Graduate School
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Doctoral scholarship programme

programme.jpg​The Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences opened its doors in 2010 and has enrolled nine cohorts of doctoral students. To date, the Graduate School has awarded more than 200 doctoral scholarships to students from 18 sub-Saharan African countries, including South Africa; an average intake of 20 students per year.


What do we do?

  • We offer partially structured PhD programmes in the arts, humanities and social sciences;
  • Address problems relevant to Africa's development in multi-disciplinary research themes;
  • Award three-year, full-time, residential PhD scholarships;
  • Provide broad-based research and scholarship support through weekly seminars, workshops, colloquia and short courses; and
  • Enhance academic collaboration and mobility in partnership with leading African universities (through PANGeA)


How do we do it?

To enable students to complete their doctoral studies within three years, the Graduate School maintains a comprehensive Framework for Doctoral Programme Support, consisting of the following four elements:

  1. Full-time study: The study programme is a partially structured, full-time, residential programme over three years. The Graduate School coordinates the provision of scholarships and academic support by incorporating foundational training and regular monitoring to enhance students' experience, quality and completion.
  2. Interactive learning environment: The Graduate School and the department where the student is enrolled, create an interactive learning environment conducive to advanced scholarship development. This is currently achieved by the following means: (a) an anchor seminar series and training programme organised by the Graduate School, which is compulsory for all students during their first year of study; (b) a requirement that students attend and participate in regular scholarly activities such as guided postgraduate, departmental, or theme-oriented seminars, reading groups, conferences or specific training modules offered at Stellenbosch University; and (c) regular meetings between students and supervisors as well as regular student progress reports to the Graduate School office.
  3. Research Themes: The students' research topics form part of one of the Faculty's approved Research Themes which are largely focused on Africa's development and international development themes.
  4. Collaborative research partnering: Where appropriate and feasible, students are encouraged to participate in the Faculty's efforts to engage in collaborative research projects with leading African universities through PANGeA. In cases where students will spend significant periods of time away from Stellenbosch or on partner campuses, appropriate measures are taken to arrange suitable supervision on partner campuses.


Structure of three-year, full-time, residential doctoral programme

  • The first year of study is devoted to submission and approval of a doctoral proposal including a study plan and literature review (to be completed in the first semester); induction into scholarly discourse in the research theme or field of study through participation in an advanced seminar series or colloquium; training in generic and elective modules organised by the Graduate School; preparing or starting the field work, experimental work or archival work based on an approved research design and methodology for the study; obtaining ethical approval where necessary; and completing at least one full chapter of the dissertation
  • In the second year, students continue to execute the research or study plan through further reading and/or writing and to complete their field work, experimental work or archival work; attend further seminars in the Graduate School research themes or to follow (additional) modules offered at Stellenbosch University; and, where appropriate, feasible and subject to the availability of suitable supervision, students will be encouraged to spend some time from the second year onwards at PANGeA partner universities.
  • The third year is devoted to completion of analysis and writing and to presentation of preliminary results in advanced research theme seminars; and submit the dissertation for examination.


Monitoring and evaluation

Students are required to remain in regular contact with their supervisors and co-supervisors throughout their study programmes. Student progress is centrally monitored with input from supervisors three times per year by means of a comprehensive progress report. Payments of scholarship instalments (four per year) are dependent upon satisfactory progress reports.


Throughput rate and success factors

This strategy is now not only the first in Africa to bring such a degree of coherence to efforts to rebuild and sustain the capacity to produce human capital of the highest order, but is also the largest of its kind on the continent, especially in the light of the number of students on full-time doctoral scholarships. ​

The first cohort (2010) of scholarship students became eligible for graduation in the 2012 academic year. Over the past six years (2012 – 2017), we have produced a total of 114 graduates, of which 83% completed their PhD in three years or less.