Doctoral Office
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

​RIDS  |  Tygerberg Doctoral Office

PhD Application

Thank you for your interest in pursuing a PhD degree in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Stellenbosch University. Our campus is situated in the picturesque Tygerberg area of Cape Town, South Africa, and incorporates a ground-breaking new Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI). The faculty ranks among the top 175 medical and health schools in the world (Times Higher Education rankings 2024) - up from the top 200 in 2022). Candidates from across South Africa and the world compete for the limited number of places in our PhD programmes. Information on the basic requirements for admission to one of our fifty odd doctoral programmes, can be found in our Faculty's yearbook, at this link.


All students entering the PhD programme are expected to see a research protocol through the review process and submit an ethics application within 6 to 9 months; to complete the ethical approval process within a further three months, and on approval, to complete the full PhD dissertation within a further period of two to three years. The programme is intensive, but it can also be done on a part-time basis (one year for proposal review, six months for the ethics process, and a further three years for research and submission). Much of this work will be your own, independent responsibility. For the most part, the required contact time will be determined by your allocated supervisor/s. 

A supervisor will only be assigned once you have been formally accepted for the programme. Yet, your chances of selection may improve if you have reached out to a potential supervisor to initiate a conversation about a mutual area of research interest. You are welcome to browse the senior staff of the relevant academic environment to identify someone working in your field. But do not neglect to submit your online application on SunStudent, as delaying this step may cause obstacles at a later stage.

Should you wish to apply, please be sure to prepare the following:

  1. A referenced research concept paper of 2 to 3 pages, aligned with SU & FMHS research priorities
  2. Certified degree certificates andfull academic records (for all qualifications)
  3. Up-to-date applicant CV with 1-page motivation letter included as cover
  4. In most cases, confirmation of an internal academic's willingness to supervise you
  5. Sufficient funds for your application and study fees​
  6. Where applicable, confirmation of bursary or scholarship
  7. Read the background information at

Following the steps above, applications from international students are routed to the Postgraduate Office for the verification of qualifications, while applications from South African students are routed directly to the academic department for formal selection. Only after your academic department has formally selected you, you will receive a written offer of placement in an academic programme from Stellenbosch University (registrar's division).

As soon as your department agrees to work with you toward a doctoral degree, reach out to the Tygerberg Doctoral Office on This office should be kept abreast of all developments, and will partner with you through the doctoral journey. 

Conversions: In exceptional cases, a supervisor may recommend a master's student whose research exceeds the scope of master's-level work, for a conversion, with the support of their academic environment and HoD. A student is not permitted to apply for this option. The formal requirements for such conversions are covered in Section 1.2 of the Calendar, at this link. The department will need to complete the Form A4 Application for Conversion and follow the FMHS application process described in this document.

Your supervisor/s will play a critical part in your success. It is important that you establish a positive relationship right away and request supervisor feedback on your work on a regular basis. The most urgent deliverable after selection is the research protocol, developed for presentation to a review panel, under guidance of your supervisor, within six months. 

You are most welcome to follow up with Ms Tammy Swartz ( on any further information that could assist. Should you wish to explore possible funding opportunities, please see visit the Postgraduate Funding page, here, or the Research Development and Support page, here.

Meanwhile, do click on the video link below for an introduction to our campus and faculty.


All the best with your application!​​​​​