The Department of Computer Science offers research-based MSc and PhD degrees. In both cases, a student works under the guidance of a supervisor and is expected to identify and pursue a research project. Research results are to be fully reported in an MSc dissertation or PhD thesis respectively.
The department thus follows the system of MSc's and PhD's by research only, i.e. these degrees are not module-driven, as is sometimes the case elsewhere. In particular, the Department does not offer an MSc degree that has the flavour of a conversion degree from some other discipline into computer science. Note that the School of IT offers a Masters in IT (MIT) degree by coursework and dissertation. This degree is not a pure Computer Science degree, but rather merges different Computing-related disciplines into one academic programme with a strong focus on management. For more on the MIT degree see www.up.ac.za/mit
Since a pure Computer Science research-oriented student does not have daily commitments (classes, etc.) it is not absolutely necessary to do these degrees on a fulltime basis. However, it is highly desirable to do so, even if only for a limited period in order to get the research process going. Whatever mode of study the student chooses (full- or part-time), regular discussions and interaction with the supervisor are important. While this can sometimes take place electronically, it is also important to hold regular across-the-table discussions. Thus, staff will not normally enter into a supervisory relationship with a student who is not physically resident within reasonably proximity of the university.
The minimum registration period for an MSc is one year, and for a PhD it is two years.In practice, almost all part-time students will take at least double this minimum time. Many full-time students, for one or other reason, also take a few months more than the minimum time. After the 4th year of registration however, special approval is required to continue studies. This will normally be given if there is sufficient evidence that steady progress is being made.
The outcome of an MSc is a dissertation that demonstrates to an examination panel that that the student has the ability to plan, initiate, carry out and report on a scientific investigation. A draft article to be submitted to a reputable journal or conference should also be prepared towards the end of the research period.
The outcome of a PhD is a thesis that demonstrates to an examination panel that the student has the ability to independently plan, initiate, carry out and report on a scientific investigation. The research work done should be a significant and original contribution to the body of knowledge in the area of specialisation. At least one article should have been submitted to a reputable journal or conference before the end of the research period.
A PhD thus differs from an MSc in terms of scope, depth, degree of independent work expected of the student, originality in the research results, etc.
The department will supervise research projects in areas related to the research interests of the members of staff. A student who has a sufficiently strong background in another mainstream area of computer science and who is able to propose a sensible research project in this area may also be considered for supervision. Currently, the following members of staff are available for the supervision of MSc and PhD degrees (click on a name to get information about the person's research interests):
- Prof A. Engelbrecht
- Prof D. Kourie
- Prof M. Olivier
- Prof H. Venter
- Dr S. Gruner
- Dr P. Lutu
- Prof B Watson
The following staff members are available for the supervising of MSc degrees:
Fees for MSc and PhD studies change with inflation from year to year. In the first year of registration, the student is required to pay a lump sum to cover all costs over the entire period of registration. Thereafter, an annual renewal of registration fee is charged. In 2011 the initial lump sum payment stood at about R25000, and the annual registration renewal fee was R2250. Although various computer laboratory facilities are available, it is strongly recommended that students have their own computer facilities. Various banks offer advantageous rates to students for loans to purchase computers. Details of the kind of equipment required can be obtained from the department.
Bursaries and assistantships
(Applicable to South African Citizens Only) The University offers bursaries to South African MSc and PhD students. Further information is available on the University's general pages. Applications close at the end of February.
South African students with very good results can also apply for scholarships from the National Research Foundation (NRF). Forms are available from the Bursaries and Loans section of the University, and applications close on 31 January in each year.
The department also has available a limited number of teaching and research assistantships that may be filled by South African citizens, or international citizens with valid work permits. Details can be obtained from Ms Elmarie Willemse.
Application closing date
Applications for 2013 will be considered until 28 February 2013.
You are welcome to contact Prof Derrick Kourie for further guidance about postgraduate studies if and only if you have thoroughly read all the information below.
