Application to study for a PhD can be made through the relevant faculty office.

The faculty office must approve your research proposal. The guidelines are not rigid rules, and the thesis does not need to be fully researched before registration. But you must understand how to put a research proposal together.

Read more about the application process.

The Doctoral Degrees Board (DDB) approves PhD candidates and administers the examination of PhD theses.

Visit the events calendar of the Office for Postgraduate Studies and Researcher Development (OPGS) to learn about and register for workshops that support PhD students, from starting out to finishing off, and include a broad range of topics relevant to the PhD journey.

Procedure for examination

After you have finished your research, you must submit a thesis for examination. Your supervisor will tell you when the thesis is acceptable for submission.

As a PhD candidate you can submit your theses at any time as long as you are registered for 2 years.

The DDB will not insist on your supervisor’s approval before accepting a PhD thesis, but it is recommended that you only submit your theses after getting your supervisor's approval. You must inform the DDB officer in writing of your intention to submit your theses.

The DDB office is running a pilot for the oral examination of the PhD thesis, which will require students to orally present and defend their thesis to the examiners. Should you be interested in volunteering for the pilot, kindly consult your supervisor and email phdoral@uct.ac.za.

The PhD students’ examination guide is available from the downloads page.

Format of thesis

PhD candidates must upload an electronic copy of their thesis in the required format on the PeopleSoft student administration self-service.

After completing the research, first upload the signed 'intention to submit' form on PeopleSoft at least 6 to 8 weeks prior to uploading the thesis for examination.

All communication from UCT about the examination process will be by email. PhD candidates must ensure that they have their username and password and are able to access the PeopleSoft student administration self-service.

Submission guideline dates

Notice of intention to submit

PhD candidates who want to send through their intention to submit their theses for examination should refer to Rule GP5.3 in the General Rules and Policies handbook (Handbook 3) which states the following:

Where candidates intend to submit their thesis for examination they must inform the Doctoral Degrees Board Office in writing of their intention to do so before submitting the thesis for examination. It is recommended that the thesis be submitted for examination 5 months before the next the graduation ceremony to allow time for the examination process to run its course. The university does not however undertake to reach a decision on the award of the degree by any specific date.
Graduation ceremony September 2024 March 2025 September 2025
PhD candidates must upload their notice of intention to submit their theses for examination on PeopleSoft. At least 6–8 weeks before the submission of their theses for examination. At least 6–8 weeks before the submission of their theses for examination. At least 6–8 weeks before the submission of their theses for examination.

Submission of theses

Ceremony September 2024 March 2025 September 2025
PhD candidates to upload their theses for examination on PeopleSoft by the recommended submission guideline dates February 2024 July 2024 February 2025
This date is a guide – 5 months before the SLQ closing date for the graduation ceremony. This date is a guide – 5 months before the SLQ closing date for the graduation ceremony.

This date is a guide – 5 months before the SLQ closing date for the graduation ceremony.

Students who submit prior to 10 February 2025 will not be required to register and pay tuition for the 2025 year.

Depending on the outcome of the examination process and the date that the examination process is concluded, a PhD candidate may be eligible to graduate at the next available graduation ceremony. But there is no guarantee that the examination process will be concluded by the graduation ceremony deadline.

Graduation ceremony deadline dates

Ceremony September 2024 March 2025 September 2025
Graduation list closes.
Final date for qualifier status to be on system.
3 July 2024 December 2024 (TBC) July 2025 (TBC)
Contingent on whether the examination process is concluded by this date. Contingent on whether the examination process is concluded by this date. Contingent on whether the examination process is concluded by this date.

Please read the graduation and submission notice.

Examination

The examination is confidential. You will only be informed once a decision has been made. The university does not undertake to reach a decision on the awarding of the degree by any specific date.

The thesis is examined by 3 examiners who should be of high international standing with relevant and significant academic experience. Normally at least 2 should be international (ie outside South Africa).

The selection of examiners is an important part of the examination process. The appointment of examiners is subject to approval by the DDB.

It is important that candidates have no knowledge of the identity of examiners until the examiners give permission for their identities to be known after the examination process.

Graduation

Depending on the outcome of the examination process and the date that the examination process is concluded, a PhD candidate may be eligible to graduate at the next available graduation ceremony.

Graduation ceremonies are managed by the Student Records Office and information about graduation is available on the graduation web page.

The DDB office notifies PhD candidates of the outcome of their examination by email. If the outcome of your examination is favourable, you will be required to upload the final library copy of your thesis and ensure that you have no outstanding fees to be settled. All correspondence to students is sent to their UCT email account (myuct.ac.za).