School of Education

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Programme Overview

The Doctoral Programme is a large, dynamic and wide-ranging programme in the School of Education.

This programme aims to graduate independent researchers in the fields of Social Justice Education, Teacher Development Studies, Curriculum, Education Leadership, Management and Policy, Educational Psychology, Gender Studies, Adult Education and Higher Education across all learning areas and uses a wide range of research methodologies.  Graduates must be able to generate new and original knowledge at the highest level by conducting original research that addresses complex context-based issues, under the guidance of the research supervisor. A key aspect of the doctorate is that the research undertaken during the degree, in the form of a thesis or as published journal articles, must be independently produced, demonstrate critical thinking and assessment; and must contain an original contribution to new knowledge in the field of education. The research project will culminate in the production of a research report in the form of a thesis in the traditional format or by publication. The programme aims to provide graduates with specialised knowledge and competence in relevant discipline areas. The programme is offered at both the Edgewood and Pietermaritzburg campuses of the University.

Minimum Entry Requirements

Students must have a MEd or equivalent, of which at least 50% of the degree must have comprised a research project. They should have an average of at least 60% in their Master’s degree, including a minimum of 60% in the research project. Students are advised that these are minimum requirements and that, given the high demand and limited supervisory capacity, preference will be given to students with a strong pass that exceeds 60%. A 5-page description of the research that you intend to pursue for the PhD studies (Concept note) will be required. The concept note will assist in identifying a potential contribution to knowledge. Some disciplines may require a portfolio of work as a prerequisite for selection. The PhD is a 384 credit qualification.

Selection for Postgraduate Studies

Candidates are subject to selection and the selection process will be based on a candidate’s record of academic work or academic and professional work acceptable to the Senate and may include academic ranking and other criteria as approved by Senate and Council. 


The minimum duration of the programme is 4 semesters full-time (6 semesters part-time) and the maximum duration is 8 semesters full-time (10 semesters part-time)

The allocated supervisor will guide the student to work on the approved topic until the thesis is completed. Candidates are required to engage in research on a topic in education related to one of the specialisations outlined below.

Specialisations on Offer

All students need to choose one of the following specialisations:

  • Adult Education (Pietermaritzburg)
  • Curriculum Studies (Edgewood)
  • Education and Development (Pietermaritzburg)
  • Educational Leadership, Management and Policy (Edgewood & Pietermaritzburg)
  • Educational Psychology (Edgewood)
  • Gender Education (Edgewood)
  • History Education (Edgewood)
  • Language and Media Studies (Edgewood)
  • Social Justice Education (Edgewood & Pietermaritzburg)
  • Social Science Education (Edgewood)
  • Science Education (Edgewood)
  • Mathematics Education (Edgewood)
  • Teacher Development Studies (Edgewood & Pietermaritzburg)
  • Technology Education (Edgewood)


(i) Candidates shall not be permitted to proceed to the examination of the thesis before the end of the second academic year of registration.

(ii) Candidates may be required to present themselves for a viva voce.

Online Applications

UKZN online applications are available to all postgraduate (new and returning) applicants including international and SADC (undergrad and postgrad) applicants.

The system is user-friendly. In order for the application to be finalised and processed, the uploading of documents is required. It is, therefore, recommended that these documents are electronically accessible for uploading at the time of application. Once the application is complete, a student number is immediately issued with details of the application fee payable as well as banking details and a reference number to use when making payment.

Each prospective candidate must submit the following documents:

  1. A formal letter of intention to read for a PhD in 2023 (with all relevant contact details). Visit our School website to view our Academic Profiles:  (click here) Indicate in your letter which of the School of Education Academic staff members you have consulted regarding your intended research and suggest whom you would like to work with as the promoter of your study. Alternatively indicate what kind of expertise you would consider appropriate to support your study and the School will recommend a possible promoter.
  2. A certified copy of your identity document/passport and matric certificate (Certified within the last 3 months)
  3. Certified copies of your previous qualification certificates and academic transcripts as well as any other relevant documentation (Certified within the last 3 months)
  4. If any of your previous qualification(s) were obtained at universities outside of South Africa, please also include the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) certificate.
  5. A 5 page description of the research that you intend to pursue for the PhD studies (Concept note)
  6. A photo-copy of your Masters abstract from your research dissertation
  7. A brief Curriculum Vitae which should include details of your current work situation and any research related activities including publications (e.g. articles, reports) that you may have (co)authored
  8. The URL link for online applications is available on our UKZN web page. or (click here).

Application Fees

No application fee is payable if there has been no break in studies. Applicants who have been out of the system for a full academic year or more will be required to pay a new application fee.

A non-refundable application fee is payable on submission of the application.

  • SA applicants on-time – R210
  • SA applicants late – R420
  • SADC and Africa – R490
  • Countries outside Africa – $153

No late international applications accepted.


While there is no closing date for doctoral studies, applications will stop once the programme is full

Tuition Fees Payable

For fee structures, refer to and from ‘Student Portal’, select the 2022 Fees Booklet. Note that fees quoted are for 2022. Please allow for an increase of at least 5-10% for 2023.

Plagiarism Policy & Procedures

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Admin Contact Details

Research and Higher Degree Administrators Office proxy e-mail:  and 

Sabelo Mthembu

Sabelo Nkululeko Mthembu

Edgewood Campus • 031-260-3919

Ntokozo Phakathi Mthembu

Pietermaritzburg Campus • 033-260-5856