which the application is forwarded to the University’s Doctoral Degrees Board.

Your nominated PhD supervisor must be actively publishing in the scholarly literature in the field in question. A PhD dissertation must focus on an important and substantive research problem and its outcome must be an original contribution to science within the field of research. GSB faculty can discuss applicants’ research ideas and preliminary proposal at their discretion, but we advise you not to contact potential supervisors without some preliminary research ideas. Note that you cannot be registered if there is no suitable or available supervisor for your proposed research at the GSB.

International applicants for whom English is a second language are required to submit one of the following:
  • A recent score on the TOEFL Test of at least 570 (paper-based) or 230 (computer-based) or 88 (internet-based).  This must be obtained within 3-5 years before applying to UCT.
  • A recent overall band score of 7.0 (with no individual element of the test scoring below 6.0) on the international English Language Testing System (IELTS).
Information on the TOEFL test is available from or and for the IELTS through the British consulate or embassy in the applicant’s home country.

The typical duration of a PhD project at the GSB is between three and four years, if the student is dedicating the bulk of her or his time to the project. A four- to five-year period is to be expected if the student is dedicating more or less half of her or his time to the PhD. We recommend that students are able to dedicate at least two full days a week. Experience shows that otherwise it is difficult to create and maintain the necessary momentum.

A candidate must be registered for at least two consecutive years, although registration for a year at another university may be accepted as part of that period. Supervisors can at their discretion require students to commit to certain time intensity commitments.

Students enrolled in the PhD programme are expected to:
  • Participate actively in the GSB’s Research Calendar, especially in their first year of registration;
  • Agree with the supervisor on a set of commitments and a timeline, including a date of submission for the official proposal, to be outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (which is signed once registered in the programme);
  • Keep the supervisor updated with progress within suitable, agreed timeframes;
  • Take a proactive approach to identifying their learning needs and to implementing suitable responses; and
  • Actively participate in the academic life of the GSB through lecturing, research seminars and / or co-supervision of MBA research reports.

Once the student is registered in the GSB’s PhD programme, she or he has about six months to develop a full research proposal, which will need to be presented to GSB faculty, formally accepted by the GSB Research Working Group, and submitted to the UCT Higher Degrees Committee, prior to commencement to field work. A PhD Progress workshop will be held twice a year as part of the GSB Research Calendar to enable a presentation of the proposals. Failure to make such a presentation at a minimum level of scholarly quality may result in a failure to be re-registered for the PhD in the second year.

To assist in this process, GSB PhD students will be expected to participate actively in the GSB Research Calendar. This includes:
  1. A research design and methodology workshop, which is normally hosted in January and co-facilitated with international guest lecturers. This workshop aims to provide participants with an opportunity to read about and discuss foundational concepts in research design, theory and method, and to relate these to their research projects;
  2. At least four PhD and Research Colloquia (PRCs) – these are two- or three-day workshops in which participants discuss key themes and readings on organisational and management theory and on methodologies.

Information about tuition fees can be obtained from the Student Fees Office at the following email address: For information about financial assistance, please visit the website of the UCT Postgraduate Funding Office.

Application fee: R100

More general information about the doctoral degree at the University of Cape Town is available here. 

For programme queries, please contact the Research Co-ordinator, Naomi Jacobs on 021 406 1441 or email

For assistance with the application procedures, please contact the Admissions Department via the details located here.