An overview of The African Studies and Linguistics undergraduate and postgraduate academic programmes can be found be below.

The African Studies major is an undergraduate programme which offers students a coherent multi- and inter-disciplinary introduction to the study of Africa. The undergraduate major in African Studies offers students a structured programme drawing from the interdisciplinary field of African Studies. The programme draws from the intellectual resources of Africa, both past and present, to create a curriculum that affirms student agency; promote engagement, social and cultural awareness, and self-reflexivity in engaging with knowledges from Africa and the rest of the world. The programme provides students with opportunities to critically interrogate issues around language, knowledge production, political economic and power. Grounded in a strong theoretical and conceptual African Studies tradition, the programme provides an enriched distinctive pedagogy that develops in students high levels of criticality and creativity through the use of interactive learning, multi-media and project work. The major seeks to produce graduates who have a keen understanding of their context – both African and globally, and who have the capacity to contribute to the society in which they live. For details on the structure of the programme and core courses offered, please refer to the Faculty of Humanities Handbook. 


The Ph.D. programme in African studies is a research-based programme; students are not required to do coursework.  Prospective Ph.D. students should submit a draft proposal stating the specific topic they intend to focus on for their Ph.D. research.  Doctoral candidates are required to spend a period of up to six months
in residence in Cape Town to prepare and finalise their research proposal.  The proposal should be presented to the department before embarking on fieldwork and data collection. Research for a Ph.D. dissertation or thesis that involves human participants must undergo an ethics review, according to the specific guidelines provided by the Faculty of Humanities. At the end of the research study, Ph.D. candidates, working with their supervisors, are expected to compile and present a dissertation or thesis of not more than 80,000 words (excluding references) for examination.

The following degrees are offered at postgraduate level:

  • Postgraduate Diploma in African Studies
  • Honours in African Studies
  • Taught Masters in African Studies (in which the dissertation counts 50%)
  • Research Masters in African Studies (by dissertation only)
  • MPhil in Environmental Humanities
  • Ph.D. in African Studies

The African Studies Unit is staffed by faculty with a range of disciplinary backgrounds, who work collaboratively as an interdisciplinary team. Existing teaching strengths and research directions include:

  • African and African diasporic critical and intellectual traditions
  • Postcolonial and decolonial theory
  • Questions of public culture, heritage, and memory
  • Questions of archive and curation
  • Questions of African literature and culture
  • Agrarian Studies and questions of land reform and redistribution
  • African political economy

Students have substantial freedom in constructing a curriculum that suits their interests. There are also two named streams in African Studies:

  • An Honours degree in African Literature and Culture
  • Honours and Masters degrees in Public Culture and Heritage in Africa

The Linguistics programme offers students key insights into the scientific and social-scientific study of language. Throughout the undergraduate programme students critically engage with the following questions about language:

  • What are the functions of human language?
  • What does it mean to know a language?
  • How is language used or misused in various contexts?
  • How is language structured?
  • How is language represented in the mind?
  • How has language changed/ evolved, and how can we describe these changes?
  • How do children acquire languages?
  • Can animals learn language?


Linguistics is interdisciplinary and is particularly useful in combination with cognate disciplines like psychology, gender studies, sociology, and education, for example.

Other areas of use include academia/ research, learning design, language documentation, language policy and planning, copy editing and publishing, advertising, media, television/ film, education/ language teaching


For details about individual courses, please consult the Humanities Undergraduate handbook, or e-mail the undergraduate convenor, Dr Miché Thompson 

  • Honours/Masters in Linguistics
  • Research Masters in Linguistics
  • Ph.D. in Linguistics