Update for postgraduate students

17 August 2023 | Professor Sue Harrison

Dear postgraduates and supervisors

We are midway through the third quarter, so it is timeous for another round of updates and information on postgraduate activities and support at the University of Cape Town (UCT). In this update, I highlight some opportunities and events and draw your attention to our postgraduate resources in place to support your studies. These include a competition which will help you harness your presentations skills while also getting you a step closer to some cash prizes; important funding support avenues you can pursue to help mitigate the cost of your studies; as well as a go-to calendar which has proven an invaluable resource.

UCT Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) virtual competition

The 3MT competition is an international concept that challenges students to consolidate their ideas and research findings, so they can be presented concisely to a non-specialist audience – in three minutes. Social responsiveness, teaching and learning, and research go hand in hand at UCT. And we encourage our researchers to recognise these tenets as important considerations of their work. Whether you are working on “blue skies” knowledge generation for the future or clearly focused on applied research with immediate relevance, sharing it with others at the right time is key to building its relevance. In addition, working within communities to conduct responsible research needs us to be able to translate that work back into those spaces in ways that are practicable and to share it with those involved in the research – in ways that resonate. This is what research impact is about. And this competition is a good way to build these skills.

If you are a master’s or PhD student with a research story to tell, meaning that you’re far enough in your research journey to have data and results which are shareable (and are not part of sensitive intellectual property), I encourage you to enter the UCT 3MT competition. The UCT leg, taking place on Thursday, 28 September (with registration required by 12:00 noon on 30 August), is the first part of this two-step process which can result in you competing with peers from across the country.

Winners in the PhD category will go on to participate in the nationals, hosted online by the University of the Free State, on Friday, 27 October 2023. The prizes for the national event are:

  • first PhD prize: R16 000
  • second PhD prize: R13 000
  • third PhD prize: R11 000.

To help you develop the art of presenting your work concisely and in a digestible way, the Office for Postgraduate Studies and Researcher Development (OPGS) will host two voluntary preparatory online workshops to help you put your best foot forward. Sign up for either of the following:

If you have any questions about the competition, please email the OPGS.

UCT postgraduate funding applications

For those of you continuing into 2024, now is the time to look at your funding options. New opportunities are advertised on the online noticeboard and @UCTpostgrads.

Please note that the 2024 call for Postgraduate Financial Aid scholarship is now open for online application. Students with a gross annual family income of R350 000 and less can submit their applications by 10 November 2023. To help simplify what can be a complex process, the Postgraduate Funding Office has also created an infographic to explain the process of applying for and accessing UCT PG financial aid with FAQs on whether you are eligible. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with this process so that you can make sure you have everything at your disposal to increase your chances of a successful application.

The DSI-NRF Honours Scholarship 2024 is also open for applications until 10 November 2023. Please note that prospective applicants who want to undergo the financial means test should submit their application by 18 August 2023.

Postgraduate second semester calendar now available

We care not only that you graduate successfully – but also about enhancing the quality of your journey. With this in mind, the OPGS’s second semester workshop and webinar calendar has been created to help support your postgraduate journey. Workshops and information sessions aimed at all levels of study, and covering topics such as research integrity, writing skills, preparing for the PhD oral exam, developing an ‘argument’, PhD ‘breakaway’, design thinking and more are advertised online. These sessions are presented collaboratively by the OPGS and other UCT departments who hold these specialised skillsets. We are leaning in on our inhouse broad-based knowledge and expertise to bring you considered support resources in these areas, to accompany you towards the successful completion of your degree.

OPGS has put together a variety of resources for you, so be sure to peruse the offerings and register for those that are of interest and relevant to you. Don’t sell yourself short and miss out. Those who’ve put themselves forward for these opportunities are grateful they did.

If you have any calendar queries contact OPGS.

Getting ready to submit and finalise your studies

It is, or should be, the time of year when many of you will be getting ready to submit your reports, dissertations and theses for a 2023 completion. 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 IP reasons – such is done well upfront of submitting. It certainly helps to reduce the timelines to graduation.

Always useful postgraduate information

And to end, I would like to remind you of some information that is always useful!

UCT offers several excellent resources to keep our students up-to-date and provide necessary support. Here is an overview of some – the same as I shared earlier this year:

  • 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.
  • @UCTpostgrads: Follow this Twitter account for scholarships, fellowships, mental health tips and answers to your questions (from Monday to Friday).
  • 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 and computing support: As a student at UCT, you can access a wide range of information and communication technology services to support your academic endeavours.
  • Student Systems Support Helpdesk: If you’re 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, Instagram and Twitter.

When in need of administrative assistance, your first port of call should always be the relevant postgraduate administrator associated with your host department. Please also check whether the information you need has already been sent to your myUCT email inbox.*

With more than half of the year already gone by, I encourage you to lean in on this wide array of resources available to you and immerse yourself into your postgraduate journey, one of learning, new knowledge, new ideas and many opportunities.

With kind regards

Professor Sue Harrison
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation

* Official communication from UCT will always be sent to your myUCT inbox. If you don’t check this inbox regularly, we recommend you automatically forward all the emails from your UCT inbox your preferred mailbox.

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