SPL (School of Public Leadership)
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

PhD Programme


PhD/D Admin in Public Management and Development Planning

From the Head of Doctoral Programme:

Welcome to the School of Public Leadership!  Thank you for your interest in our doctoral programme. 

We are located in the Western Cape alongside the picturesque Wine lands, in one of the most attractive coastal cities in South Africa. As a postgraduate student, you will enjoy the celebrated location as well as the academic ethos of Stellenbosch. The PhD or Doctorate in Public Administration is undoubtedly an advanced and senior postgraduate qualification that leads to the generation of new knowledge. 

You have made an informed decision to embark on this new academic venture and it is our pleasure to guide you through the doctoral journey by offering our expert knowledge, skills and competencies in chosen fields of study. At the School of Public Leadership (SPL), our students work closely and diligently with supervisor/co-supervisors to produce pioneering scholarly research that is path breaking and innovative. 

The School accepts a limited number of applications due to capacity constraints and therefore admission is based on available expertise.  I wish you an academically and intellectually stimulating experience and assure you that we are the School of Choice for your endeavour!

  PhD Programme Administrator                                                              Head of Doctoral   Programme

   Mrs Riana Moore                                                                                                              Prof Pregala Solosh Pillay      

   djam@sun.ac.za                                                                                                                Pregala@sun.ac.za                 

   021-9184400                                                                                                                      021-918 4341


This programme consists of three main phases: A proposal preparation and admission phase, a research and dissertation-writing phase and a formal examination phase.


The following are considered: 

  • ​Recognised and relevant Masters Degree with an ability to produce independent scholarly work
  • Proven command of research methodology and experience in academic and scientific writing
  • Minimum work experience, with at least three to five years in a leadership/managerial/supervisor/co-supervisory capacity.​
  • A cogent research proposal, as per SPL Guidelines.​​


Candidates from historically disadvantaged communities are strongly encouraged to apply.

In certain situations, where the applicant has limited work experience, the enquired period before enrolment for PhD after completion of Master's degree is 3 years.  

A panel appointed for this purpose will make final selection of applicants.​


Candidates are required to complete their studies with a minimum period of two (2) years and maximum of four (4) years.​


  • The School is committed to matching one or more appropriate supervisor/co-supervisor/s to the field of enquiry.
  • The supervisor/co-supervisors assume the role of mentor and provide the necessary academic expertise and guidance required for the endeavour.  Our students are welcome to engage supervisor/co-supervisors on critical matters that impact on their research. All these interactions are based on mutual trust, respect, professionalism and ethical considerations.
  • Students are expected to maintain regular contact (personal meetings, telephone or Skype conversations, written correspondence via email) with their supervisor/co-supervisors.
  • At the outset, there must be agreement on mutual expectations and responsibilities.
  • At the pre-doctoral training Workshop, both supervisor/co-supervisory and student responsibilities are comprehensively discussed.​​



Advertisements for the Doctoral Programme are placed on our School Website and/or the national newspapers.

Applications for Local and International candidates open online from 1 March to 31 May for consideration of the forthcoming academic year.​


The admission process has the following steps:​

STEP 1:  Application, Appointment of Supervisor/co-supervisors and Compulsory Workshop  

Please access the PhD page on the University of Stellenbosch (US) portal via link www.sun.ac.za - Go to – Students – post graduation students – application to sun – and click on apply online.

When your application reaches the PhD Programme Administrator's Office, Mrs Riana Moore (email address djam@sun.ac.za) will forward guidelines to assist you to draft a comprehensive research proposal (minimum of 20 pages). 

You are required to email a detailed proposal, a CV together with certified copies of all qualifications to confirm that you meet all the criteria.

She will then submit your proposal and relevant documentation to prospective supervisor/co-supervisors in SPL, taking into account appropriate research capacity and expertise.​

Candidates will be informed of the outcome of their applications during the last week of June.

Successful candidates will be required to attend the compulsory two-day research Workshops in August, where they will meet and interact with their supervisor/co-supervisors.

The identification and appointment of an appropriate supervisor/co-supervisor is managed as an internal SPL process.  Appointment of a supervisor/co-supervisor is subject to supervision capacity.

