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What is an MSc programme?

A Masters degree is often the first real research that a student undertakes. Its primary function is to give students research experience. A Masters dissertation does not have to contain original findings; it must simply demonstrate a mastery of research methods.


What are the admission requirements?

A minimum requirement for admission is that students possess a four-year degree in Engineering or a BSc Honours degree in Applied Mathematics, Physics or related disciplines.

Engineering graduates will normally register in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment for the degree of MSc(Eng), while students who are Science graduates will normally register for the degree of MSc in the Faculty of Science. There is a third option, the degree of MSc(Appl Sc), which is the appropriate choice for a Science Honours graduate moving over to Engineering.


What are the degree requirements?

Engineering students are required to complete a minimum of 60 credits of coursework in their first year of MSc study. This constitutes half of the requirements for the degree, the other half being the thesis. The coursework component prepares students for advanced study in their area of research interest. For Science students the thesis is the sole requirement for an MSc. Therefore the onus lies with students to do the necessary reading and preparation that ensures they have the appropriate knowledge to embark on their particular research topic. Supervisors will direct such reading and will often suggest that students in any event attend courses which will help to build the necessary background.


International students

Cerecam welcomes applications from international students who wish to pursue postgraduate study in the Centre.


Application process

The first step in registering for a Masters degree is to contact Cerecam members either individually or through the administrative office for details of individual research interests.

Application forms are available on UCT's postgraduate website. The application is routed to the relevant Department, and the departmental Head will be asked to make a decision with regard to admission of the applicant. This decision is governed by various factors, including the applicant's undergraduate record, the availability of a supervisor, and whether there is mutual agreement about a research topic.

Once accepted, the student has to register. The registration forms have to be completed, and signed by the Head of Department and supervisor. The deadlines for registration of Masters students must be adhered to and can be found on the UCT website.


The coursework component

Engineering students will have to complete a minimum of 60 credits worth of coursework. While the Engineering Faculty rules do allow for the thesis to be the sole requirement in an MSc(Eng) programme, Cerecam students are ordinarily required to take the coursework/partial-thesis option.

Cerecam offers a set of courses which provide the necessary background for students wishing to work in computational and applied mechanics. In addition, and in consultation with the supervisor, students may register for one or more courses offered outside the Centre.

Some options are summarised in the course web-page but there may well be other courses which would suit individual interests, so it is a good idea to find out what is offered in the various Engineering departments, and also in Science departments such as Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. In the case of the latter, students are allowed to register for relevant courses at the third-year level.


Financial assistance for masters students

At the level of postgraduate study, most students would hope to be able to finance their own studies through a combination of bursary support and money earned through tutoring. South Africa's National Research Foundation (NRF), the primary statutory research funding body, has two mechanisms of student support which apply to UCT: grant holder-linked bursaries, and free-standing prestigious bursaries. The grant holder-linked bursaries form the bulk of the CERECAM student support. In addition, CERECAM also sets aside funds each year, for the support of its postgraduate students. This support is provided in the form of CERECAM scholarships, and these are tax-free. Further details of scholarship conditions and stipends may be obtained from Cerecam's administrative assistant.

Renewal of funding for a second year is subject to satisfactory progress by the student. Renewal for a third year is considered only in exceptional circumstances.

Please look at the UCT wbsite for more information on postgraduate funding opportunities.

How long will it take to complete the degree?

Faculty regulations stipulate a minimum registration period of one year, but in practice it normally takes two years to complete. Ideally Engineering students should complete the coursework in the first year and commence research work in the first year. This gives students enough time to write up and submit by the 31 August deadline in their second year. Students who submit by this deadline can expect to graduate in December, assuming the thesis is approved.


Upgrading to PhD registration

In certain cases, on the recommendation of the supervisor, it is possible to upgrade registration from MSc to PhD. This depends on a variety of factors:

  • whether the research project has enough substance to be a viable PhD project
  • whether there has been exceptional progress as a Masters students
  • whether the supervisor is satisfied about the student's ability to carry out independent research
  • whether the application to upgrade is supported by the Head of Department and the Faculty Board


The examination process

For Engineering students who have to fulfil a coursework component there are two distinct phases to the examination process: the usual written examinations on the courses, and examination of the thesis. For Science students the thesis constitutes the sole requirement.

Masters theses are examined by a minimum of two examiners: one UCT staff member and an external examiner. They are appointed by the relevant Dean, on the advice of the Head of Department. The names of the examiners may not be disclosed to candidates, though it is possible for their identities to be made known after the examination process is complete, at which stage candidates are normally able to receive copies of the examiners' reports.

There are various outcomes to the examination process: the examiners may recommend that the thesis be passed; that it be passed subject to certain revisions being made; that it be revised and submitted for re-examination; or that it not be passed.


Submission of a conference paper or journal paper as part of Masters Degree requirement

In addition to coursework and/or dissertation requirements, the following additional requirements for the Engineering Masters degrees will apply to candidates who submit a dissertation.

In the case of Masters degrees by full or partial dissertation, candidates are required to summarise their work in the form of a journal article or a peer-reviewed conference paper. This is formally assessed by a sub-committee of the Examination Committee which must sign off on the article before the degree may be awarded. Note that the Paper does not have to be actually accepted for publication or for presentation at a conference for the degree to be awarded.

The final date for receipt by the Faculty Officer of such written evidence shall be 30 April in the case of a candidate who submits a dissertation in hope of the award of the degree in June, or 31 October in the case of a candidate who submits a dissertation in hope of the award of the degree in December.

The above requirements are included in the rules for Masters degrees. They were introduced in order to encourage publication of research papers and to ensure that Engineering Masters students are given the experience of writing a brief technical paper for publication in a journal or for presentation at a conference. The Faculty believes that the ability to engage in academic communication of this kind is an essential educational output of postgraduate education.