Graduate School of Economic & Management Sciences
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GEM Elite scholarships - 2025


About the GEM scholarships

The  Graduate School of Economic and Management Sciences (GEM) is currently recruiting for the GEM Elite doctoral scholarships - full-time doctoral scholarships, valued at R200 000 per year for three years.

The new intake of full-time PhDs will commence their studies in Stellenbosch on the 20th of January 2025.

Eligibility criteria

Candidates must meet the following eligibility criteria to be considered for a scholarship:

  • A candidate must meet the minimum criteria for admission to a PhD programme at Stellenbosch University. This requires a master's degree in the relevant discipline.
  • The bursaries are open to South African citizens and foreign nationals. Preference will be given to previously disadvantaged South African citizens. 
  • Candidates must have achieved a minimum mark of 70% to be eligible for the GEM Elite Scholarships.
  • Only applications in one of the Faculty's Researc​h Themes (follows below) will be considered.

There are limited scholarships available.  Submission of an application, even if you meet all of the criteria, does not guarantee funding.

The final alloc​ation of scholarships is made at the discretion of the Graduate School governing board and is subject to funding availability; and where the Faculty is able to appoint a suitable supervisor.

The Graduate School reserves the right to not award any scholarships.

  How to apply and application details 

Follow these steps to apply for the 2024 cohort of the Graduate School:

  • Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria before you submit an application.
  • Download and complete the Application Form:​​
    • You will be required to write a letter motivating your suitability for the scholarship (maximum length: one A4 page), as well as a research concept note (no maximum length) on a research topic which you intend to study during your doctoral studies. These should be completed on the application form in the relevant sections. 
    • Please consult the 2024 Research Themes (below) to guide you in choosing a research topic. Research topics outside the listed research themes can be accommodated only if it falls within the current research themes that are active in one of the Faculty's academic departments.
  • ​Compile the required supporting documents:
    • In addition to the completed application form, the following supporting documents are required:
    • Academic records: Full particulars of ALL previous and current tertiary studies. Please submit copies of certified diploma/degree certificates AND official study records (transcripts). Please note that academic records from student portals will not be acceptable.
    • ID or passport: A certified copy of your ID (South African) or passport (international) photo page
    • Proof of competency in English: Applicants either need to provide proof that they have obtained their qualifications from tertiary institutions where English is the language of instruction, or proof of English Language proficiency. This evidence must accompany your application and must not be older than 24 months from the date of application.
  • Submission of your application:
    • Completed and signed application forms + supporting documents should be submitted to the Graduate School Office via email ( by 15 August 2024. No late applications will be accepted.
    • Please ensure that your three references are informed that their referee letters, stating your capability to complete doctoral studies, should be sent directly to the Graduate School via email ( on or before 15 August 2024
    • Applications which are incomplete will not be considered.

Due to the large number of applications received, only shortlisted candidates will be contacted by the Graduate School. 

If you have not received a response from the Graduate School Office by the 18th of October 2024, your application should be considered unsuccessful.

Contact details:​

Any queries regarding the application process can be sent to 

Scroll down to view the 2024​​​ research themes by department.

Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST): 

CST website


  • Theme 1: Transformative Sustainability Education: including focus on transdisciplinary curricula, transformative learning, teaching-learning-assessment in higher education to support sustainability transitions and transformations,
  • Theme 2: Social-ecological Conservation systems (broadly defined), particularly topics linked to resilience, dynamics and transformative pathways,
  • Theme 3: Ecosystem restoration: understanding current practices and policy in understudied African countries, and how these may be enable just, sustainable, just and biodiverse futures,
  • Theme 4: The role of inner dimensions and transformation in sustainability management research and practice. Relational heuristics for addressing complex human-nature interactions. This includes theoretical and empirical studies on: social values, beliefs, paradigms and associated cognitive/ emotional capacities and virtues, such as awareness, consciousness, compassion, empathy and mindfulness.

Business Management: 

Dep​​artment website

At the department of Business Management, the emphasis is on basic research and not on applied research. We do not accept students whose sole purpose is to address a company-related problem.

Admittance to the PhD programme requires a highly specialised academic background including under-graduate qualifications. It is thus not suitable to potential candidates with a more a more 'general' (non-specialisation) academic background.

  • Theme 1: Shareholder activism as a mechanism to promote social justice in South Africa

Stellenbosch Business School 

  • Theme 1:  Inclusion/ belonging in the workplace and higher education.
  • Theme 2: Invisible disabilities in the workplace.
  • Theme 3: Responsible leadership to address Grand challenges.
  • Theme 4: Organisational change as Practice: Emphasis on disruptive contexts.
  • Theme 5: Digitisation represents a disruptive change that affects organisations, and the way people work. Various themes around Technology adoption as well as shifts in work modalities (e.g. Remote working).


