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PhD in Physiotherapy

Doctor of Philosophy in Physiotherapy

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Physiotherapy is offered by dissertation only and should take a minimum of two, and a maximum of five years to complete.  Current areas of research include paediatric neurology, neuromusculoskeletal and sports physiotherapy, cardiorespiratory physiotherapy, orthopaedic physiotherapy, disability prevention, health promotion, and physiotherapy education.


(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 physiotherapy

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

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

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


(a) Preference will be given to egible applicants with a high academic record (first class or upper second class).

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

Duration of the Degree

The PhD (Physiotherapy) must be completed in a minimum period of two years and a maximum period of five years of study.  The candidate will be also need to provide proof of completion of approved course in research methods and biostatistics 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) 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 proposal, 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 PhD degree requires that the research should have an original component, and that the results should add significantly to our knowledge in the area.

Each student shall select a main supervisor and another 1 or 2 co-supervisors will be selected/appointed by the student and the chief supervisor. To achieve the goals of the thesis, the student will work closely with 2 supervisors, who will (i) guide you through the process of planning, experimenting and writing and (ii) encourage you 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 prior to submission of the thesis. The thesis itself may be written as a series of related journal articles if so desired.

Application Procedure for PhD in Physiotherapy

Before starting the application process the student is advised to contact the postgraduate convener, Dr Theresa Burgess, to discuss possible areas of research and to identify a possible supervisor. (; +27 21 406 6171)

The application procedure requires:

(a) The completion of a UCT application form

(b) The submission of a study outline

(c) Identification of a suitable supervisor and possible topic

(d) The submission of a curriculum vitae (CV) and academic transcript

(e) The submission of the PhD questionnaire

UCT Application Form

Application forms may be found on the University of Cape Town website and may be returned to:

Ms Salega Tape
Postgraduate Office
Faculty of Health Sciences
Barnard Fuller
Anzio Road
Cape Town
South Africa

Applications for the PhD (Physiotherapy) 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 Tape (; +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 Physiotherapy requires the submission of a brief outline of a proposed study. 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 study outline should include a brief rationale for the study, the proposed research question, and a short escription of the proposed study design. The study outline should be a maximum of 100 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.

Submission of a CV and Academic Transcript

Applications should be supported by the submission of a CV, and a copy of an undergraduate academic transcript.

Submission of a PhD applicant questionnaire

Applications should be supported by the submission of a PhD questionnaire. Click here to download the questionnaire.

The study outline, CV, academic transcript and PhD questionnaire should be submitted to Dr Theresa Burgess (


Please contact Dr Theresa Burgess (; +27 21 406 6171) for any further information.


Fees for the Postgraduate degrees in Physiotherapy are obtainable from the Fees Office and vary from year to year. Students can anticipate an average 10% increase in fees each year.

Fees Office

Phone: +27 21 650 1704
Fax: +27 21 650 4768

Financial assistance

Financial assistance is available for postgraduate students at the University of Cape Town ( Further enquiries may be directed to the Postgraduate Centre and Funding Office .