Postgraduate studies at UCT in 2023

02 March 2023 | Professor Sue Harrison

Dear postgraduate students and supervisors

Welcome to our postgraduate students, both those returning and those joining us from other institutions. I sincerely hope your postgrad studies at UCT will be rewarding and fulfilling.

We recognise that our postgraduates represent the future of South Africa, be it as researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators, policy makers, civil servants or professionals, you have an important role to play in shaping our society. In recognition of this, UCT endeavours to offer a well-rounded education and experience to our students, with opportunities for greater networking and personal growth. I encourage you all to look out for these opportunities and take advantage of them wherever possible, as your postgraduate years, and the networks formed during them, often form the foundation of a future career.

This welcoming email from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) provides an opportunity to highlight some key aspects of the postgraduate experience, and to make readily accessible some of the many resources to assist you with your journey. It also highlights some logistics around completing and submitting your thesis or dissertation if you are approaching the end of your postgraduate journey.

Postgraduate studies at UCT in 2023

We have a wide and diverse range of postgraduate programmes at UCT, each run according to the unique needs and requirements of the specific field. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and the past few ‘pandemic years’ have opened new ways of working, UCT is largely a contact-based university which prioritises face-to-face teaching and research environments that promote participation. That said, a number of our programmes have incorporated online and blended learning into the syllabus. This flexibility allows for a robust, customised delivery of all our programmes.

When in doubt, your first port of call should always be the relevant postgraduate administrator associated with your host department.

Communication on your programme from your faculty and department

Each postgraduate programme at UCT is unique and communication around the details of your specific programme will come to you directly from your department. If you have not yet received all the information you need, keep an eye on your myUCT email inbox. *You can also contact the relevant postgraduate administrator associated with your host department.

* Official communication from UCT will always be sent to your myUCT inbox. If you do not check this inbox regularly we recommend you automatically forward all the emails from your UCT inbox to the mailbox of your choice.

Online registration for new and returning students

The first wave of online registrations for the 2023 coursework programmes has reached completion, while registration for research programmes is ongoing and specific programmes will have their own deadlines. If you have not already registered, I advise you to do so soonest. Each faculty has a different process for postgraduate registration, so be sure to note the dates and guidelines for your faculty.

International students who need support can reach out to the International Academic Programmes Office at for pre-registration assistance and support services.

MoU and PPA

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or Progress and Planned Activity (PPA) forms your agreement with your supervisor. These are important for the joint planning of your work to assist in keeping you on track – both in terms of content and timelines – and in terms of expectation setting. Having shared expectations is key to building a healthy student/supervisor relationship. It is really useful to re-visit these together at regular points in the year to track progress and agree to deviations when your findings require it. Finally, the MoU and PPA serve as points from which to work if things do not go to plan or difficulties arise.

Getting ready to submit and finalise your studies

While we welcome those starting, many of you will be getting ready to submit your reports, dissertations and theses. Congratulations to those who submitted by the 13 February deadline to avoid 2023 re-registration. For those planning submission, please ensure that your intention to submit documents are submitted at least six weeks before your dissertation or thesis, to ensure time for your examiners to be in place as you submit. Also, pay attention to the word limits of your document, be sure that you have avoided all forms of plagiarism and that if specific permissions need to be motivated for, such as to include publications verbatim in a PhD thesis or to embargo the thesis for Intellectual Property (IP) reasons, that this is done well ahead of submitting.

We are piloting a new “writing for completion” initiative from March to May – please ask your supervisor about it if you are interested. We are also piloting the inclusion of an oral exam in the PhD examination process – 30 PhD candidates under examination this semester will be included in the pilot through an opt-in system.