The purpose of this Workshop is to focus, inter alia, on enhancing the research proposal, research methodology and programme success; to develop the conventions of scientific research writing; to outline and clarify the responsibilities of students and supervisor/co-supervisors, and to increase plagiarism awareness and consequences.

Colleagues from the School of Public Leadership and specialists from the external environment will facilitate the Workshop.​


STEP 2: Presentation to Faculty Admission Committee

At the end of the compulsory research methodology Workshop, it is expected that you and your supervisor/co-supervisor will work on your final proposal with a view to submit it to a Faculty Admission Committee mid-September. 

STEP 3: Proposal Submission to Faculty Board

The comments of the Faculty Admission Committee will be discussed between student and supervisor/co-supervisor and necessary amendments/corrections effected.

The final research proposal will be tabled at the November Faculty Board Meeting for approval and notification to Stellenbosch University Senate.

STEP 4: Registration of Doctoral Degree

You will then be informed of official registration for the Doctoral Degree for the forthcoming year. 


You will now have officially embarked on the doctoral research journey. In order to ensure that the journey is completed effectively, a Memorandum of Understanding between you and SPL, serving as a performance contract, will be entered into and kept on file at the beginning of the first full academic year. You and your supervisor/co-supervisor are also required to complete compulsory progress reports every six (6) months, which are forwarded to Mrs Riana Moore (Email djam@sun.ac.za) for record keeping and progress reporting.

The research process requires good interaction between you and your supervisor/co-supervisor. Please note that before actual fieldwork/research operational data collection commences, it will be expected of you as the researcher to submit various official documents for ethical clearance on the Stellenbosch University Ethical Clearance Platform. More information and access to the platform is available online: The URL for the Infonetica site is https://applyethics.sun.ac.za/   

Please ensure that your Inetkey is open to access the URL, especially if you are working on campus.

You will be required to login using your username@sun.ac.za and network password. Follow the instructions that are applicable to you.​


Step 1:

The appointment of examiners is a Faculty matter that is handled under supervision of the Dean's office. The examination panel consists of three independent examiners, who were not in any way involved, in the preparation of the specific dissertation.  ​

The following considerations are taken into account in the appointment of examiners:

  • Qualifications (preferably the same or higher)
  • Knowledge of the study field and topic
  • National or international stature
  • Appropriate practical experience
  • Availability
  • Academic orientation (of external examiners who do not hold an academic position)
  • Deliberate strategy to prevent over-utilisation of the same (internal and external) examiners within a particular environment
  • Relationship to candidate
  • Independence of the examiner in general​

The examiners have six weeks in which to study the dissertation and to provide their feedback in the form of an examiner's report and a completed standard report form to the Faculty Officer in the Dean's office.  

Supervisor/co-supervisors are not involved in any correspondence with the examiners on their official appointment, despatching of dissertations to the examiners, or receipt of the examiners' reports.  Doctoral candidates may not under any circumstances communicate with the examiners about their dissertations.  Examiners may also not communicate with one another about the content of the dissertation they are required to evaluate.​

Step 2:​

The Director of the School, in collaboration with the study leader, informs the Dean's office in writing that the dissertation is ready to be examined. This evaluation is not necessarily based on content, but rather on the:

  • structure of the document;
  • scope of the document (what is expected of a PhD), and
  • technical finishing of the document.​

The evaluation should also be based on the question of whether the dissertation contains the basic elements including:​

  • introductory chapter;
  • in-depth literature review;
  • thorough description of the methodology;
  • presentation of the empirical results;
  • interpretation of the results, leading to conclusions;
  • management implications flowing from the empirical results and findings, and
  • summary of the study's contribution to the academic discipline of study.

A ring-bound copy of the dissertation for each examiner has to be handed in at the Dean's office for examination.  Candidates need to submit their copies before or on 8 August of a particular year (if they wish to graduate in December of that year), and before 1 October of the particular year (if they wish to graduate in March/April of the following year).

