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Postdoctoral research fellowships
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Overview

Definition of a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cape Town

Postdoctoral research fellowships are normally awarded to individuals within 5 years of having achieved a doctoral degree. Postdoctoral research fellows (PDRFs) 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. Under exceptional circumstances, tenure may be extended to a maximum of 5 years. A 6th year of registration will not be considered. Postdoctoral research fellowships provides an opportunity for experiential learning in research, as a path to 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 National Research Foundation (NRF), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and a number of other external foundations and agencies.

These 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.

A PDRF who undertakes research for the benefit of an individual or corporation will not normally be granted tax exemption. Application for tax-exemption processes are described under the administration section 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 (PGFO) 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 PGFO.

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

Each PDRF is 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 is made by the PGFO, and may take the form of 2 to 4 payments to the PDRF's fee account, which can 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 PGFO. After the first instalment has been paid, the PGFO 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.

Facilities

PDRFs, once registered with the university, are eligible to use the following 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. UCT's 7 faculties are listed below:

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