PhD in Business Management
and Administration

Find solutions to real-world business problems through in-depth research

  • Research
  • Course
  • Fees
  • Structure & Content
  • Learning Philosophy
  • Admission Requirements
Course Overview
Course starts Dependent on application
Application closes Rolling intake

USB’s internationally accredited PhD in Business Management and Administration is aimed at those who want to undertake supervised research to become an expert in their field. This requires a contribution to new knowledge through rigorous research. With USB’s PhD in Business Management, you will help to find solutions to pressing business problems in the real world. USB emphasises the creation of knowledge that is particularly relevant to African organisations.

This degree will stand you in good stead if you want to establish yourself as an expert in a particular field, and if you want to work in industries focused on research and innovation, or at an academic institution.

Selection committee meetings and deadlines for submissions:

Application deadline submission date Selection committee meeting date
26 August 2021 01 September 2021
30 September 2021 06 October 2021
28 October 2021 03 November 2021
22 November 2021 27 November 2021

NB: Completed applications,  supporting documents and the results of the SHL tests must be submitted by the document deadline dates.

Multi-year programme

At least 2 years of registration

These are the fees for 2021. The fees for 2022 will be added once they have been finalised.


 Programme tuition fees for 2021 2021 (1st year) 2022 (2nd year) Total Provisional Quote
Students from South Africa R50 365 R50 365 R100 730 Download
Students from Southern African Development Community
(SADC) countries
R54 865 R54 865 R109 730 Download
International students from the rest of Africa (non-SADC countries) R59 895 R59 895 R119 790 Download
​International students from the rest of the world R59 895 R58 895 R119 790 Download
​​​​​​​Deposit payable on acceptance of admission​ for 2021
​​​​Students from South Africa R12 335
​​​​Students from Southern African Development Community
(SADC) countries
R27 433
International students from the rest of Africa
(non-SADC countries)
R29 948
​International students from the rest of the world R29 948
​​​​​​​Application fee​ for 2021/2022
Application fee (non-refundable; applicable to all students)

SHL selection test fee


R2 950

  • Application and SHL fee: The application and SHL fee must accompany the application. The application and SHL fee is not refundable.
  • Travelling, accommodation and meals are for students’ own accounts.
  • USB reserves the right to change the fees at any time.


USB’s PhD in Business Management and Administration is awarded solely on the successful completion of a research-based dissertation. This dissertation must contribute to and enrich the academic knowledge and understanding of theory and professional practice. The minimum period of registration for the PhD is two years.

The thesis may be written as a single whole, or may be by publication, where a number of articles and/or chapters are presented together with an introduction and conclusion that draws the parts into the whole.

The preparation of your pre-proposal

Every application must include a pre-proposal, written in scientific language, on your intended research. The pre-proposal serves to demonstrate whether you have a mature approach to high-level research. It also helps us evaluate whether the topic is viable and whether we can provide appropriate supervision and resources. The world count of the pre-proposal is approximately 4 000 words (excluding references). This is what the pre-proposal must cover:

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research methodology
  • Potential contribution of the research
  • References

The dissertation pre-proposal will also help USB to determine whether you have thought through your interest in and commitment to the programme, and whether you are suitable for admission to the USB PhD programme.

The preparation of your comprehensive research proposal

Once your pre-proposal has been approved, you need to submit a comprehensive research proposal. Your provisional supervisor will guide you in the preparation of your proposal. Your comprehensive research proposal will serve as your road map for the completion of your PhD. You will be formally registered for your PhD once your comprehensive research proposal has been accepted.

The actual research process and its deliverables

Through their research, PhD registrants must demonstrate the following:

  • Expertise, knowledge and reflection of theories and methods at the forefront of a field or discipline
  • The ability to apply theories, acquire new knowledge and generate new insights to confront practical and theoretical problems with the aim of proposing relevant and ethical solutions
  • The ability to communicate your work to an audience of researchers
  • The ability to take part as a researcher in the international research community

Your final dissertation will be evaluated by three examiners. This will be followed by a public oral defence of the dissertation – the viva voce.

