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PHD Programme

Application Process & Requirements

Applications to the GSB PhD programme are welcome between 1 May and 10 October for commencement at the beginning of the following academic year. Please note that no late applications will be considered. Applicants will be notified by 1 November.

Applicants need to be 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). They 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. 

Applicants will need to include with their application a nomination of a suitable supervisor. Your nominated PhD supervisor must be a full-time academic at the GSB and must be actively publishing in the scholarly literature in the field in question. GSB faculty can discuss applicants’ research ideas and preliminary proposal at their discretion, but we advise applicants not to contact potential supervisors without some preliminary research ideas. Note that it is not always possible to find a supervisor who is both suitable and available, and an applicant cannot be registered if there is no available supervisor for the proposed research at the GSB. (For a full list of GSB faculty and their research interests, please see here).

Applicants will need to submit an online application via http://applyonline.uct.ac.za. 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):
    • An abstract of 100 words;
    • An outline of the essential background literature;
    • The rationale of the proposed research, with reference to the intended practical and theoretical contributions;
    • The key question(s) to be addressed and the main objectives of the research;
    • The approach to be taken in doing the project, including a preliminary outline of the proposed research design and data generation and analysis methods;
    • References
  2. A curriculum vitae
  3. An academic transcript
  4. Two appropriate references
  5. A covering letter, which should include:
    • A motivation for embarking on a PhD
    • A motivation for choosing the GSB
    • At least one nomination for an appropriate supervisor based at the GSB, and a justification of this choice.

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.

International applicants for whom English is a second language are required to submit one of the following (unless this requirement is waived by the GSB Research Director):

  • 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 toefl@ets.org or www.toefl.org and for the IELTS through the British consulate or embassy in the applicant’s home country.

More general information about the doctoral degree at the University of Cape Town is available via the UCT GSB website listed under Overview and requirements.