Relevant External Information
- EBIT Faculty Website: More information about our faculty, the faculty of Engineering, Built-environment and IT.
- Administrative Information: The on-line Client Services Center website manages information about tuition fees, financing and accomodation.
- On-line Application: Apply on-line to study at the University of Pretoria
The entry requirement for an MSc degree is a to "four-year BSc(Hons) degree in Computer Science from a South African university, with a 65% average (or demonstrably equivalent qualifications). Note that even though many foreign degrees may use the nomenclature BSs(Hons), may take four years to complete, and may even be assessed by SAQA (see below) to be the equivalent of a South African BSc(Hons) degree, the degrees are in fact not quite of the same standard. Students who do not qualify directly may find it advantageous to complete the CS Honours degree before attempting an MSc. Students who formally qualify, but do not have the necessary background or experience may be required by the supervisor to take some undergraduate or honours modules. Full-time study is strongly encouraged, even if only for part of the study period.
The prospective student should have passed an MSc degree in computer science (or equivalent) from an accredited university and should have obtained a mark of 75%.
N.B. Students from outside South Africa who apply for either PhD or MSc admission need to have their highest university qualification certified by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). This will indicate SAQA's estimate of the qualification's level, relative to similar South African qualifications. This certificate should be included in the documentation that is to accompany your application. Note, however, that in the light of the department's high standards, SAQA's assessment is not regarded as binding. The department reserves the right to make a more thorough assessment of the applicant's academic transcript and to form an independent view of the applicant's suitability for postgraduate studies, should this be deemed necessary.
If you want to do an MSc or PhD degree in this department, and if you meet the criteria for admission, then your immediate task is to identify a research area and potential supervisor. If you do not have a specific area that interests you, then you should spend time browsing through academic journals, the web, etc, until you identify some general area of interest. You might even identify some specific research project that you particularly want to undertake.
Once you have identified your chosen research area(s) and/or project, you should look for a potential supervisor who has appropriate interests and expertise. You should get in touch with that person and investigate the possibility of doing post graduate studies under his/her supervision. Some supervisors are in a position to propose specific research projects within their domain of expertise, while others might expect you to come up with a proposal for a research project on your own.
Now the relationship between student and supervisor is usually a reasonably close one, and it is important that the parties involved should get along. Because of this, there is a fairly widely accepted international protocol about how that relationship should proceed:
- A potential supervisor has a perfect right to turn down your request for supervision without being obligated to give reasons for doing so. These reasons may be work-load related; the supervisor may simply not feel comfortable with you as a person, or may not feel at ease with your proposed project. Whatever the case, most academics will not easily reject the opportunity of supervising post graduate studies, so be assured that you will not be rejected for trivial reasons.
- However, if your request is accepted, then the supervisor will continue to serve you in that capacity unless you withdraw and seek out someone else. Again, a student has a perfect right to withdraw in the early phases of a research project, perhaps moving on to some other supervisor. However, the student does not have the right to migrate work that might relate to a larger research project of one supervisor over to some other supervisor, unless there is general agreement amongst all parties about the matter. Thus, changing your supervisor may also mean starting over with a new research project.
Once you have found a supervisor, then and only then, should you start the more formal university application and registration processes.
- You first have to go through the process of applying for admission.
- Once your admission is formally approved by the department, then you will then be registered, and study fees will have to be paid.
- You can go through these processes online, or you can visit the Engineering, Built Environment and IT faculty administration offices in the Engineering Building, floor 6.
- The online application system is not intended for students presently registered at the University of Pretoria. The online application system can only process new and first applications that contain valid credit card (Master, Visa, American Express or Diners Club) information.
- Application forms are also available from Mrs Willemse in room 4-18 of the Computer Science Department.
- Whatever formal route you choose for your application / registration, kindly inform the postgraduate co-ordinator of the fact that you will be applying, and indicate which person has agreed to be your supervisor. Applications received by the department that are not specifically linked to a supervisor in this way, will not be approved.