The Course


This programme attempts to combine two distinct efforts:

  • First, it attempts to create practising, experienced, qualified academics who know information systems and can guide information systems research efforts. This kind of person is essential in any modern nation as the role of technology in society and commerce continues to grow.
  • Second, this programme meets an additional practical need, that of being able to harness the power of information technology to national aims.

In the case of South Africa and Africa generally these national aims include “upliftment”, “reconstruction”, “reconciliation”, “redevelopment”, or other similar terms. It is also a case of coping with being a modern nation in a globalised economy while repairing the damage of the past.

Our doctoral programme attempts to marry excellence in research with the needs of Africa by promoting in-depth investigation of Information Systems topics to the benefit of the continent and the IS discipline.

INF6001W Research methods

This is a non-credit bearing module that provides necessary preparatory work for INF6000W.

The course explores different philosophical and methodological approaches to Information Systems research with a view to helping students become aware of the options they face in engaging in their selected areas of research, and to understand the logic and rationale of different research perspectives. Opportunities are created throughout the course for students to apply the ideas being discussed to their own personal research situations. The course provides an introduction to Information Systems research, and offers practical insight and guidance on the conduct of research. It is designed as a foundation for the development of the major research project or thesis. Students are required to attend a compulsory workshop at the start of the course and monthly class seminars.

What Qualifications Will You Need to Apply to our Program?

This is an interdisciplinary program.  Our typical applicant will have a research masters degree in Information Systems(IS), Commerce, Computer Science, Engineering, Social Science, Medicine, Law or fields related to National Development.  However,applicants with no IS background should read the note below on background carefully before they consider applying.  Under very exceptional circumstances,we will consider applicants with MBAs and others who have masters degrees without research components but a strong background in IS. 

How Long Will the Program Take?

The programme is by research only, meaning that the final assessment is solely based on the thesis.However, students are required to attend a six month non-credit-bearing course (INF6001W) on the Philosophy of the Social Sciences at the start of the PhD programme in early February. This course is typically made up of a 2-week full-time workshop, followed by monthly seminars, culminating in the delivery of a high-quality research proposal. Students will be allocated supervisors by the department at the end of the six month period once they have successfully submitted the proposal. Students are expected to present their proposal to the department by the end of the first year. Applicants with a strong background in IS will expect to take three or four years including the time to write the thesis.  Others can take up to seven years.Be prepared to hang in for the long haul.  However,given the investment required, consider your application seriously.

Application Procedure General Information

We take in approximately10 to 20 doctoral students per annum and aim to graduate 5 to 10 each year.  Hence there is some competition for spaces.  We are interested in maximising success and will scrutinise applications carefully and thus seek applicants who stand the greatest chance of succeeding in this program. We are reaching the maximum number of students we can supervise, but could accommodate an extra few candidates with the appropriate academic skills and exciting research ideas. Applications are considered throughout the academic year, but intakes are restricted to January, given the coursework component (INF6001W).

Research interests in the department

The academic staff in the department have wide ranging research interests.

Funding opportunities

Candidates are encouraged to source their own funding. The university has limited funding opportunities which are very competitive and the amounts are not sufficient to live on. These funding opportunities should be seen as a supplement and not as a main source of finance.


Participants of the doctoral program are often referred to as "Associates." This a term coming into vogue in industry, with the aim of breaking down rather artificial barriers between the "bosses “and the "employees." A term of this sort emphasizes mutual dependence, respect, communication, and teamwork that are the central aspect of modern nations and organisations. While "Associate" doesn’t directly invoke the idea of "leadership", the term clearly doesn’t rule it out; besides, many leaders have learned to "lead from the center" where their persona might be an Associate. Research shows that the most respected leaders are those that embody and personify the values of the group as a whole. And since our ultimate goal is to build a "community of scholarship “in South Africa (and Africa as a whole) about the concept of information systems for national development, it behooves us to create an “association".

Another reason for avoiding the word "student" is that this term implies that only some of the players are learning (or rather “study"), while others do other things. In fact, everyone in the program is learning all the time. In a new program everyone is learning how to-do new jobs, how to adjust behaviors and expectations, and how to set and see knew goals. In a country where group goal-setting and self-critical examination (that’s what democracy is all about) is a national sport (along with soccer, rugby and cricket, of course), we should associate ourselves with what is really the next phase of "the struggle", the struggle to define the country and where it is going. Those of us from other countries can relate to most of this easily enough.

Finally, the program Associates bring a huge variety of backgrounds, interests, skills, aptitudes, and goals to the program. Our associates represent many different African countries While quality control is important, our philosophy is that in a multidisciplinary, multiethnic, multinational program, it is the diversity of our Associates that is our strength, not the uniformity of their behaviour, knowledge and attitude. While we clearly don’t seek conflict, we encourage dissent and the ensuing debate. While we try to uncover truths, we don’t necessarily advocate any single truths more "true" than others. While quality is of utmost importance, critical thought is even more important and that requires variety and diversity to assure that no viewpoint is ignored. Our Associates are our most prized tool to insure those emphases.

For queries contact the programme convenor Prof. Irwin Brown.