Frequently Asked Questions
I’m interested in doing a Masters at the ERC. Can you tell me what it is about?
All the information about the Masters programme’s contents are available on this website – please read this before emailing with a question. Due to the large volume of queries we receive, we can ONLY respond to those emails that ask for information that is not on the website. Click here
I work full-time; can I do the course part-time?
No, unfortunately the programme is only offered as a full time Masters. What you can do is spread the coursework over two years, while you do your thesis. Your Masters would then take 3 years to complete (you should ensure you consider the financial implications of this additional year of fees).
We have found that many employers are willing to accommodate students who are trying to undertake a Masters. We suggest you talk to your employer about whether they have extra study leave, if they can offer you flexi-time to allow you to attend classes, and if you can take leave to accommodate your class schedule.
I work full time or don’t live in Cape Town, can I do a Masters by dissertation only?
The ERC only accepts full research Masters students under exceptional circumstances, and if students have sufficient experience in the energy sector. Because ‘energy’ is not taught at an undergraduate level anywhere in South Africa, the course work component of the degree is very important. Most students cannot cope with a full research masters without the coursework. It is also a curriculum choice – the ERC strives to produce students who have completed our multidisciplinary Masters because we think issues facing the energy sector require multidisciplinary thinking. The course work is a key component of taking students out of their disciplinary training and exposing them to other ways of thinking about problems facing the sector. We also think that the classmates you meet and the interactions you have with them are an important part of becoming a well-rounded graduate of the ERC.
Unless you are currently working in the energy sector and have significant experience, it is unlikely we will accept you for a full research Masters. If you do meet these criteria, please email a 2-page (minimum) research proposal, containing a literature review, research questions and proposed methods. You should also send your CV, a letter of motivation and academic transcripts, noting whom at the ERC you have identified as a possible supervisor (and why). We will not ‘give out’ topics for research Masters, so please be sure you have a clear idea of what you are interested in before contacting us.
I want to do a PhD; can you give me a topic?
No, the ERC does not ‘hand out’ topics. Undertaking a PhD is not a small task – it is a difficult and often lonely road of research. Students who are interested in completing a PhD must have a topic they are highly interested in and passion about. Before contacting us, please make sure that you have identified a potential supervisor for your research – you can see the sort of work different researchers at the ERC undertake on our website. See here
Once you have identified an area of research you are interested in, and ascertained that there is a supervisor at the ERC who can supervise this sort of work, then you will need to contact us. Please send a 4-page minimum research proposal, containing research questions, literature review, an identification of the originality of your proposed research, methods and references. Please also send us a CV, academic transcript, letter of motivation and example of written work.
The ERC receive very many applications from PhD students, and has a small pool of researchers who are able to supervise at the doctoral level. Please make sure you have clearly thought through your proposed research and identified a supervisor before contacting us. Emails with generic questions such as “I want to do a PhD on energy efficiency; please help me identify a supervisor” will therefore not receive a response.
What funding is available from the ERC?
The ERC has limited funding available for students. Students should make sure that they apply to the National Research Foundation as early as possible in the year preceding their first year of Masters (you may need to apply before you have been accepted into the ERC’s programme). If you do not apply to the NRF, you are not eligible for any other funding from UCT. The PG funding office website is very helpful.
You can also apply for money through Stellenbosch’s CRSES, SANEDI, SANEA, Doug Banks Renewable Energy Vision, the Dutkiewicz Scholarship.
When do applications close?
We do suggest you apply as early as possible in the year before you wish to begin your Masters studies. We receive a lot of applications and the earlier you apply, the better your chances of acceptance (and the sooner you can start looking for funding). Applying before the end of June is highly recommended. It can also take more than a month for applications submitted to the UCT Central Admissions System to reach the ERC. Furthermore, if students do not send all the requisite documentation, that can add weeks to the process, so please make sure your application is accompanied by all the required documents (see below).
Students who do not meet our minimum criteria for acceptance may have to wait some time to hear if they have a place (as they will be wait listed) so the earlier you apply, the better.
7. The online applications system isn’t working, help!
The ERC does not have any access to the CAS – only the Admissions Office can help you with any problems you are having with the application system. Please do not ask us for assistance – we also have to phone the admissions office if we have any queries.
8. I’ve been accepted! What can I start reading before I arrive?
We usually send out the core and required readings for the Intro course in mid-January. If you are wanting to get started before that – and we hope you do! – you can start with
MacKay, David JC (2008) “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air”
Lovins, Amory (1976) “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?” Foreign Affairs Essay
Smil, V “Global energy: the latest infatuations” American Scientist, May-June 2011.
If you want to get to grips with the history of the energy sector, have a look at Daniel Yergin’s “The Prize” (about oil) or “the Quest” – oil and other supply sectors.
You can also have a look on the ERC’s main website and see if any of our publications catch your fancy.
What is the schedule for the year? When do the courses run?
We try to send out the updated programme schedule by December of the previous year. However, because of the nature of the work we do, the schedule sometimes has to change. Please have a look at the programme outline page to see the schedule – as soon as it is finished we will put it up there.
The courses may change format from year to year. Having a look at the structure of a certain course for the previous year should give you an idea of the design of the course. Again, we try to update it as soon as we can.