  • Theme 1: Access to basic services/infrastructure (e.g. water, sanitation and housing) and health outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Theme 2: Energy shocks and firm level analysis in South Africa.
  • Theme 3: The coordination of monetary and fiscal policy (with regime switching).
  • Theme 4: Climate change and central banking (with regime switching).
  • Theme 5: Tax policy reform in a developing country context.
  • Theme 6: Exclusionary practices of dominant digital platforms.
  • Theme 7: The evaluation of potential competition in digital platform mergers.
  • Theme 8: Regulatory approaches to digital platforms with application to South Africa.
  • Theme 9: A new economics framework for excessive pricing.
  • Theme 10: The economics basis of vertical restraints enforcement in competition policy.
  • Theme 11: The economics of ex-post merger review: unscrambling the egg?

School of Public Leadership (SPL):

  • Theme 1: Public Leadership.
  • Theme 2: Public Participation.
  • Theme 3: Performance Management.
  • Theme 4: Public sector evaluation, e.g. New theories/approaches relevant to the African context; ethical dilemmas in evaluation practice in Africa; institutionalising evaluation systems in African governments; Evaluation for just transition in Africa.
  • Theme 5: Improved environmental management and governance for climate, energy, and material transitions, and for pollution and waste  (e.g. improved measurements of environmental burden; integrative assessment and modelling; beliefs, values and attitudes; public policy formation and social and ecological order; sustainable development goals; climate/environmental communication and governance; air, freshwater, ocean and soil pollution; aspects of urban and rural waste management).
  • Theme 6: Improved environmental management and governance for biodiversity and ecosystems: (e.g. marine and terrestrial environments-  management and governance; environmental and social justice;  sustainable land and coastal resource use practices; restoring degraded habitats;  mitigating the impacts of climate change on ecosystems; ecosystem-based approaches to management; traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous perspectives into decision-making processes; conflicts over natural resource use and biodiversity conservation; sustainable development goals).

Logistics (Transport Economics):


  • Theme 1: Travel behaviour and data analytics: Deriving activity, travel and transport behaviour patterns from cell phones, GPS devices, and other geospatial technologies
  • Theme 2: Transport Accessibility and wellbeing.
  • Theme 3: Urban, regional and transport economics.
  • Theme 4: Maritime transport and Port Development.
  • Theme 5: Role of International trade, transport infrastructure, logistics on economic development and growth.
  • Theme 6: Road user charging and support for distance-based user charges in a developing country context.
School of Accountancy :

  • ​ Theme 1: Exploring Financial Accounting problems at the intersection between traditional financial accounting and technologies (such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation) through Mixed Methods or Interpretive research.
The research theme investigates financial accounting problems within either mixed methods or interpretive research contexts. Applicants are free to explore financial accounting problems of their choice. However, research that investigates financial accounting issues within the intersection of traditional financial accounting and technologies (such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation, etc.) within one of the mentioned contexts is preferred.

 Mixed methods context: The study should take a pragmatic approach to address accounting issues related to the functioning of accounting or their social implications, utilising mixed methods research (MMR) to explore the issues at hand. Specifically, the study must employ quantitative data to identify patterns, trends, and statistical relationships in financial accounting practices while also integrating qualitative data to capture the contextual nuances, motivations, and perspectives of the relevant stakeholders. Any of the main MMR approaches can be utilised. By integrating the qualitative and quantitative aspects, the research should provide practical solutions, recommendations, and insights to resolve accounting problems and enhance the overall effectiveness and social relevance of accounting practices. [Useful guidance on MMR in Accounting can be found at: []

Interpretive context: The research proposal needs to clearly articulate how the study will investigate the social dynamics surrounding financial accounting practices. Using an interpretive approach, the research aims to uncover the underlying social processes, meanings, and interactions that influence accounting practices. In essence, the goal is to comprehend how social factors impact decision-making, disclosure practices, and the interpretation of financial information. Employing qualitative data analysis, the research will develop a normative prescriptive theory, offering insights and recommendations for enhancing accounting practices in a socially informed manner. 

  • ​Theme 2: Exploring potential solutions to address perceived and actual levels of excessive directors' remuneration, including issues such as pay-for-performance and the pay gap.

Although the literature suggests various remedies, such as corporate governance mechanisms (including disclosure and board committees), and monitoring by block holders (for example, institutional shareholders) and activists, empirical research to date, particularly using data from developed countries, remains largely inconclusive. The potential negative influence of earnings management and impression management; as well as the contributing role of remuneration to ensure long-term sustainable value creation can also be explored. Quantitative and / or qualitative research methodologies are welcome.