Online resources

Keeping on track with your postgraduate studies and graduating on time is key. It keeps you motivated, ensures the new knowledge you generate is timeous and ensures accessibility to UCT’s limited postgrad places. As postgrad study is largely driven by you as an individual, being able to find additional resources and to access inputs on top of your supervisory team is very useful. UCT offers several excellent resources to keep our students up-to-date and provide necessary support. Here is an overview of some:

  • UCT Postgrad Hub: This website aims to provide all the information necessary for prospective and current postgraduates at UCT, so do familiarise yourself with it. The Office for Postgraduate Studies may help with general postgraduate enquiries or refer you appropriately – please contact it through the generic email address:
  • Our welcome video series: If you are just starting, find out more about life at UCT with our Welcome Video Series. You will find them all on the Postgrad Hub.
  • @UCTpostgrads: Follow this Twitter account from Monday to Friday for scholarships, fellowships, mental health tips and answers to your questions.
  • Postgraduate Events Calendar: From writing workshops to wellness webinars, we offer a variety of virtual resources to help postgrads navigate their research journeys.
  • Online resources for your research: UCT Libraries have created useful resources for every subject area.
  • Writing Support: You can access a variety of writing support services and resources throughout your postgraduate degree journey.
  • Tech & Computing Support: As a student at UCT, you can access a wide range of information and communication technology services to support your academic endeavours.
  • Postgrad Funding: While the deadlines for most of the scholarships and bursary opportunities to fund your studies this year have passed, new opportunities will be advertised on the online noticeboard and @UCTpostgrads. If you have been awarded a bursary or scholarship, the Postgraduate Funding Office will email you directly about the process involved in claiming these funds. For more information, check out the latest UCT Postgrad Funding brochure
  • Student Systems Support Helpdesk: If you are struggling to navigate the online student administration system, PeopleSoft, then please email the Student Support Helpdesk or contact them on 021 650 5227.
  • To stay up to date with activities and opportunities for our international students, as well as opportunities for international exchange and internationalisation-at-home, follow IAPO on Facebook and Instagram @uctinternational and on Twitter @UCTGlobal.
  • UCT Chatbot on WhatsApp: The chatbot will answer your questions via a dropdown menu and respond to typed questions. As this is a learning bot, the service will be able to answer more questions over time. To connect to the UCT Chatbot, follow these steps:
    1. Add the number +27 87 240 6965 to your contact list on WhatsApp
    2. Type ‘Hi’ and the chatbot will start interacting with you.
  • Psychological & emotional support:
    If you are a registered student, you can book an appointment online with a Student Wellness counsellor, psychologist or social worker through the Student Wellness Service (SWS) or you can call the SWS reception at 021 650 1017 or 021 650 1020. For more information, check SWS.

For students in distress or needing immediate help, please contact the UCT Student Careline by calling 0800 24 25 26 (free from a Telkom line) or send an SMS to 31393 for a call-back service. It offers 24/7 telephonic counselling, advice, referral facilities and general support to anyone facing any mental health challenges.

Connectivity and mobile data

Wi-Fi, through the secure world-wide roaming access service, eduroam, is available on all UCT campuses and in residences, but there are times when students need access off-campus. Here are some tips around connectivity and data usage:

Wi-Fi availability:

  • Roaming with eduroam: students and staff can access eduroam wherever it is available, this includes not only nearly all university campuses in South Africa, but also public libraries and other sites in Cape Town. We recommend students familiarise themselves with the eduroam spots nearest to them, as it may not necessarily be your own university campus.
  • UCT Virtual Private Network (VPN): this solution allows you to connect securely to UCT’s network from any internet-connected location, including an insecure public Wi-Fi (like a mall or coffee shop). This means that you can get secure access to your UCT network resources as if you were working from campus.

Managing your mobile data:


A key challenge we face in 2023 is load-shedding. UCT has put measures in place to ensure that minimal teaching and learning time is lost during load-shedding, that research facilities are disturbed as little as possible and that the impact on all other university operations is reduced as much as possible.

The City of Cape Town issues regular notices in advance ahead of load-shedding. UCT’s upper, middle and lower campuses, the health sciences campus and all residences are in area 15. Hiddingh and the Breakwater (Graduate School of Business) campuses are in area 7, while the Philippi satellite campus is in area 16.

I wish you the very best for the year ahead.

Warm regards

Professor Sue Harrison
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation

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