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Confidential theses

The principle that all research results should be freely available governs all research conducted at the University of Cape Town. Therefore, no-one will be allowed to undertake research for the purposes of an MSc or PhD, the results of which may not be published. However, on rare occasions there may be a good reason for a short delay in making the thesis available to anyone other than the supervisors and examiners (who will be placed under non disclosure agreement). UCT will consider giving such a dispensation on application and on good cause shown for a period not exceeding two years, but usually for a shorter period of 6 months.

Reasons accepted by the Doctoral Degrees Board and Senate for confidentiality of a thesis to be maintained for a limited period include (not exhaustive as there may be other instances of "good cause shown"):

  • The thesis involves commercial confidentiality (e.g. information made available by some organisation to the University).
  • The thesis has been produced in terms of an agreement with an outside body or sponsor governing the supply of confidential material or the disclosure of research results applicable to the thesis.
  • Confidentiality is a condition of access to materials that are subsequently incorporated in a thesis.
  • Patent protection is outstanding; or a review of the thesis is necessary to determine whether a patent application should be filed; or to include additional information ahead of filing a complete patent application; or to secure the possibility to re-file the patent application should this be needed.

Note that these reasons apply to both MSc and PhD theses.

The following reasons, although considered at other institutions are not considered by UCT to be good reasons for maintaining confidentiality of theses:

  • Considerations of privacy or security
  • Third-party copyright issues (often related to the on-line availability of theses)
  • That a publication deriving from a thesis is pending
  • That there is a high litigation potential
  • That the pursuit of a business opportunity may be jeopardized.

PhD Process

Students who wish to apply to the Doctoral Degrees Board for a thesis submitted for examination to be subject to a period of confidentiality must do so on the prescribed form (DDB 008) which can be downloaded from the right-hand panel of this page.

The Doctoral Degrees Board will consider each application (either at a meeting or by Chair's circular) and will make a determination after consultation with the Research Contracts and Intellectual Property Services Office.

If such permission is given, the thesis will not be lodged in the library or added to any prescribed digital repository.

At the end of the specified period, the thesis will be placed on open shelves in the library and will be added to any prescribed digital repository.

Application must be made at, or before, the time of handing in the thesis to enable the DDB (by means of an amended Examiner Declaration Form) to place the examiners under an obligation of confidentiality and to make clear to examiners that, should they wish to discuss the thesis for purposes of examination, the DDB must be informed beforehand so that the DDB can place such persons under an obligation of confidentiality as well.

Where confidentiality is being maintained, the citation appearing in the graduation booklet will need to be reviewed to ensure that nothing that is confidential has been disclosed. RC&I will assist with this review.

Masters Dissertation Process

Master's degree dissertation examinations are handled at Faculty level, so the approvals process is somewhat different to that used for PhD theses. Here, both the Dean (or designate) and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor review the application and determine whether there is a valid reason for confidentiality to be maintained.

Students who wish to apply to the Faculty for a dissertation submitted for examination to be subject to a period of confidentiality must do so on the prescribed form (MSc 001) which can be downloaded from the right-hand panel of this page.

If such permission is given, the dissertation will not be lodged in the library or added to any prescribed digital repository. At the end of the specified period, the dissertation will be placed on open shelves in the library and will be added to any prescribed digital repository.

Application must be made at, or before, the time of handing in the dissertation to enable the Faculty Office to place the potential examiners under an obligation of confidentiality and to make clear to examiners that, should they wish to discuss the dissertation for purposes of examination, the Faculty Office must be informed beforehand so that the Faculty Office can place such persons under an obligation of confidentiality as well.

Should you have any queries relating to these processes please contact the Senior Innovation Manager, Dr Andrew Bailey [021 650 2425, Andrew.Bailey@uct.ac.za]