Getting a PhD in Sociology at UCT

PhDs are offered in Sociology or Industrial Sociology

The Department has about 40 students studying for PhDs, making it one of the bigger PhD programmes in the University. The Humanities Faculty at UCT does not offer American-style coursework-based PhD programmes. Our PhDs are by research only (although sometimes we will ask or require PhD students to take specific Masters- or Honours-level courses to improve their skills in relevant fields).

PhD students work on diverse topics in sociology, industrial sociology, the sociology of development, and the sociology of diversity. Many students work in research groups led by one of the professors or lecturers in the department, or linked to research centres such as the Centre for Social Science Research. Other students work on very individual topics. See a list of the current PhD students, and their research topics, here.

Because there are less than fifteen professors and lecturers in the department, a major constraint on our ability to accept additional students is the availability of someone willing and able to supervise a student's research. Sometimes a good student applies, with sensible proposals, but we are unable to find an appropriate supervisor and therefore cannot accept the student. A student is much more likely to be accepted to study for a PhD if he or she proposes to work on a topic that is closely aligned to an existing research group or research centre, or to the personal research interests of one or more of the professors or lecturers in the department. Academic staff members' research interests are listed on the website.

Writing a PhD is a challenge, and should not be taken on without careful thought. Many students perform well in coursework degrees at Honours and even Masters level, where their work entails primarily the critical appraisal of secondary literatures, in a structured environment, but then struggle at the PhD level, where they must more independently design and research their own research topic. It is especially difficult to research and write a PhD whilst either working or child-raising full-time. Research and writing usually require extended periods of full-time engagement and concentration. Writing a PhD can also be a stressful experience. Before embarking on a PhD, prospective students should discuss the challenges with other students who have recently completed or are currently completing their PhDs.