Geography and Environmental Studies

The aim of the PhD degree is to offer advanced professional training at the postgraduate level in the fields of earth, atmospheric, hydro-environmental, global change and other environmental Sciences, as well as studies concerned with human environments and to promote inter-disciplinary exchange bet


The aim of the PhD degree is to offer advanced professional training at the postgraduate level in the fields of earth, atmospheric, hydro-environmental, global change and other environmental Sciences (e.g. disaster risk reduction, environmental management, environmental governance etc), as well as studies concerned with human environments (urban, rural, social), and to promote inter-disciplinary exchange between various arts and science disciplines.

With a strong tradition in both academic and applied research, the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies is ideally placed to prepare students for the environmental and human challenges that face this and other countries on the African continent. The University of the Witwatersrand also has the infrastructure and the expertise to support the intellectual development of students interested in geographic studies, and most recently has a strategic focus on Global Change.

The School is interested in attracting students from all over the world who will be able to participate in research work in a country that is undergoing rapid transformation and change.  

Part-time studies
Part time students are not eligible for bursary funding from the University. Students registered for the part time degree and who are employed on a full time basis are strongly encouraged to negotiate a regular period of time off to consult with their supervisor, visit the library to collect readings and to do research.
Evaluation and Assessment
To qualify for the degree, students must pass their thesis, which is usually examined by an internal examiner to the University and two international external examiners who are specialists in the relevant field.

Entry Requirements

  • A Research Masters degree in a related field.
  • A supervisor from the School must be identified and approached prior to application.

Applications for admission are considered throughout the year. For admission to a Doctor of Philosophy degree, the applicant should normally have produced an outstanding Masters Project. Students from other institutions, according to the discretion of the Head of School, may need some background before being accepted to do a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Please note that students applying from outside of the University of the Witwatersrand will be required to submit examples of written work before their application will be considered.

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.