Join a vital research community

Make an original contribution to research. Follow your passion.
A PhD in Business Administration from the UCT GSB will set you on your path.

The University of Cape Town is Africa’s leading research institution and the PhD programme at the GSB is an essential component of this. PhD students at the UCT GSB are a vital part of our research community and research strategy. You will graduate with an internationally recognised and respected qualification and be able to demonstrate thought leadership in your specialisation.


3 - 4 years


PRC 1: 7 – 10 February 2022
PRC 2: 16 – 19 May 2022
PRC 3: 1 - 4 September 2022
PRC 4: 14 – 17 November 2022


31 October 2021


In line with the GSB’s research mission of "engaged inquiry in a complex world," PhD students are expected to make an original contribution to research. Primary guidance will be given by your supervisor and you will benefit from a rich network of support and interaction with fellow PhD students and faculty.

You will be studying in Cape Town, South Africa’s most beautiful city, at a globally-accredited business school with a world-class reputation. The UCT GSB is one of less than 100 business schools in the world to be triple-crown accredited. Join our research community to originate new ideas and develop innovative solutions to today’s pressing challenges. Research at the UCT GSB is focused around three major themes: emerging markets finance, investment and trade; social innovation and sustainability; and values-based leadership.


As the PhD is an independent research degree, students are expected to:

  • Develop a formal research proposal, in the first six months of registration, which will be presented to GSB faculty and students and then submitted to the Commerce Faculty's Higher Degrees Committee.
  • Agree with their supervisor on, and regularly reconsider, a set of commitments and a timeline outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which needs to be signed every year.
  • Keep their supervisor updated about progress within suitable, agreed timeframes.
  • Take a proactive approach to identifying learning needs and implementing suitable responses.
  • Actively participate in the GSB Research Calendar, especially in the first year of registration
  • As appropriate, actively participate in the academic life of the GSB through lecturing, research seminars and / or co-supervision of MBA research reports.
Entrance Requirements

Attributes and qualifications needed for this degree


The costs of a PhD

Available Funding

Scholarships and bursary opportunities for PhD students

How to Apply

Start your application for the 2022 intake


The typical duration of a PhD project is between three and four years, if the student is dedicating the bulk of her or his time to the project.

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. 

Although no maximum period of time is prescribed for completing a thesis, the university stipulates a "reasonable time", which is generally taken to be five years. If a candidate is not making satisfactory progress, the Commerce Faculty's Higher Degrees Committee may issue a warning, and, if necessary, may refuse re-registration.

Though we do allow part-time PhD students into the programme we recommend that students are able to dedicate at least 20 hours a week to the project. Experience shows that it is otherwise difficult to create and maintain the necessary momentum. Supervisors can at their discretion require students to adhere to certain time commitments.

Your nominated PhD supervisor must be a full-time academic at the GSB and must be actively publishing in 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.

Please note, 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, check the GSB website.

Read the guidelines for PhD candidates and supervisors here

Once registered in the PhD programme, you will have approximately six months to develop a full research proposal. This proposal will need to be presented formally to a committee consisting of at least three faculty members, including the supervisor. The key purpose of this presentation will be to a) assess that the student has been making adequate progress and b) provide some helpful feedback so that the student can improve her/his proposal prior to entering the field.

This process consists of the following:

  • Each PhD student commits to a particular slot in the dedicated student presentation PRC sessions in the GSB Research Calendar. If possible, each two-hour slot will include proposal presentations that are broadly in a related theme. There will be three presentations in each slot. This commitment to a particular slot ought to happen as soon as possible. 
  • Each proposal is assigned to an appraisal committee including at least three faculty members: the supervisor, the GSB Research Director (or her/his nominee), plus at least one additional faculty member with a pertinent background. The committee will be agreed upon by the GSB Research Director and the supervisor.
  • Each student submits to the appraisal committee (via the Research Director) a digital copy of the proposal at least one week prior to the presentation.
  • Each student has 20 minutes to present her or his proposal, followed by 20 minutes discussion.

The appraisal committee will provide formal feedback to the student in writing. The final appraisal
could be summarised in one of the three categories, akin to those provided for in PhD final assessments, i.e. a) good as is; b) requires some changes; c) wholly unsatisfactory. If the verdict is "a" the proposal and the committee's recommendation are sent directly to the Higher Degrees Committee in the Commerce Faculty. If the result is "b" the student will need to make specific revisions to the satisfaction of the supervisor, after which it will be sent to the Higher Degrees Committee. Inadequate proposals that receive a "c" verdict will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but the likely outcome is that the student will not be allowed to re-register in the next year for a PhD.

Click here for more information.

The GSB has an extensive network both locally and globally, and we frequently facilitate introductions for our students. 

During your research, you will have access to industry experts and key local and global specialists - from deep-content experts to market professionals working in the community. Their insight and feedback will help you to improve your solutions.

You will also have the opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals across different industries and build your network.

Once you graduate from the UCT GSB you will join our alumni network which is a dynamic forum that comprises more than 23 000 past GSB students in 68 countries worldwide. Many of the GSB’s alumni hold key positions in top companies or have started their own successful businesses. Alumni play a vital role in supporting and encouraging more recent graduates to follow in their footsteps and GSB students who find employment after graduation - particularly internationally - frequently do so through alumni contacts.

  • Contact our admissions team on 0860 UCT GSB (828 472) / +27(0) 21 406 1111 or email
  • Attend one of upcoming information sessions, which are held all over the world, click here for more information.


Associate Professor Sean Gossel’s expertise at the GSB lies in the areas of financial economics, and financial globalization. He lectures Public Sector Finance, and Corporate Finance and Investment on the MCom (Development Finance) program, the Capital Flows and Emerging Markets elective on the MBA program, and Macroeconomics on the EMBA. Sean’s lectures seek to position finance and macroeconomics in a historical, emerging market, and financial globalization context. This focus carries over into his research and supervision.