Welcome to Stellenbosch University


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The department provides opportunity for graduate study to students in the Natural Sciences and Agricultural Sciences (Honours, MSc and PhD). Annually, a limited number of students are admitted for graduate study based on academic merit.

For graduate research projects, students have a choice between:

  • Research projects that tie in with the research aims of the departmental research programmes - Full-time students are expected to register for projects of this nature.
  • Research topics not covered by the departmental programmes - Research of this type normally involves part-time students working at a recognized research or training institution. The organisation involved should be able to provide an acceptable internal co-supervisor.

778 (120) BScHons in Genetics

The programme commences during the third week of January and extends over one academic year. Strong emphasis is placed on mastering laboratory skills. Evaluation is done by continuous assessment and an oral exam.

Admission requirements

A BSc degree with Genetics 214, 244 plus 314, 324, 344 and 354 or equivalent modules at other universities. An average mark of at least 65% in Genetics in the final year. Genetics 314, 315, 344 and 345 are recommended for admission to the honours degree programme in Plant Biotechnology and an average final mark of at least 60% is required for the Plant Biotechnology honours degree programme.


The duration of the programme is one academic year and begins at the start of the general academic year.

Course contents

The programme consists of the six modules listed below. Subject to departmental approval, you may substitute two of the 8-credit theory modules with equivalent 8-credit modules from BScHons in Plant Biotechnology. You must also complete a research assignment and present the results in the form of a research publication. The department places strong emphasis on acquiring laboratory skills. One of the elective modules must be chosen. The programme is assessed continuously and an oral examination is required.

711 (16): Genetics: Molecular techniques

Compulsory module: The advancement in the field of molecular genetic techniques has revolutionised Genetics and many of its applications. This module provides a theoretical platform (lectures, discussions, etc.) with concurrent hands-on practical sessions, which include DNA and RNA characterisation and manipulation.

Lecturer: Prof R Roodt-Wilding

712 (8) Genetics: Human and Animal Genetics

Elective module: This module focuses on historical and current medical and ethical aspects of human and animal genetics in practice. By means of lectures, guest speakers, round-table discussions, etc. the latest technology, applications and consequences of genetics will be reviewed.

Lecturers: Dr NW McGregor, Dr BJ Koehler van Asch

713 (8) Genetics: Genetic Data Analysis

Compulsory module: The Genetic Data Analysis module is aimed at the application of population and quantitative genetics theory in the analysis and interpretation of molecular genetic data. Specific emphasis is placed on acquiring practical skills for the composition of genetic datasets, conducting appropriate statistical analyses for answering particular research questions, and the interpretation of results within a biologically relevant context. Examples are taken from a number of fields, including argricultural, conservation and medical genetics and used as a training model on a continuous basis.

Lecturers: Dr C Rhode, Dr AE van der Merwe

714 (8) Genetics: Bioinformatics

Compulsory module: This module focuses on the use of web-based and other computer programs for  the analysis of different types of conventional and high-throughput biological data. These include data mining, basic and advanced protein and nucleotide sequence analyses, different types of genomics applications (structural, functional and comparative),  phylogenetic relationship reconstructions, as well as assembly and annotation of datasets generated by next-generation sequencing platforms. Students are also introduced to a number of different relevant databases.

Lecturer: Prof H Marree

716 (8) Genetics: Genomics

Compulsory module: A good understanding of the genome, as well as the effective analysis thereof, is a prerequisite to succeed in plant, microbe and animal improvement, especially considering matters associated with the complexity of genomes. This module aims to improve your understanding of the fundamentals in plant genetics and genomics. Concepts like genetic manipulation, gene regulation and expression, as well as technologies to study these concepts, will be discussed.

Lecturers: Mr WC Botes, Dr SW Peters

721 (8) Genetics: Scientific and Proposal Writing

Compulsory module: This module is aimed at introducing genetics and biotechnology students to the non-biological aspects of scientific research, such as the development of a funding proposal and the art of scientific writing. Students will also be introduced to concepts such as the generation and development of creative ideas, entrepreneurship, market research, feasibility studies, the generation of a business plan, financing, profitability, good laboratory practice, quality control and project management in a research environment.

Lecturers: Prof AM Botha-Oberholster

722 (8) Genetics: Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement

Elective module: Plant breeding objectives; reproduction in plants; cell and tissue culture; breeding strategies for self- and cross-pollinating crops; the utilisation of hybrid vigour; mutation breeding; breeding for insect and disease resistance; variations in chromosome number and its exploitation in breeding programmes; plant breeders' rights.

Lecturers: Mr WC Botes

741 (64) Genetics: Honours Project in Genetics

Compulsory module: The research project is the main component of the Honours programme. This module involves the planning, execution, analysis and reporting of hands-on practical research which is performed within an established research group. 

While these projects are often related to other ongoing projects within the department, it is up to the student to read widely around the topic, in preparation for:

  • the project proposal (oral presentation)
  • the project write-up
  • the final project presentation (oral)

Once the research is underway, you will need to document your findings accurately and describe the methods/techniques employed in your study.  You are strongly encouraged to start preparing your project dissertation from early on within the module.  You will have to submit a draft of your dissertation to your supervisor well before the final submission date so that you can timeously receive comments and suggestions for improvement.

Lecturer: Prof R Roodt-Wilding

Honours in Plant Breeding (BScAgric)

Students applying for admission to the course must be in possession of an appropriate BScAgric degree. Only students who attained an average of at least 60% for Genetics in their final year will be admitted to the course. A course is worked out for individual students taking into consideration their background and requirements. If deemed necessary, students may be required to complete specific undergraduate modules in Plant Breeding or related subjects.

Honours in Animal Breeding (BScAgric)

Students applying for admission to the course must be in possession of an appropriate BScAgric degree. Only students who attained an average of at least 60% for Genetics in their final year will be admitted to the course. A course is worked out for individual students taking into consideration their background and requirements.

MSc and MScAgric

The programme consists of research on an approved topic as determined by the department. You must submit. You must submit a satisfactory thesis on completion of the work. Supplementary study can be required from you in the form of lectures and / or seminars. An oral examination is required. To register for the course students should have completed an appropriate BSc honours or BScAgric degree.

PhD and PhDAgric

A publication-quality dissertation and an oral examination is required from you. Exceptionally deserving MSc or MScAgric students may be allowed to upgrade their registration to PhD or PhDAgric.