The PhD in Business Management and Administration is a combination of scientific rigour and managerial relevance. To develop applicable knowledge underpinned by theory and practice, PhD students need to conduct research on real-world problems, and develop personal and transferable skills which can be used in a range of applied situations. ​USB emphasises the creation of knowledge that is relevant to South African organisations, and from there to beyond our borders. This forms part of our social responsibility to strengthen our country to the benefit of all those involved.

  • Academic requirements: A relevant master’s degree in an appropriate management-related area, with an average of 65%. The major part of the master’s degree (weight within degree) must consist of a written thesis, of which a grade of at least 65% should be obtained.
  • Minimum period of registration: Two years
  • Selection test: SHL test (see below).

Note: International students require a South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) evaluation certificate to evaluate their degrees according to South African standards. USB’s International Affairs Office will handle the credential evaluations of international students free of charge. You therefore need to complete the online application, and upload all certificates to your application. The International Office will, as part of the application process, conduct an in-house credential evaluation after you have submitted your application.

SHL selection test

You need to complete the SHL abilities selection test as part of your application process. The test consists of a verbal critical reasoning assessment, numerical critical reasoning assessment, inductive reasoning test, and Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ) on behavioural preferences, which are used for selection and for the identification of your development areas.

  • Duration: Approximately 3 hours.
  • Preparation: No preparation is required. However, you are encouraged to perform a practice test to familiarise yourself with the test format. See
  • About the test: The SHL test is done online. (Random verification might be requested.) You will be provided with a link to the SHL test once you have paid your PGDip BMA application fee and SHL selection test fee, and after you have submitted your application form and have received your provisional student number. (You need to use this provisional student number when writing the SHL.)
  • Cost: For fees, please see (click on Fees tab). See bank details under How to apply and use your provisional student number as reference. The application fee and SHL selection test fee can be paid online.
  • Link to the SHL selection test: You do not have to arrange with USB to write the SHL test. You will receive a link to the test once the relevant payments have been received and you have submitted your application form. USB will receive your results directly from SHL and will upload it to your application form on your behalf.
  • Additional information:
  • Important: The SHL selection test is valid for 18 months. If your SHL selection test results are older than this, you should ideally rewrite the test as people grow and develop and assessments need to take this into account. USB does not consider SHL tests from other institutions as you may have written a different type or level of test, or you may have been compared to a different comparison group. If you have completed the SHL with USB during the past 18 months, you do not have to rewrite the test.
Dr Lara Skelly

Dr Lara Skelly’s career at USB began as a research manager in 2015, and the role of the head of USB’s PhD in Business Management and Administration was added in June 2017. She has a special interest in how to increase the impact of research.

Programme Ambassadors

These programme ambassadors are current students and alumni who support prospective students in their new stage of life and share their personal experience about studying at USB.

In our process, we encourage prospective PhD students to provide some original and independent thinking in the pre-proposal. Prior contact with a potential supervisor may make it difficult to distinguish the applicant’s thinking from the supervisor’s guidance.

You can find information about funding on our website. Additionally, please feel free to explore the funding opportunities available via the Stellenbosch University Postgraduate Office (

  1. Contribution: What makes a PhD different to any other degree is that it must contribute to knowledge. At USB, we understand this contribution to be a theoretical one. (Read more about contribution here, and the definition of theory here). Try and avoid submitting a pre-proposal that reads more like a consulting report focusing on a specific context.
  2. Writing: PhD students should be able to write in alignment with the standard academic conventions, which includes full referencing. Pre-proposals are submitted to a text-matching programme to check for potential text recycling.
  3. Fit with USB’s interests: We strongly prefer projects in the private and non-profit sectors, as opposed to those in the public sector.

As mentioned, we encourage original thinking in the pre-proposal, and sharing such examples will make it difficult to distinguish your thinking from third-party ideas.

Unfortunately our minimum requirements are fixed, and currently we do not offer any supplementary modules that will help you make up the minimum.

The allocation of appropriate supervisors is the responsibility of USB. While we do work with external supervisors regularly, the appointment of an external supervisor is motivated by the internal supervisor, and an existing relationship between supervisors have been found to be most beneficial to the success of the student’s project.

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