Master of Philosophy in Social Policy and Development

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Master of Philosophy in Social Policy and Development at UJ

The MPhil is a collaborative initiative between the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies and the Centre for Social Development in Africa, within the Faculty of Humanities at UJ.

What is it?

An interdisciplinary Masters Coursework and Research programme that will build your knowledge and practice capacity in developing and analysing social policies and interventions intended to address social development challenges at the national, community and household level in South Africa and the Southern African region.

What will you achieve?

The programme focuses on building high-level theoretical and practice capability of social development professionals across a diversity of disciplines and from a variety of professional backgrounds to address complex social development challenges.

The degree will develop your competency in social policy and evidence-based theory and practice in your specific field of work or study whether it be social work, psychology, community development, development studies, public governance, political science, anthropology, sociology, education, or economics amongst others.

Equipped with the appropriate and requisite knowledge and skills, you will be able to enhance the quality and implementation of social policies and interventions in local, national, regional and global institutions.

WATCH: Course Lead and DST/NRF SARChi in Welfare and Social Development, Prof Leila Patel discuss more about the MPhil.

How long is the course?

The MPhil can be completed in two years (full-time) or three years (part-time).

Who can enrol?

In order to be eligible for the programme you should:

Hold an Honours or four-year degree in a related field (e.g. Humanities, Education or Economics).
The Honours degree must have been attained with a minimum average of 70%.
In the case of a different type of qualification, where the student has a track record of development related work experience, the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) process will be used to assess the qualification for admission into the MPhil programme.

Is the degree done by coursework or by research?

The MPhil degree is a Masters by coursework degree and combines coursework in the first year and independent research completed in the second year (for full-time students) or second and third year (for part-time students). The degree grading is made up of 50% coursework and 50% research.

The coursework consists of three courses:

  • A core theory course on social policy and development, with a major focus on the global South.
  • Advanced research design and methodology, with a focus on intervention research (including methodologies to design and evaluate interventions).
  • One elective course from related disciplines. The list of elective courses varies from year to year depending on the courses that departments are running each year. The student can choose from courses run at UJ in sociology, social work, development studies, anthropology, political studies, philosophy, psychology, history, and communications.

The research component:

This component is an independent research project on a subject of the student’s choice, focused on an issue related to social policy and development. It will be guided by a research supervisor who will be allocated in the second semester of the first year of the MPhil. There are opportunities to connect your research project with the wider research of the CSDA, which you can read about on our website.

How much time am I required to dedicate to the degree?

You will need to dedicate approximately 20 hours per week (on average) to these activities.

The teaching methodology will include:

  • Lectures (arranged in blocks of a few days of full-time lectures every two-to-three months.)
  • Online tutorials and discussion groups
  • Self-study components: time for reading and preparation for class and lectures engagements
  • Peer learning opportunities
  • Guest lectures
  • Site visits
  • Independent research

What will it cost me?

  • Online application fee: free or a non-refundable hard-copy application fee: R200.
  • Non-refundable registration fee: R610.
  • A non-refundable ICT-levy: R430.
  • Programme fees: From R37 389.00 – R93 385.00 depending on which elective you choose
  • A minimum payment of R3 870 is payable at the time of registration.
  • For SADC and student from African countries: a non-refundable international levy of: R2 000
  • For other international students: a non-refundable international levy of: R17 000
    (Asylum seekers/Refugees/Diplomat students are not required to pay the International levy).

*Please note that these prices are a guideline and are subject to change in 2024.

Are there scholarships or bursaries available for this degree?

The CSDA administers the Prof Tessa Hochfeld Memorial bursary. This bursary will cover the fees of eligible students. The bursary is awarded on a competitive basis. If you wish to apply, please include a separate motivation letter with your application, indicating why you should be considered for the scholarship.

In addition, there are various scholarships that can be applied for (for both South African and international students). For information on these funding opportunities, please visit

You should also visit the websites of the National Research Foundation and the National Institute of the Humanities and Social Sciences for postgraduate funding opportunities.

How do I apply?

There are TWO steps in the application process:
Step 1: Apply here AND
Step 2: Send the following documents to the CSDA at

  • Proof of your online application
  • Academic records
  • Copy of ID or passport
  • CV
  • Letter of motivation outlining why you would like to do the course
  • 1-2 page essay on the social policy or social development challenge you would like to focus on in your research
  • 1-2 contactable academic or work-related references

Applications for the course open on 01 April 2023. Applications will be accepted until the 30 September @ 12h00. International students are encouraged to apply early to ensure sufficient time for visa processing.

No applications will be accepted after this date. For further information about the course and application process please email