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Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development

PhD and Doctoral Programmes

Subject to the stipulations of General Regulations G.1.3 and G. 62, an MSc, MSc Agric, M Inst Agrar degree or another appropriate master’s degree is a requirement for admission to a PhD degree.

PhD Agrarian Extension

PhD Agricultural Economics

PhD in Extension

PhD Rural Development Planning

DCom Agricultural Economics (code 07260090)

General Information for PhD Candidates

To obtain a PhD degree, a student must: 
  • Pass the examinations and prescribed course(s) as stipulated in the study programme;
  • Obtain a pass mark for the thesis; and
  • Pass a final examination based on the thesis and general knowledge of the subject (THESIS DEFENCE).

[Note: in the case of students entering the PhD programme after completing the M Inst. Agrar, a number of additional courses need to be completed. These courses are MIE 802/812, EKT 723, LEK 814, LEK 711]

For further information, refer to the University General Regulations and the Graduate Catalogue as they apply to doctoral degrees.

General Procedure for carrying out PhD Research

This section outlines the general procedure followed in the department in carrying out PhD research.

Once a PhD candidate is registered as a University student he/she is advised to consult with the Head of Department for a general discussion about the proposed research. The Head of Department will direct the candidate to the relevant lecturer familiar with the proposed subject (see the list of expertise above)

At this stage, the student should commence with some background reading and literature review on their proposed research topic. They should then formulate a problem statement from their background knowledge gained. After further consultation with the relevant lecturer, who would likely to be their research supervisor, the student should go back and prepare a full research proposal on the selected topic.

Six months should be enough for the student to carry out background research, consultations and writing up of the proposal. When the research proposal is completed, the student will be required to present it to the faculty, postgraduate students and other parties interested in the subject. After the presentation, there will be an open discussion on all the aspects of the proposal. The aim of this session is to help the student get constructive criticism on his/her research and some ideas on how to improve the proposal. At this stage, the student should be able to carry on with thesis research with more confidence while still in regular consultation with the supervisor.

Procedures and Rules for admission and management of PhD (Agricultural Economics) Students

Application and admission process

To be considered for admission, aspirant candidates should submit a formal application, which includes a full academic record, certified copies of degree certificates, a curriculum vitae and a draft research proposal not exceeding five pages to indicate the candidate’s research interests. A Departmental Postgraduate Studies Committee (DPSC) will review these applications twice per year and therefore there will be two closing dates for applications:

  • 31 May (for admission in the 2nd semester)
  • 31 October (for admission in the 1st semester of the following academic year)

The committee will meet and decide on the applications within three weeks from the closing dates for applications.

The committee will set its own criteria for admission but the following shall be the minimum requirements: (a) a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics (Economics/Environmental Economics) or equivalent; and (b) an average pass mark of at least 65%. The availability of supervisors and the research interest of the student will also determine admission.

Once admitted the student will be allocated a supervisor within the specific subject field.

Composition of the Departmental Postgraduate Studies Committee (DPSC)

The DPSC consists of Professors in Agricultural Economics. Current members are:

  • Prof. Charles Machethe (Chair)
  • Prof. Johann Kirsten
  • Prof. Rashid Hassan
  • Prof. Andre Louw
  • Dr Tsakani Ngomane

Requirements and management of progress

The PhD programme in Agricultural Economics begins with the completion of four advanced courses: Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Advanced Econometrics, and Quantitative Agricultural Policy Analysis (LEK 814) and/or Applied Trade Analysis (LEK 820). This will probably take about 12 months after which the candidate is expected to develop a PhD thesis proposal. The proposal shall be presented in public within two years after entrance into the PhD programme. A research phase follows which concludes with the writing of a PhD thesis and a defence.

The DPSC (in conjunction with the supervisor(s)) will review a written thesis proposal and a formal oral presentation of the proposal. If the candidate has passed all the prescribed courses and successfully defended the proposal, permission will be granted for the candidate to start the research phase of the PhD programme. If the candidate is unsuccessful in the proposal defence, there will be one more chance within six months from the date of the first defence. If the second attempt is also unsuccessful, the student will be considered not fit for the PhD research phase and will be requested to terminate his/her studies.

If admitted to the research phase the candidate and the committee will agree on the timeframe (usually as outlined in the proposal). This then serves as a contractual agreement between the department and the candidate. The committee will then review progress of each student annually against the timeframe and present a report to the faculty administration and the Dean’s office. If the candidate does not keep within his/her stipulated time limits, the committee can consider such act as a breach of contract. This can result in the termination of the candidate’s studies.

Required contents of a PhD research proposal

The main purpose of the thesis proposal defense is to enable the PhD student to make a position statement with respect to the research problem, hypotheses, objectives, methods and procedures and present a timeline for the completion of the thesis.

The student should submit a ‘Thesis Proposal Report’ to the DPSC at least 15 days prior to the defense. The report should not exceed 50 pages in length.

The suggested outline for the thesis proposal report is as follows:

  • Title/Area
  • Abstract
  • Introduction/Background
  • Research Problem
  • Research Objective(s)
  • Conceptual framework
  • Previous work - comprehensive and critical appraisal of literature
  • Proposal of new model/technique/idea/approach
  • Suitability of the approach for a Ph.D. level thesis
  • Hypothesis and anticipated results
  • Milestones and timelines for completion
  • Conclusion
  • References

At the defense, the candidate makes a 30 minute presentation of the thesis proposal. The presentation will focus on the gist of the research problem, previous approaches, proposed approach, an argument for why the approach is suitable for a Ph.D. thesis and timelines for completion. This will be followed by a question and answer session.

The committee gives feedback and an appraisal of the presentation. On the first attempt, the decision of the committee will be a Pass/Re-examination only. On the second attempt, the decision will be a Pass/Fail. The re-examination must be completed within six months of the committee's decision.

PhD Examinations

A panel of examiners comprising the supervisor, co-supervisor (where applicable) and at least two examiners from other universities with at least one examiner being from a university outside of South Africa shall evaluate the PhD thesis and the defence. The examiners need to be approved by the Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences who delegated the process to the Faculty Post Graduate Committee.