All postgraduate research happens under the supervision of an academic staff member.

The role of a supervisor is to guide you through the research process and methodology, facilitate access and help you find relevant literature.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this relationship, we offer a guide for how to find the right supervisor.

Faculty first

Each faculty, department and discipline has a different way of handling supervision. Check your faculty’s individual website for information on how your specific programme manages the process.

Many departments also have a designated postgraduate student support contact. This person may be able to advise you on supervision.

You may also contact your head of department or reach out to other postgraduates if you are struggling to find a supervisor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Think ahead

Research master’s or doctoral degree students may need to start looking for a potential supervisor at least six months ahead of registration. If your supervisor needs to endorse your application for funding, you might have to start even earlier.

For coursework master’s degrees, decisions about research dissertation topics and supervisors are made after completion of the coursework.

To give you a clearer idea of the supervisor role, read the guidelines for PhD candidates and supervisors here.

Choose wisely

Supervision is a long-term working relationship. Get to know your potential supervisor and their area of expertise before deciding. Start by approaching them with an email conversation and, if possible, schedule a meeting in person.

Be resilient

Don’t take it personally if a supervisor declines your request for supervision. Academics can only supervise a certain number of students. It’s best to have a supervisor who can give you the time and attention you need.


Depending on your research, and particularly if it is interdisciplinary, appointing one or more co-supervisors might be best.

Co-supervision by someone within or outside UCT is possible, but your principal supervisor must be someone employed at UCT. Discuss co-supervision options with your supervisor when you get started.