Before proceeding with the application, potential applicants are asked to review the research interests of staff in the staff directory in order to familiarise themselves with the available expertise and locate their prospective research within the Department.

Prospective applicants are advised also to ensure they have adequate funding to cover their fees and study expenses (various bursaries and awards are available on successful application through the Postgraduate Funding Office – see below for more details). 

Applicants should note the University requirement that PhD candidates be resident in Cape Town, or available to attend regular meetings at the University, for at least one academic year in total during the period of their registration.  

Admission requirements

  • Masters degree or equivalent qualification.
  • Admission through the recognition of prior learning is possible in appropriate circumstances. Such admission is processed and decided in terms of the RPL policy and must be supported by the HOD and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

How to apply

Applicants are advised to approach the department by sending a 300-word concept note and curriculum vitae to the PhD convenor and selected supervisor (if they have one), in order to determine supervisory capacity for their research project. Thereafter, applicants are required to submit a proposal together with the formal UCT application form and supporting documents to the Admissions Office. This application form is available online or can be obtained from the Admissions Office from April each year for the following year of study. 

For comprehensive guidance on UCT’s application procedures, please visit the Admissions Office and Faculty of Humanities websites. International applicants should consult the Admissions Office guidelines for non-South African and SADC applicants. 

Admissions process

Once prospective doctoral candidates have made their application, the proposal and supporting documents are forwarded from Admissions to the Faculty Office. They are then referred to the Head of Department. The HoD makes a recommendation on the suitability of the applicant for the degree and returns this to the Faculty Office for approval by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Applicants whose applications are accepted by the Departmental Research Committee will be assigned a supervisor and admitted for registration by the Graduate School of Humanities while they prepare a 4 000-word detailed research proposal under supervision.

Appointment of supervisors

Supervisors are nominated by the HDC at the meeting where the application is decided. The HOD recommends the nominated supervisor to the Faculty Office, who refers the recommendation for ratification to the Director of Graduate Studies. It is then published in the Dean’s Circular.


Information about doctoral funding can be found on the Postgraduate Funding Office website. Applicants are advised to submit their applications to the Department and University before 31 October (South African applicants) and 31 July (international applicants) as they may be required to show proof of acceptance as part of their funding applications or in order to assess funding awarded for the following year.

There are also often opportunities to tutor or teach a seminar elective within the Department, particularly in the second and third year of registration. 

What happens next?

Find out about the administrative procedures and milestones you will need to navigate once you have been accepted for a PhD in English Literature at UCT.


Download this information as a Word document (including guidance on writing your proposal)