Applying for PhD study
Applying for admission as a doctoral student in Sociology may seem quite a daunting process. These notes are offered as practical guidelines for prospective students. They do not replace the official rules and regulations (as laid out in UCT’s official handbooks on General Rules and Policies and the Humanities Faculty’s Postgraduate Studies Handbook).
As a first step, please read the following document on applying for a PhD in the Sociology Department. Please also see links and downloads in the right-hand column of this page.
You need to be academically very well prepared to be admitted as a PhD student. This usually means having at least a good Master’s degree in Sociology (or an acceptable alternative social science discipline) and proven competence as an independent social researcher. A good research Master’s degree (i.e. a degree completed by dissertation only, without coursework) usually fulfils these requirements. Alternatively, a Master’s by coursework and dissertation may be acceptable if both the overall mark and the dissertation mark are very good, that is at least 70%. These minimum requirements do not guarantee admission.
These entrance requirements are sometimes relaxed for "mature" students, i.e. students who are older and have been out of the university world for some time. In such cases, we look for other evidence that the applicant is motivated and capable of completing a doctorate.
Students are sometimes admitted to study for a research Master’s degree with the possibility of a later change of registration to a PhD. A change of registration to PhD will only be approved if the student has demonstrated clearly that they are capable of completing successfully the PhD.
The admission of students to study for a PhD entails three stages:
1. A preliminary stage to ascertain whether there is a fit between the student’s interests and the department.
2. The formal application.
3. Transfer from provisional to full registration.
At this stage you should communicate with the Postgraduate Administrator in the Sociology Department, Lorraine Valentine (firstname.lastname@example.org). You may also communicate directly with academic members of staff who are possible supervisors. However, it is advised that you CC Lorraine in all correspondence during this preliminary stage.
Please send Lorraine:
- Your CV (which includes the University contact details of two academic referees)
- A short proposal: this should be 6 to 8 pages or 2-3000 words in length; it should indicate clearly and succinctly (1) what you propose to research, (2) how you propose to research it, and (3) why this will be a significant contribution to one or other branch of sociology, including with respect to the existing literature. This is not a binding commitment on your part: if you are admitted, then we expect that the design of your thesis will evolve. But you must demonstrate the basic coherence of your proposed thesis topic.
- All past academic transcripts (undergraduate and postgraduate)
- A writing sample. This should provide evidence of your academic – preferably sociological – writing ability and your command of research methods; your Master’s dissertation would best serve this purpose.
- A motivation letter
If you have identified one or more possible supervisors in the Department, you should also indicate this. You might then be referred to a potential supervisor for further discussion. This step is important because the Department of Sociology will only take on a new doctoral student if that person has met the academic requirements and there is an appropriate supervisor within the Department who is both qualified, available and willing to provide the necessary supervision. Even if there is a qualified supervisor in the student’s proposed field of research, he or she might not be available or willing to supervise.
If none of the professors or lecturers in the department is qualified, available and willing to serve as supervisor, then the Department will not admit the student. It is at this point, therefore, that the Postgraduate Administrator, on behalf of the Department’s Postgraduate Committee, will advise you whether or not to proceed with your application.
All requested documents must be provided in order for a proper assessment to be made. If there is definite interest expressed in your potential candidature, you will still be required to complete the full application process (see section below) before a formal response is given.
Once you have established that the Department of Sociology will consider your formal application, you should proceed with applying formally for admission. Formal applications are done online, on: http://applyonline.uct.ac.za
Students will be required to register provisionally for a PhD, and will transfer to full registration only when the Department is satisfied with the student’s progress, and once their research proposal has been approved by the University's Doctoral Degrees Board.
Students who are registered provisionally for a PhD are expected to spend their first six months developing, under supervision, their research proposal. To assist new students with provisional registration, the Department endeavours to hold an 'induction' session for new PhD students to discuss the requirements of a full proposal. New students are required to attend. Students are sometimes required or advised to take appropriate Masters- or even Honours-level courses to help their preparations.
After six months, or earlier if you and your supervisor agree that the proposal is ready, you will be required to submit a full proposal and present it at a Departmental seminar. This full proposal should be approximately 20 pages (6-8000 words) in length.
For more information on the research proposal, and the presentation thereof, see the Department's PhD Application guidelines.
**Please note that the Department is unable to respond to fee-related queries**
**See Section 5 of the Fees Handbook for particulars**
An annual International Fee (not applicable to local, SADC or PhD students) is levied every year of registration.
SADC students are levied an annual Administrative Service Fee.
Scholarships and bursaries are administered by the Postgraduate Funding Office.
For information on funding, see the Postgraduate Funding Office web pages and the Financial Assistance for Postgraduate Study and Postdoctoral Research handbook. The Postgraduate Funding notice board is another useful source for funding opportunities.
You can contact the Funding Office at pgfunding[at]uct.ac.za.
The deadlines for the UCT- administered awards vary from July to the end of October and usually pre-date the deadline for application submissions, so please submit your financial applications in on time if you are considering applying for a degree.
**Note that the closing date for the International Students' Scholarship is 31 July of the preceding year of study**