Notes for prospective PhD and MSc by dissertation students

This section is intended to offer some guidelines and suggestions for students who may be interested in studying at the FitzPatrick Institute. Please read it carefully before you contact us.

Funded research positions (i.e. those offering some bursary support) typically are advertised through our website. The timing of these announcements varies but tends to be clustered towards the end of the calendar year, to align with the academic year in the southern hemisphere, and annual funding cycles. Please read any adverts carefully to check your eligibility, because some positions are confined to specific sectors. We may also consider independent applications for study, but typically they will require the student to source at least a proportion of the funds towards their fees and living expenses. International applicants may be eligible for study abroad scholarships in their home countries.

The quality of your graduate experience will be greatly influenced by your choice of advisor. Before writing to potential advisors, think carefully about the kind of research that you would like to do and the skills that you would like to learn while doing it. Completion of a graduate degree requires persistence and motivation; it is essential to select a field of study in which you are really interested. We expect students to master a range of numerical techniques. You do not need these skills prior to registering at UCT, but you must be willing to learn them. We expect you to be motivated and inspired by your subject and to work hard to master new skills and meet challenges as they arise. Although we will assist you as needed, we do not micro-manage students or constantly issue instructions; spoon-feeding will not help you to grow.

We are able to accept applications from only a few of the people who write expressing an interest in coming to UCT. In making decisions we look primarily at three things: the quality and interests of the applicant, the availability of funding, and the current number of students in the lab. Competition for places is high enough that you will need good grades to gain admittance, unless you have an exceptional amount of work experience or other relevant skills.

The point of taking a graduate degree is to develop intellectually; the advisor's role is to guide, not to direct. If you decide to write to us, direct your application to a supervisor working in your field of interest, start with a short note introducing yourself and enquiring about the current availability of places. Attach the following to your enquiry:

  • A CV that includes your work experience, grades and any publications, as well as contact details for at least three referees who can attest to your academic ability.
  • A statement of interest that explains why you want to pursue a higher degree, what kinds of research questions interest you, and why you think that the academic you are addressing might be an appropriate supervisor.
  • A brief summary of the specific research project you have in mind