Applying for admission
The Faculty will consider an application to register for an MSc or PhD degree from anyone who meets the academic entrance requirements. For an MSc this is an Honours degree or equivalent. An Honours degree is a post-BSc qualification. A four-year Bachelors Degree may be accepted, but full details of what has been covered in the degree will need to be provided. Entrance requirement for registration as a PhD student is an MSc degree or equivalent. Where a candidate does not have an MSc degree, initial registration for an MSc will be required, with the possibility of upgrading to a PhD registration at the start of the second year of registration if satisfactory progress is made (see section 8.4). International students might require certification of their degree equivalence from the Human Sciences Research Council (contact the Postgraduate Administrator in the Faculty Office for the address); the Faculty reserves the right to make a final judgement on the South African equivalence of a foreign degree.
Prospective candidates wishing to register for a PhD or an MSc by dissertation should have a discussion with the Head of Department or prospective supervisor prior to applying formally to the University. Unless currently registered in the Department for another degree, you will generally have to provide the Head of Department with the following:
- a curriculum vitae which includes your personal details, your academic history and any work experience;
- an official transcript of your university results;
- in the case of an application for the PhD, provide a summary of your MSc research and list any publications which have arisen from this;
- the names and contact details (including e-mail addresses) of two referees who are familiar with your recent academic studies;
- a brief outline of your area of interest for research towards your MSc or PhD degree;
- the names of prospective supervisors if you have a preference;
- an indication of when you will be available to start your studies;
- an indication of whether you will require funding to cover the costs of study fees and living expenses, and details of any scholarships that you have applied for.
Only once you have some commitment from the HoD or potential supervisor should you apply formally to the University. Students from non- English speaking backgrounds may be required to take the international Toefl test. Acceptance by a Department is provisional, and you will still require formal acceptance by the Faculty of Science.
The formal University application procedure requires that an applicant complete a standard UCT application form (UCT1 for persons currently not at UCT or UCT5 for those currently registered for another degree at UCT) via the Admissions Office, Kramer Building or online, for admission to the Science Faculty. Acceptance by a Department is provisional, and you will still require formal acceptance by the Faculty of Science. Advice on application procedures can be obtained from the Postgraduate Administrator in the Science Faculty Office. Do not arrive at UCT until you have been formally notified by the Faculty of Science that you have been accepted for postgraduate study.
Places on coursework Masters degree programmes are normally limited and applicants are accepted on a competitive basis. Students interested in applying for admission to one of these programmes should first consult the Department concerned to determine closing dates for applications, and what documentation is required. Some Departments have their own application forms. Only once you have been formally advised by the Department that you have been offered a place on the course should you apply formally to the University (see above).
Finding a Supervisor
Once a student has decided on the broad research area in which he or she wishes to work, a suitable supervisor needs to be identified. Except in exceptional circumstances, the principal supervisor must be a full-time permanent member of the academic staff of the Faculty. Co-supervision by persons within or outside the University is possible, but a person employed outside of the University may not act as principal supervisor.
The choice of supervisor has to be approved by the Head of Department. It is important that the Head of Department is satisfied that the proposed supervisor has adequate knowledge, time and resources to do the job properly. In the case of Doctoral candidates, the Doctoral Degrees Board is also responsible for the adequacy of the supervisor. Academic staff who do not have a PhD, will not normally supervise PhD degrees. In rare cases, people who are experts in their fields and have prior supervisory experience, but who do not have a PhD, are approved by the Doctoral Degrees Board to be the primary supervisor of a PhD thesis.
In the case of a student currently registered at UCT, the process of finding a supervisor which is outlined above will normally take place during the year prior to embarking on postgraduate study.
Selecting a Research Topic
The selection of a topic for research for an MSc or PhD may occur in two ways. Either the topic of research is identified by the prospective student, or a supervisor might provide a number of possible projects from which the student can choose; either way the supervisor and student need to agree on the selected research topic. The suitability of a research topic depends not only on its intrinsic academic merit, but also on funding realities. It is, however, the responsibility of the candidate to make the final selection, and it is wise to choose a topic of strong interest rather than one offering the better funding.