You’ve got your undergraduate degree, now for the next step. Here are the different types of postgraduate study offered at UCT.

Postgraduate diploma

This qualification comes at the immediate post-bachelor’s degree level. A postgraduate diploma can be similar to some honours and master’s qualifications but doesn’t require a dissertation or a significant research project.

For some postgraduate diplomas you need an undergraduate degree from the same discipline. Others are available to students with any undergraduate degree and act as conversion courses, allowing you to enter a specific career or profession.

Honours degree

This is a one-year degree, known as the gateway to postgraduate studies after you have achieved your undergraduate degree in South Africa. It usually involves a combination of coursework and a short research dissertation.


This is an advanced research-based degree in most cases. The normal tenure for most full-time master’s students is two years, but this can take longer depending on your schedule.

You can either do a research master’s by full thesis, or a research master’s by coursework and dissertation/thesis. There is also the option of a professional master’s degree where the research component may require a research-paper-styled submission, as well as or in place of, the dissertation/thesis.

Professional qualifications

Some careers have an accreditation system to certify a particular level of knowledge and skill. This could be at the postgraduate diploma, honours or master’s level.

For example, the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is a one-year qualification to train graduates who want to be school teachers.


Also known as a doctorate, this is the most advanced level research degree. It normally takes about three or four years to complete, concluding with the acceptance of a doctoral thesis.

It consists of a significant piece of research making a substantial contribution to knowledge in that field and must embody the original work of the student. Students are encouraged to publish during the course of their PhD.

PhD studies are done under the guidance of a supervisor, sometimes with one or more co-supervisors.