When a dissertation is handed in at the Dean's office, the following information must be confirmed by the Chair/Director of the relevant Department/School:  ​

  • That the examiners are still available for the examination;
  • That the dissertation is ready to be examined;
  • An additional requirement is that the candidate includes a written declaration by an accredited language editor to confirm that both the language and technical aspects of the dissertation have been edited.  Should the services of an accredited editor not be used, the supervisor/co-supervisor has to approve the editor whose services are being used. A letter from this expert, confirming that proofreading and editing was done, must accompany the submission of the final version of the dissertation.
  • That the dissertation need to been submitted via SUNLearn, with sufficient evidence that excessive plagiarism has not occurred.

NOTE: The dissertation will not be sent to examiners if this required
      documentation is not received.​

Step 3: Procedure for evaluating dissertation

  • ​​The candidate's dissertation is evaluated by each examiner individually.

  • When all the written reports of all the examiners have been received, a quality control committee under the chairmanship of the Vice-Dean (Research) considers all the examiners' reports and decides whether the Faculty might meaningfully proceed with an oral examination.  This report and the examiners' original reports are sent to the supervisor/co-supervisor.  The supervisor/co-supervisor may discuss the contents of the reports with his or her student, but should still keep the reports confidential.  Candidates are not allowed to have direct access to examiners' reports. ​

  • It is expected of the candidate to submit a full written report with a list of all the changes that have been made, to the Faculty Officer in the Dean's office. This report should be submitted at least six days prior to an oral examination.  It should be approved by the candidate's supervisor/co-supervisor(s) before submitting it to the Faculty Officer, and has to be forwarded, together with the latest version of the dissertation, to the examiners prior to the oral examination. ​

  • When a dissertation is referred back for further examination (and the oral examination therefore does not proceed), the study leader(s) and candidate are still not allowed to contact the examiners.

Step 4Recommendation to Senate

After a successful ORAL examination, the recommendations of the committee and the examiners' reports are sent to the Faculty Secretary and all the departmental chairs in the Faculty.  During this period, an electronic copy of the dissertation is available in the Dean's office for perusal by faculty members.  The Dean submits the recommendation of the examination committee and the individual examination reports to the Faculty Board.  The Faculty Board makes a recommendation to the Senate for approval of the dissertation.​

With a view to the graduation ceremony, the supervisor/co-supervisor has to electronically submit the final dissertation and relevant information on the SunScholar system, by the due date.

The title of Doctor may only be used from the date of graduation.

List of doctoral supervisors


SPL currently offer supervision from experts in the following areas of specialisation:

Prof Johan Burger


021-918 4125

  •  Public Financial Management & Cost Accounting
  •  Project Management
  •  Public Policy Analysis
  •  Municipal Financial Performance
  •  Public Sector Reforms

Prof Mark Swilling


021-881 3952

  • Sustainability transitions
  • Sustainable cities
  • Material flow analysis
  • Transdisciplinary research methodologies
  • New economic theory


 Prof Frederik Uys


021-808 2316

  • Intergovernmental relations
  • Networking
  • Performance management

Prof Josephine Musango


021-808 4338

  • Resource economics
  • Energy technology assessment
  • System dynamics
  • Urban metabolism


Prof Martin De Wit


021- 80895

  • Economic approaches to environmental assessment,management and policy
  • Ecosystem services in urban contexts
  • Environmental, energy and natural resource economics
  • Integrated ecological-economic modelling
  • Theology and ethics of the environment


 Prof Reinette Biggs


021-808 4324

  • Social-Ecological Systems
  • Resilience
  • Regime Shifts
  • Transformations
  • Scenario Planning

Prof Pregala Pillay


021 918 4341

  • Corruption
  • Ethics
  • Public Trust
  • Service Delivery
  • Women and Diversity

Dr Babette Rabie


021-918 4186

  • Policy evaluation
  • Programme monitoring and evaluation
  • Institutionalising M&E systems
  • Organisational performance    management

Dr Firoz Khan


021-808 3037

  • Development Planning and Management
  • Developmental State and Governance
  • Housing and Urban Studies
  • Institutional Transformation
  • Applied Economics and Informality​

Dr Zwelinzima Ndevu


021-918 4129

  • Leadership
  • People management/HRM
  • Community Participation/Engagement
  • Ethics
  • Local government

Dr Tania Ajam 


021 918 4124

  • Public Financial Management Reform
  • Municipal Finance
  • Tax Policy and Administration​​