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Invitation to study PhD with Design

The Architecture Department at the University of the Free State is pleased to welcome potential candidates who wish to apply for our new PhD in Architecture with Specialization in Design. The new degree is aimed at architects with a five-year BArch degree and successful design experience, and younger MArch graduates, who wish to explore creative research. It is envisaged that the PhD study might be ‘practice-based’ for architects who wish to document and research their own work, or ‘design-led’ for candidates who wish to explore a new creative project.

The new PhD with design programme at UFS – a first for SA – recognises the intelligence and ingenuity of design. The programme’s primary objective is to harvest and study the implicit orientations, operations and achievements of design, and to enlist creativity in the forming of new knowledge. The degree facilitates analytical reflection, stimulates creative action and opens new insights into the unique logic of design.

BArch and MArch Applicants

Candidates with an MArch may enter directly into the PhD programme. For candidates with the former five-year BArch degree, it should be noted that South African universities are bound by national qualification standards which rate a BArch and a MArch differently (despite the fact that SACAP acknowledge professional equivalence). Therefore, candidates with the former five-year BArch must complete a one-year MArch before gaining admission to a PhD. The new PhD with Design programme at UFS is, however, intentionally structured to accommodate this ‘anomaly’, and allows for an effective and  transition into PhD studies for candidates who enter with the former five-year BArch professional degree.

Duration of Study

The first year of study – aided by four research symposia in January, April, June and August – allows Masters and PhD candidates to define their intended PhD research plan. At the end of the year, successful candidates who entered with a BArch have the option to either exit with a Masters study of their own design work, or to use their Masters as a stepping stone toward a PhD. It is foreseeable, that candidates who enter with either the old five year BArch or an MArch, might exit with a PhD within 3 years of full-time study.

How to apply

The Masters / PhD with Design program for academic year 2020 is currently full. Our next intake will be for the academic year commencing in 2021.

Candidates wishing to study in 2021 must apply to the university and the department before 30 September 2020

Acceptance into the programme requires candidates to present a 15-minute oral/visual presentation to show either:

  • the unique quality of their designs and built works (if ‘practice-based’), or
  • prior design work and idea/s for the intended research project (if ‘design-led’). 

And in either case, three pages of writing about the presentation, a CV, and proof of academic record is also required.

Entry into the programme is subject to availability of space. Selection will be made on the basis of the presentation, the written page and the candidates’ academic record.

Also contact the Postgraduate School for more information regarding postgraduate studies at the UFS.

Programme Convener  |  Prof Jonathan Noble

Contact Person  |  Yolanda Pretorius  |   +27 51 401 2332  |

Typical Research Programme

  • First year, four research symposia per year
  • Second year onward, two PhD symposia per year 


Research Symposium 1

First-year candidates  
Readings and discussion of candidates’ projects and intended research 


Research Symposium 2 (PhD Symposium 1)

All years combined
Research methods and candidate presentations             


Research Symposium 3

First-year candidates
Candidate presentations


Research Symposium 4 (PhD Symposium 2)

All years combined
Candidate presentations

Introductory Reading

Van Schaik, Leon. 2011. “The Pink Book. By Practice, By Invitation: Design Practice Research in Architecture and Design at RMIT, 1986 – 2011”. RMIT.


Please contact us by email for assistance.
We are currently not in our offices, as per the lockdown measures in place for South Africa.

Faculty Manager: Velaphi Makgwahla

T: + 27 51 401 3199

Marketing Manager: Elfrieda Lötter
T: +27 51 401 2531

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