PhDs in Law can be done either purely in Law or through an interdisciplinary approach. Candidates for the PhD may qualify for admission if they have:

  • a master’s degree
  • an honours degree, or a four-year bachelor's degree, plus at least one year's registration for a masters degree
  • a three-year bachelor's degree plus at least two years' registration for a masters degree
  • an LLB or BProc degree (or qualification recognised by Senate as being the equivalent)
  • in special circumstances, an approved bachelor's degree or qualification recognised by Senate as equivalent.

With experts in the Faculty in every field of Law (see below), it is the prospective student's responsibility to find one of these experts at UCT Law Faculty who would be willing to supervise your PhD research. A doctoral thesis must always be a single treatise, and must serve make a contribution to the development of new knowledge in the field of Law. The thesis may not exceed 80 000 words in length, unless permission is given by the Dean, in consultation with the supervisor.

All doctoral degrees are administered partly by the Law Faculty and partly by the University’s Doctoral Degrees Board (DDB). The DDB has the final say in deciding whether to register candidates and what result is to be awarded for the examination. A full linked list of DDB documents, policies and guidelines is available here. 

Interested in applying to undertake a research degree in Law (PhD, or LLM/MPhil by dissertation only)? Online applications must be submitted here. Online applications must be supported by the following documents (incomplete applications will not be considered):

Successful applicants are given probationary registration for a period of six months, during which they must 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. At the end of the period of probationary registration, final thesis/dissertation proposals must be submitted for consideration by the Faculty’s Higher Degrees Committee.  This committee may then recommend entry into a doctoral or master’s programme. The deadline for submission of final thesis/ dissertation proposals is 15 August of your first year of registration.

Additional information on the applications process is available under the Applications menu, including information on postgraduate funding and scholarships

To assist you in identifying a possible supervisor, the three departments are listed below with their main areas of expertise. 

Commercial Law

Banking Law; Company Law; Consumer Credit Law; Corporate Governance; Commercial Regulation; Comparative Law in Africa; Intellectual Property Law; Insolvency Law; International Taxation; International Trade Law; Labour Law; Law and Development in Africa; Tax Law;  Contracts and Specific Contracts.

Private Law

African Customary Law; Air and Aviation Law; Civil Procedure; Conflict of Laws; Contract Law, including Specific Contracts; 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.

Public Law

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; 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.

For more information on research degrees in the Faculty of Law, have a look at:

Thesis proposal

Ethics approval


Examination Procedures

Key dates for research degree programmes