Link to programme information on department website:

The PhD programme in Economics provides high-level research training in various specialisations, including Development Economics (Health, Education, Labour, Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition), Economic History of Africa, Public Economics (Fiscal Policy and Taxation), Monetary Economics, Financial Economics and Institutional Economics.

The programme is completed by dissertation only – typically by producing three publishable papers within a unified research theme or by producing a monograph – in collaboration with a qualified supervision team. Voluntary additional training may be incorporated to suit students' research skill requirements, and in exceptional cases, students may be required to complete Masters modules in subject areas where they do not yet have the required background for admission.

Graduates from the programme have historically entered senior roles in the financial and public sectors, including work at a range of African private, central and development banks, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, national and local government institutions, and management, economic consultancies and data science consultancies. Many graduates have continued as economic researchers in academia and research institutes.

Eligibility criteria:

Applicants must have completed a Masters degree in Economics, with evidence of having passed accredited Masters-level courses in Macroeconomics, Microeconomics and Econometrics. A prospective supervisor with suitable expertise in the chosen field must be available to lead the research project in the Department of Economics before a full proposal can be developed.

Applicants who are awarded a scholarship by the Graduate School of Economic and Management Sciences at SU (GEMS) or whose prospective supervisors support the arrangement, are initially admitted with the provisional status of “PhD student in preparation". They are required to give an oral presentation of a fully-developed written research proposal to the satisfaction of an admissions committee within one year before being formally admitted to PhD studies.

Where prospective supervisors support the arrangement, other applicants may proceed directly to the oral presentation of a fully-developed written research proposal to an admissions committee.

Important Dates [for application in 2024]:

Applications open: Open throughout the year

Programme start date: Students whose proposals have been approved by an admissions committee are allowed to register by either 31 January or 31 July following endorsement of the admission committee's decision by the EMS Faculty Board. Where applicants’ prospective supervisors support provisional registration as “PhD students in preparation” (before defending a proposal), they are also admitted in either January or July.

Application process:
  1. Option 1: Applications can be submitted on the SUNstudent application portal to be formally considered for admission to a doctoral programme - https://student.sun.ac.za/. Once a profile has been created on SUNstudent, log in and follow the prompts to apply to the relevant PhD programme. The following documents are compulsory submissions as part of the application:
    • Comprehensive CV.
    • Evidence of written academic work.
    • Letter of motivation.
    • Preliminary Research proposal (Please consult the research themes below before writing your concept note. Once you have selected a research theme, please consult the guidelines to the basic layout of a research concept note.)
    • Summary of master’s research.
    • Certified copies of academic certificates.
    • Certified copies of academic transcripts.

    Please note that candidates that have applied formally on SUNstudent can also apply for institutional or statutory funding to qualifying options listed on the SU Postgraduate Office’s website.

  2. Option 2: Candidates can apply for a full-ti​​​​me doctoral scholarship from the Graduate School of Economic and Management (GEM). Successful GEM applicants are automatically granted provisional admission to the relevant PhD programme and an application on SUNstudent is therefore not required to be considered for one of the GEM scholarships. However, please note that only 2-3 of these awards are made per year.
Research themes:

The department will primarily consider PhD applications in the following broad areas of study in the field Business Management:

  • Macro and monetary economics
  • Health economics
  • Labour economics
  • Economics of education
  • Social policy
  • Fiscal Policy and Taxation
  • Regional Economics
  • Economic History
  • Industrial Organisation
  • Institutional Economics
  • Political economics
  • Financial economics
  • Agricultural socio-economics
  • Identity economics
  • Development Economics

Students wishing to explore adjacent fields of study our do a multi-disciplinary study need to consult with the chair of the department.​​