Application Open For 2021 MSc and PhD Research Opportunities in Astronomy


The South Africa Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) offers students the opportunity to work with leading researchers on cutting edge astronomy and instrumentation projects. These cover observational and theoretical aspects of stellar and extragalactic astronomy, astronomical instrumentation, and computer modeling. Many projects involve combining and analyzing data from different wavelengths, e.g. optical data from SAAO/SALT with radio data from MeerKAT and/or X-ray measurements from spacecraft. There are also numerous opportunities for collaboration with national and international partners. Details are given in the project descriptions.

A number of the MSc and Ph.D. projects offered could be based at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), as a number of our academic staff have joint affiliations at UCT Astronomy and the SAAO. For a full list of projects offered at the SAAO, please see the SAAO web site.

Application process

If you are interested in any of the projects in the link above, please do the following:

  • contact the academic staff member of the project you are interested in and send them a copy of your CV;
  • discuss the research with them to determine if you have the required qualifications, skills, and abilities to undertake the project. You may contact as many potential supervisors as you like;
  • if the academic staff member agrees to supervise you, discuss details about registration and funding.

Postgraduate funding

Most of the postgraduate research projects are funded by scholarships from the National Research Foundation (NRF). For details, see the 2021 Scholarships and Fellowship application documents.


Completing the NRF application will take time, and requires various documents and letters. It is essential that you complete your discussions with your potential supervisor(s) well before the deadline.

If you require NRF funding, you must ensure that you qualify for NRF support as this is the primary mechanism we have to provide you with a bursary. Once you have applied for NRF funding, send your application number to your prospective academic supervisor.

The lists of projects offered for 2021 also include a number of SARAO-approved projects, eligible for SARAO scholarships. Applications also go through the NRF application portal, and the internal UCT deadline is also 30 June 2020.

Other scholarship opportunities exist, such as the SALT/SAAO Prize Scholarship for MSc/Ph.D., and the annual UCT SKA Ph.D. scholarship (deadline 30 June 2020).

Postgraduate registration

Details of the registration process at UCT can be found on the Faculty of Science web page.

For further information, please contact the Head of Department.

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