Enhance your knowledge of a highly specialised area of law by conducting your own research.


The PhD is suitable for students who have an interest in conducting independent and highly specialised academic research which may not be available as postgraduate courses. Our academics have expertise to supervise in an extensive range of legal topics which would enhance the professional expertise and standing of those who complete this degree.

The PhD is therefore suitable for law graduates and legal professionals who wish to enhance their knowledge of highly specialised areas and for those who wish to become legal academics.

Structure/ Programme

A candidate for a PhD qualification must successfully defend a research proposal within six months of registration (in the case of full-time candidates) or twelve months of registration (in the case of part-time candidates).

A Doctor of Philosophy degree is awarded on the successful submission of a doctoral thesis which should make a substantial contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field of investigation. The length of the thesis should be between 70 000 and 100 000 words.


The minimum period of registration for the PhD is two years (full-time) and four years (part-time). The maximum period of study is two years in addition to the minimum period of study.

Entry Requirements

  • A master’s degree or an equivalent qualification from Wits University or another university.

Your application should include a CV, an academic record (transcript) and a short proposal, also known as an expression of interest. The short proposal is a document of 7 – 10 pages that outlines the applicant’s proposed research and the research questions to be investigated. It should include a provisional title as well as a provisional bibliography.

Applications are considered on the basis of candidates’ academic record, the strength of their expression of interest and the availability of an appropriate supervisor in the School.

Prospective research students are therefore further encouraged to approach potential supervisors in advance of their application, i.e. to find a member of staff in the School of Law who is willing in principle to supervise their proposed research. Profiles of our staff and their research and/or supervision interests, as well as their contact details are available on the School of Law website. You can also access a list of staff research and supervision areas.

If you do find a willing potential supervisor, indicate this on your expression of interest. You may however proceed with your application even if you do not find a potential supervisor beforehand. In that case, the Postgraduate Studies Committee will endeavour to allocate a supervisor to you in the event that your application is successful.

University Application Process

  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at

University Fees and Funding

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.