Interested in pursuing a postgraduate research degree in Law?  The University of Cape Town's Law Faculty is the home of postgraduate legal studies in South Africa, at the School for Advanced Legal Studies - so you are at the right place. Applications for PhD and research Masters are welcome in any of the focus areas within each of our three departments.

Commercial Law

Focus areas and expertise in Commercial Law include Company Law; Corporate Governance; Commercial Regulation; Comparative Law in Africa; Intellectual Property Law; International Taxation; Labour Law; Law and Development in Africa; Tax Law;  Contracts and Specific Contracts.  In addition, you will find specialist research interests in each of the research units attached to the Department of Commercial Law - look on the departmental site for more info.

Private Law

Focus areas in the Department of Private Law include African Customary Law; Air and Aviation Law; Civil Procedure; Conflict of Laws; Contract/Consumer Protection; Delict; Family Law (including Women and Children’s Law); Jurisprudence and Legal Theory; Legal Education; Mineral Law and Expropriation Law; Private Law and Human Rights; Property Law (in particular related to Land and Natural/Mineral/Fuel Resources); Rhetoric Studies; and Succession. Additional research expertise and interests are based in specialist research units - you can find more info on the departmental site.

Public Law

The Department of Public Law includes a wide range of focus areas and specialisations, including Administrative Justice; Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in Africa; Race, Gender, Sexuality and the Law; Criminal Justice; Criminology and Governance of Security; Democratisation; Environmental Law; Evidence; International and Regional Human Rights Law and Practice; Law and Society; Land and Policy; Legal Pluralism and Human Rights; Traditional Leaders; Public International Law; International Criminal Law; Constitutional Law; Public Accountability; Forced Migration (including Refugee law, Statelessness and Internal Displacement); Children’s Rights; and Women’s Rights.  Some of the Faculty's most active research units are based in Public Law - more information can be found on the departmental site. 

Prospective students can apply online - and more information is available on UCT's main site.  Required documents include:

  • A brief CV
  • An official transcript (unless the applicant is a UCT graduate)
  • Contact details of two academic referees
  • A 3-4 page statement of the research topic (the statement of interest form can be found here).

Please note that incomplete applications will not be considered. 

Successful applicants will be given probationary registration for a period of six months, during which they will be required to finalise their thesis/dissertation proposals under the guidance of their supervisors. In addition, they will be required to participate in a week-long preparatory course at the beginning of the academic year (next course likely to be at end-January 2021).

At the end of the probationary registration period final thesis/dissertation proposals must be submitted for consideration by the Faculty’s Higher Degrees Committee, which may then recommend entry into a doctoral or master’s programme. 


A limited number of scholarships are offered with the aim of supporting disadvantaged students, with particular (but not exclusive) focus on black South African students. The faculty may also offer scholarships to cover tuition fees only to up to ten applicants for a period of up to two years for Master's students and three years for PhD students, subject to satisfactory progress. Full information on postgraduate Law scholarships managed by the Faculty is available here. 

For more information on UCT's doctoral programmes, have a look at the university's specialist site here or at the School for Advanced Legal Studies - or contact Patricia Phillips, the Faculty's Postgraduate Manager. 

UCT is committed to the pursuit of excellence, diversity and redress in achieving its equity targets. For these programmes we seek particularly to attract black South African candidates.