Rhodes>Faculty of Education>Studying>Doctorates and Areas of Research

Doctor of Philosophy in Education

The defining characteristic of a general doctoral degree in the field of education is that it requires the candidate to demonstrate high-level research competence and to make a significant and original academic contribution at the frontiers of education or in a sub-field of education. The research, which may be purely discipline-based, or multidisciplinary, or applied research, must be undertaken at the most advanced academic level, culminating in the production, defence and acceptance of a thesis. Course work may be conducted as a preparation for, or in support of the research, but may not contribute towards the credit value of the degree. The quality of the research should satisfy peer reviews and merit publication. The graduate should also be able to supervise the research of others in his/her area of specialisation” (Government Gazette no 38487 February 2015).


The degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education can take either a traditional form or can be presented in the form of peer-reviewed articles and papers in partial fulfilment of the degree.

Areas of research supervision in which the Faculty can offer support include the following but are limited to the availability of supervisors within each field:


  • Educational Evaluation
  • Education Leadership and Management
  • Environmental Education/Education for Sustainable Development/Climate Change Education
  • General Education Theory
  • Geography Education
  • Global Change and Transformative Social Learning
  • Higher Education Studies (including Academic Development)
  • Information Communication Technology in Education
  • Language Teaching
  • Mathematics and Numeracy Education
  • Psychology in Education
  • Science Education

Prospective applicants need to be in possession of a suitable Masters degree (or equivalent).


Application may be made at any time of the year, though applications received after 1 May will be registered as first-year students for the following year. We strongly advise that before a formal application is made, prospective candidates first identify and have an initial conversation with a prospective supervisor whose research interests align with their intended topic of study, or with the doctoral programme coordinator (see below).

Formal applications need to be submitted via the Registrar’s office at Rhodes University, academicadmin@ru.ac.za, and must be accompanied by the following documents:

  1. A completed application form
  2. Full transcripts of previous degrees (unless they are Rhodes University degrees).
  3. An abbreviated CV, highlighting the areas which are of relevance to the proposed study including publications and conferences attended.
  4. A proposal concept or essay of 5-8 pages in which you provide a motivation for your proposed research drawing on relevant academic literature. This concept paper should articulate your proposed research questions, and situate these in a proposed field of study relevant to education, and should be professionally referenced. This need not contain information on the methodology of the proposed study.

After receiving your application from the Registrar’s division, the Faculty will decide whether it has the capacity to provide you with appropriate supervision. If the decision is favourable you may be called to a personal interview with your potential supervisor(s). (Such interviews can be conducted online.) The interview will focus on your research interest (as described in your draft proposal). Should you have been in discussion with a prospective supervisor before the application is submitted, please indicate the name of the supervisor on your application as this will facilitate internal processing of the application.

Based on the process above, you will be informed if you are accepted for PhD studies. 

If you are accepted as a doctoral student your next task will be to develop your research proposal (which can take up to a year of intense work), after which you are required to present a seminar to the Faculty on your proposed research. You will be mentored by your supervisor in preparing the proposal. The purpose of the seminar is to obtain critical feedback in preparation for your final proposal and your research programme. Your final proposal needs to be approved by the Education Faculty Higher Degrees Committee before you may proceed with your research.  Ethical clearance from the Rhodes University Ethics Committee is also required before you may commence with the research.

The Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) offers 1 year ‘Pre-doc’ programme. This programme provides a preparatory support mechanism through which candidates can refine their research topic or grapple with conceptual and theoretical issues before commencing the PhD. The Pre-Doc programme comprises participation in online forums, attendance at an Education Faculty research design week and three Doc Weeks which run over the course of the year. The programme includes formal assessment whereby candidates receive formative feedback on their work from their mentor(s) as they prepare for possible PhD study. Completion of the Pre-Doc programme does not automatically guarantee acceptance into the formal PhD programme.

Doctoral students are expected to attend the Faculty of Education Research Methodology course in the first year of study. This course is offered twice a year and lasts for 6 days. The course focuses on research design and will provide support for the process of preparing a research proposal.

The Faculty of Education also offers three one-week doctoral study weeks (PhD weeks) each year, and doctoral students are encouraged to attend these, as they provide an advanced professional learning environment and provide access to a community of scholars. The doctoral study weeks cover the following areas of study, which are offered via an interactive, co-engaged approach:

  • Social Theory, Philosophy, Epistemology and Methodology
  • Advanced Educational Theory and Practice
  • Quality, Ethics, Evidence and Analysis
  • Specialist Study in the field of Educational Research (e.g. Higher Education Studies, Environmental Education, Mathematics Education)
  • Academic Literacies and Professionalism

Further information on postgraduate studies at Rhodes University can be found on the postgraduate gateway: https://www.ru.ac.za/postgraduategateway/.  The gateway provides information on programmes offered by the Centre for Postgraduate Studies, the University Supervision Policy and the Higher Degrees Guide.

For enquiries on the general academic dimensions of PhD scholarship in the Education Department, contact Dr Farhana Kajee and for enquiries on the general academic dimensions of PhD scholarship in the area of Higher Education Studies contact Dr Kirstin Wilmot.

For enquires related to registration, application procedures and fees, contact The Registrar on Registrar@ru.ac.za

Application Forms are available from the Postgraduate Gateway.

Online applications can be made via the online portal at https://ross.ru.ac.za/


Have you ever wondered: How much reading do I need to do for a PhD? Sioux McKenna tackles this complicated issue in this podcast on the Postgradenvironments website click here to listen

Departments or Institutes

Centre of Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning

Education Department or Environmental Learning Research Centre

The Institute for the Study of the Englishes of Africa


General Information

General Doctoral Studies Information

Student Fees information


For further information contact:

The Registrar
Rhodes University
Grahamstown, 6140
Tel: (046) 603-8276
E-mail: Registrar@ru.ac.za

website: www.ru.ac.za


* As per the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (2012), where coursework is included, this is preparatory (i.e. not for credit).



Last Modified: Tue, 15 Nov 2022 10:20:51 SAST