Standard of a PhD

The standard of all recognised South African qualifications is prescribed by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in terms of the competencies and abilities which are to be demonstrated by a student graduating at that level.

 The doctoral degree – a Level 10 degree – is the highest form of academic qualification recognised. Graduates are expected to show a very high level of knowledge accompanied by a superior ability to seek out, evaluate, communicate and use information. In particular, novelty and creativity are required at this level: the graduate is expected to have produced new knowledge and new insights, rather than merely having evaluated the work of others.

Consult the Level 9 descriptors. Essentially, if the work you submit (whether in the form of published papers or in a dissertation), clearly reflects the fact that you are indeed able to demonstrate the competencies and abilities prescribedin those descriptors, then you are likely to graduate.

Obtaining the PhD degree is not a numbers game in which you have to knock off a number of publications in order to graduate. The intellectual capital invested in that work has to provide clear evidence of  your abilities. As a general rule, 3-4 papers containing a substantial amount of innovative, novel work is the minimum expected. Where some of these publications fall below this standard, then more will be necessary.

Albert Einstein. on the other hand, might have graduated with a single publication – in fact any one of the three he published in 1912 (his so-called annus mirabilis – marvellous year). All three were on different topics (, bhe photoelectric effect, brownian motion and special relativity): the first received the Nobel prize and it is generally accepted that all three were of Nobel standard.

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