Start main page content
Mathematical Statistics A PhD in Mathematical Statistics offers candidates who have excelled in their MSc studies, an opportunity for advanced study in the field. The course prepares candidates who are keen to advance their research in Statistics, and to produce novel statistical research under the guidance of academic staff.
Mathematical Statistics A PhD in Mathematical Statistics offers candidates who have excelled in their MSc studies, an opportunity for advanced study in the field. The course prepares candidates who are keen to advance their research in Statistics, and to produce novel statistical research under the guidance of academic staff.

Qualification: PhD

Faculty: Science

Duration: 2 - 4 years

School: Statistics and Actuarial Science

Study mode: Full-time; Part-time


Past students graduating with a PhD in Mathematical Statistics have been highly successful in professional practice and a number have progressed to lecture and work in industry.   

Why do a PhD in Mathematical Statistics?

A PhD in statistics is more flexible and useful that PhDs in some other areas. Statistics is intrinsically an applied science, and one that is in big demand across lots of areas, because it can be applied to many areas, unlike most academic disciplines. Statistics will help you:

  • Come up with solutions to leading edge problems.
  • Contribute to the development of new markets, new services and new products.
  • Enhance the quality of our research, education and healthcare.
  • Improve business performance and outcomes.
Why is this a good programme to do?

This programme will help you come up with theoretical and applied underpinnings of solutions to modern and classical statistical problems.   

Why do your PhD in Mathematical Statistics at Wits?

Wits is one of the top universities in South Africa. It has produced some of the best world-renowned academics. Some of the former lecturers in the school of Statistics and Actuarial science are:

  • John Edmund Kerrich, first head of the Statistics department. Famous for experiments in probability performed while interned (in Denmark) during the Second World War. He was one of the 12 founders of South African Statistical Association.
  • Herbert Sichel developed the Sichel-testimator for the lognormal distribution's t-statistic. He also made great leaps in the area of the generalized inverse Gaussian distributionwhich became known as the Sichel distribution.
  • Danie Gerhardus Krige  was a South African statistician and mining engineer who pioneered the field of geostatistics. The technique of kriging is named after him. Krige's empirical work to evaluate mineral resources was formalised in the 1960s by French engineer Georges Matheron.
  • Gordon V. Kass, developed the Chi-square automatic interaction detection (CHAID) a a decision tree technique, based on adjusted significance testing (Bonferroni testing).
  • Frank Beichelt a professor in the School whose research focuses on probability theory and mathematical statistics. He is the author books on stochastic modelling in reliability, maintenance, and safety analysis etc..
  • Paul Fatti - Emeritus Professor - University of the Witwatersrand, a former head of school and respected statistician.
What does Wits have to offer?

Wits offers a variety of statistics courses which gives the student a good foundation to excel in a wide range of areas. The statistics staff are versatile, passionate and progressive in their teaching, supervision and research. The environment and culture is supportive and empowering, giving students the confidence to push their boundaries.

Graduates are prepared for a diverse range of careers including:

  • Statisticians
  • Data Scientists
  • Ecologists (environmental monitoring, water quality control, species management)
  • Image processing (computer vision, face detection, remote sensing)
  • Biostatistician (designing and analysing clinical trials and epidemiological studies)
  • Financial analysts (designing investment strategies and managing risks in finance)
  • Market researchers (conducting surveys and experiments, etc.)
  • Econometricians (investigating the economy at all levels from businesses)
  • Epidemiologist (examine patterns in health and sickness)
  • Operations research and optimization
  • Bio-informatician (study DNA data)
  • Programmer (statistical computing is a highly sought-after skill)
  • Psychometrician (educational measurement or psychological measurement)
  • Statistical physicist (use of statistical mechanics to study thermodynamics)

The PhD in Mathematical Statistics requires that a PhD candidate do novel research. The course duration is a minimum of two years for full-time students and four years for part-time students. Students are required to register and submit a research proposal within three months.

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

PhD candidates typically submit a statement of intent. The School PhD committee considers all applications. It considers each applicant’s area of intended study and the availability of supervisors. Minimum academic requirements include an MSc in Mathematical Statistics with at least 70% and a research component contributing at least 40% of the degree (assessed at University of the Witwatersrand equivalence).

Applications for Research Masters and PhD may be lodged at any time during the year.
  • 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

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.