Doctoral Office
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​RDSD  |  Tygerberg Doctoral Office

PhD Ethics


All doctoral students must apply for ethical approval of their doctoral study before they may commence with the research. Application must be made to the most suitable Research Ethics Committee (REC) within Stellenbosch University. Most PhD projects can be assessed by one, particular REC, but some projects will straddle the domain of more than one REC. Stellenbosch University has five RECs, all functioning under the Senate Research Ethics Committee (SREC), as follows:

  1. Animal Care and Use (REC: ACU)
  2. Biosafety and Environmental Ethics (REC: BEE)
  3. Health Research Ethics Committee 1 (HREC1)
  4. Health Research Ethics Committee 2 (HREC2)
  5. REC: Social, Behavioural and Education Research (REC: SBE)

A majority of doctoral research projects in the SU Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences are considered by either the Health Research Ethics Committees or the respective RECs for Animal Care and Use, or Biosafety and Environmental Ethics. Each committee has its own rules and procedures. Candidates should allow up to three months for the ethics process of a doctoral study.

Confirmation of review (HREC prerequisite):

  • Before accepting a doctoral study for ethics review, the HREC requires a letter to confirm that the relevant faculty proposal review process was followed correctly, and the review completed successfully. The Head of the Tygerberg Doctoral Office will provide confirmation that the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences proposal review procedures were followed in the case of all FMHS students. Our turnaround is fast, but we request that submit your five review documents to us in good order, and in a single email, by three workdays prior to your ethics deadline. There is no need to request the letter - it will be issued automatically on receipt of your five review documents (and not before).
  • Doctoral candidates from other faculties may obtain a formal letter from a suitable independent party in their own faculty - such as the HoD, but not the supervisor, in order to facilitate an ethics application to the HREC.​

On receipt of the ethics approval letter bearing your name, this must be submitted to the Tygerberg Doctoral Office at, right away. Ethics approval for an individual study, OR a letter adding a student as investigator to an existing, ethics-approved study, is acceptable. In case of the latter, we also request the original or most recent ethics approval of the larger study.

At this stage, your practical research may begin, while we proceed to submit your project to the Committee for Postgraduate Research on behalf of your department. From there it travels to the Faculty Board and Senate, for formal approval of your doctoral study. This is a quarterly process which takes about three months.