A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Occupational Therapy is offered by dissertation. This degree develops the candidate's advanced research skills, enhancing scholarship in an area of occupational therapy or occupational science. Through the research process, candidates advance their scholarly identity and practices. 

The Division of Occupational Therapy strives to generate contextually relevant knowledge, hence PhD topics are considered in terms of contextual and theoretical alignment.



(a)    To develop in-depth knowledge and advanced research skills in an approved specialised area of your choice (subject to the availability of sufficient supervisory expertise in that area);

(b)   To develop and maintain sound evidence-based knowledge in an area of occupational therapy;

(c)    To develop innovative thinking and problem-solving abilities;

(d)   To develop proficiency in data collection and interpretation of results;

(e)    To gain independence in research and scientific writing skills;

(f)     To investigate and utilise funding opportunities;

(g)    To disseminate research findings, including publications in peer-reviewed international scientific journals and presentations at local and international conferences.


Admission Requirements

A candidate shall not be admitted to the programme unless he/she:

(a)   has a recognised masters degree; or

(b)   has a recognised honours bachelor degree, or a recognised four-year bachelor degree, plus at least one year's registration for an approved masters degree (See below under Regulations); or

(c)   has a recognised three-year bachelor degree plus at least two years registration for an approved masters degree (See below under Regulations); or

(d)   is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa as an occupational therapist or an occupational therapy student (or provides evidence of appropriate registration with an equivalent registering body outside of South Africa) depending on the site and nature of research.

(e)   A proven aptitude for project work and/or research is an advantage.

A master’s candidate may apply to upgrade his or her candidature to PhD


Duration of the degree

The PhD (Occupational Therapy) must be completed in a minimum period of two years and a maximum period of five years of study.  The candidate will need to provide proof of completion of an approved course in research methods and in medical research ethics. The course may be completed prior to registration, may be an online course, or may be a course offered at UCT. 


The major commitment of the PhD candidate is to produce a thesis/dissertation containing:

(a) critical and  thorough appraisal of the basic knowledge and the current issues in the research area of your choice;

(b) a detailed description of the research design, methodology used and the results obtained, and

(c) an interpretation of the results and a discussion of their relevance relative to other work in the field.

The thesis must constitute a substantial contribution to knowledge in the chosen subject and may embody only the original work of the candidate with such acknowledged extracts from the work of others as may be pertinent. The thesis may incorporate creative work integral to the overall argument.

Each student shall select a primary supervisor. A further one or two co-supervisors will be selected/appointed by the student and the primary supervisor. To achieve the goals of the thesis, the student will work closely with the supervisors, who will (i) guide him/her through the process of planning, experimenting and writing and (ii) encourage him/her to progress as independently as possible.

It is recommended that major portions of the research for a PhD should be published in peer-reviewed journals. The thesis itself may include chapters that have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. A PhD candidate who contemplates including published papers in his/her thesis must accept that approval to do so is not automatic and that he/she must seek the advice of the Faculty’s higher degrees committee about his/her plan to do so at an early stage.


Application Procedure

Before starting the application process the student is advised to contact the postgraduate convener, Prof Roshan Galvaan, to discuss possible areas of research and to identify a possible supervisor.


The application procedure requires:

(a) A completed UCT application form

(b) A study outline 

(c) A curriculum vitae (CV)

(d) An academic transcript

Names and contact details of two referees.


UCT Application Form

Online application forms may be found on the University of Cape Town website.

Applications for the PhD (Occupational Therapy) are accepted throughout the academic year. However, a completed application form is required for the candidate to be considered for admission to study. Please contact Ms Salega Tape (Telephone:  +2721 406 6340) with any further enquiries regarding the application form.


Submission of a Study Outline 

As part of the application process, the Division of Occupational Therapy requires the submission of a brief outline of the proposed research. Although a thesis supervisor will provide formal guidance and input in refining the research question and study design, at a PhD level it is expected that the student should have identified a specific research area of interest or a potential research question.  The outline should include a brief rationale for the study, the proposed research question, and a short description of the proposed study design. The study outline should be a maximum of 500 words.

This outline will be reviewed by a selection committee, to determine whether applicants are (a) familiar with the literature, (b) able to initiate research (i.e. familiar with principles of research design), and (c) to determine the level of scientific writing skills.

In addition, the selection committee will decide whether there is an appropriate supervisor available to assist with thesis supervision. Admission to the degree will be dependent on the identification of a suitable topic and supervisor.

The study outline, Curriculum Vitae, academic transcript and contact details of two referees should also be submitted to Prof Roshan Galvaan. 



Fees for the Postgraduate degrees in Occupational Therapy are obtainable from the Fees Office. Students can anticipate an average 10% increase in fees each year. Enquiries may be directed to the Fees office. 

Financial assistance

Opportunities for applying for financial assistance are available on the postgraduate Hub. Enquiries may also be directed to the Postgraduate Funding office. 


Please contact the PhD Programme Convener, Prof Roshan Galvaan (Telephone: 021 406 6048; Email: roshan.galvaan@uct.ac.za) for further information.