Postdoctoral research fellowships


Definition of a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Cape Town

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships are normally awarded to individuals within five years of having achieved a doctoral degree. Postdoctoral Research Fellows are individuals who undertake research and gain professional experience for a future academic career, under the supervision and mentorship of a Principal Investigator. Fellowships are negotiable up to 3 years after which extension of tenure may, under exceptional circumstances, be considered for up to a maximum of five years. A sixth year of registration cannot be considered. The purpose of the Postdoctoral Research Fellowship is to provide an opportunity for experiential learning in research, which may serve as a path for further academic and professional development.

What a Fellowship entails

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships are provided by several different sources, including the University's Research Committee, the NRF, the MRC and a number of other external Foundations and agencies. The Fellowships are normally awarded to individuals within five years of their having obtaining a doctoral degree and are negotiable for up to three years (after which renewals will be considered for a period up to five years). Such extension depends on several factors, including availability of funds.

Postdoctoral researchers are provided with an opportunity for experiential learning in research, which may serve as a path for further academic and professional development.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowships are non-taxable, unless they comply with the guidelines for "open scholarships" as set out by the South African Revenue Services. In essence, this means that:

  • fellowships must be granted without fringe benefits
  • no services are required of the successful candidate in return for the fellowship

In addition to this, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (PDRF) who undertakes research for the benefit of an individual or corporation will not normally be granted tax exemption on the fellowship. Application for tax-exemption processes are described under Administration below.

Conditions of Award and advertising

A document known as the Conditions of Award ensures that all applicants and candidates are subjected to the same criteria so that selection is free and fair. It clearly outlines the terms of reference for all fellowships available to postdoctoral researchers at the university. The head of department or fund-holder must compile this document. It is then submitted to the Postgraduate Centre and Funding Office, where it will be approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation. A copy of this document, as well as a copy of the advertisement, will be submitted by the PDRF Office in the Postgraduate Centre and Funding Office to the South African Revenue Services along with a request for tax exemption.

Registration, orientation and administration

Once a Fellowship has been offered to a postdoctoral researcher, the PDRF will be required to register at UCT at the beginning of their tenure and at the beginning of each subsequent academic year of their tenure. The registration process takes place in the Postgraduate Centre and Funding Office.

A short orientation will be given to each new (PDRF), as well as an information package containing information, contact numbers, maps and copies of the various UCT policies and the PDRF Grievance Procedure.

Each PDRF will be required to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the university. This is a contractual agreement between the university and the PDRF and is legally binding. Similarly, the PDRF and the Principal Investigator will enter into a bilateral agreement called the Memorandum of Understanding. The latter records the expectations of both parties, work plans, work in progress and work completed. Payment of fellowships will only be made once the above Memorandums have been signed and copies submitted to the PGFO.

Payment of fellowships is made by the PGFO, and may take the form of two to four payments to the PDRF's fee account, which will be transferred to the individual's banking account at a later stage. Whilst the PDRF is waiting for the transfer of funds to his/her banking account, limited cash advances can be drawn via the PDRF Office. After the first instalment has been paid, the PDRF Office will make a request for tax exemption on behalf of the PDRF. The balance of the fellowship will be paid in subsequent instalments once tax exemption has been received.

PDRFs, once registered with the university, are eligible to utilise the following university facilities:

  • Library borrowing facilities
  • Parking facilities
  • Membership of sports and other clubs
  • Access to Student Health and counselling facilities
  • Access to Educare and related services
  • Access to student and/or staff housing, where such accommodation may be available

Individuals who are interested in pursuing postdoctoral research at UCT can contact the Faculty Office or academic department responsible for their area of research-interest. UCT's seven Faculties are listed below: