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I’ve been Accepted in to the Philosophy of Education doctoral program with the University of South Africa

with 5 comments

As I posted almost a year ago, I had applied with the University of South Africa (UNISA), to enter one of their doctoral programs.  As I also had previously posted, they got things confused, and put me into a Philosophy of Education program instead of a Comparative Education program.  But, I am glad to be finally accepted (which officially occurred on February 6, 2013), and I am OK with being in the Philosophy of Education program, as that was actually the doctorate I was first considering, when I originally thought about applying to UNISA in 2010.  I will be posting about my experiences with UNISA on this blog, and ultimately will probably write a full article about it.

There are several major things I like about UNISA, and it is because of these reasons I have put up with the things that are not so good.

  • Legitimacy – The University of South Africa is recognized as a legitimate international university, that generally will be recognized as having the equivalency of U.S. accreditation for most formal purposes.
  • Doctorate by Thesis (Dissertation) & Publication – UNISA is traditional in the sense that doctoral students only work on their thesis (This terminology is a little confusing, as in the U.S. we would call it the dissertation, but they are really the same thing.)   Further, UNISA requires that a scientific peer-reviewed journal article be published based upon the thesis.  I appreciate this methodology as I believe it will give me more freedom in completing my doctorate, probably take less time, and be more flexible to my schedule.  Also, it adds additional legitimacy to my future degree because while UNISA may not be well recognized in the U.S., having a paper published in a peer-review journal inherently gains general recognition from academics.
  • Cost – Given the current exchange rate for South African Rand to U.S. Dollars, and because of South African subsidies to higher education, my entire doctorate will cost around $2,000.  This is a 95% savings over many U.S. doctorates that cost around $40,000.
  • Supporting Africa – As I have argued before, we are all of African descent, from our shared Greatest Grandmother. Yet much of Africa is plagued with lacking freedom, having mismanagement, dictatorship, poverty, violence, and death.   South Africa has been a beacon of hope to many, and Nelson Mandela is recognized world-wide as a symbol of that hope.  I hope that by being part of the university, I can also help support Africa.

But, even with all the things that I like about UNISA, there are clearly issues that the university has including:

  • Poorly Designed Bureaucratic Systems – While I am not inside the university to be able to determine how their systems are poorly designed, it is clear from my experience that there systems must be poorly designed, as I waited nearly a year to be accepted into my program, they got my major wrong (despite it being clearly written on my application), and from the time I paid my fees on February 7, I waited 5 days to be able to have online access to my class materials for my research proposal (Although to be fair, some U.S. Universities might take that long also).   Most of my communication with UNISA staff takes days, weeks, or sometimes months to get a response back. While U.S. universities also often have poor bureaucratic systems, they are still far ahead of UNISA, and I don’t believe most US students would be patient enough to go through with UNISA.
  • Cessation of Copyright – UNISA currently requires all masters and doctoral students to cede the copyright of their dissertation or thesis to UNISA, under their rule PG18.  This is something that has never set well with me, and is the primary reason I did not apply originally in 2010.  Although, for me, it is not that I want any material gain from my thesis, but in fact I want to release it under a Creative Commons license, and I am concerned that their rules will hinder this.  But, as I will be posting soon, I now have a new strategy to help UNISA to see the problem with rule PG18, and also hopefully see the value of allowing Creative Common licensing.
  • Lack of Common U.S. Recognition – While UNISA is clearly legitimate in the eyes of most universities, it is not well recognized in the U.S. to the general public. So on the surface, especially due to some inherent prejudice that may occur, I am sure many people will question the legitimacy of the degree.  But, I don’t consider this a problem, as it is actually an opportunity to educate those who are asking the question about the validity of the education, to help them expand their world-view and reduce some prejudice they may have.   (I will explore this subject in future postings, as I don’t believe that all the prejudice I may get to the degree would be inherently due to racism, because there are also legitimate reasons a person might be prejudice towards some African universities.)

Post Revisions:

Written by Jacob Walker

February 11th, 2013 at 6:40 am

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5 Responses to 'I’ve been Accepted in to the Philosophy of Education doctoral program with the University of South Africa'

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  1. […] Africa (UNISA), and how it can be a lower-cost legitimate option to get a doctorate.  Here is a posting from my blog with some of my thoughts about the pros and cons of getting a degree from UNISA.  If you are interested in finding out more information, I’d be more than happy to give you […]

  2. I found your blog while searching for info on Unisa. I just got into their DLitt et Phil program in French and I’m not sure what to expect. It’s hard to find anyone in the US who has even heard of Unisa. I was unaware of their copyright policy, so I do appreciate that information. Not great news, but not a deal-breaker either given their reasonable tuition and the fact that I don’t have to quit my job. I wish you success with your doctorate!


    20 Dec 13 at 8:21 am

  3. Very informative blog. I’ve been thinking about Unisa for my PhD. Just have a couple of questions, if you could answer:
    – How do ypu find your Advisor? Do you ask personally or the university sugests one for you!
    – How specific you have to be on your ressarch proposal to be accepted?
    – How much guidance do you get?
    Thank you!


    21 Apr 14 at 1:01 pm

  4. I was a student in the Philosophy of Education Department at UNISA for several years and graduated last year! My supervision was amazing. Professor Van Niekerk never let me feel abandoned or alone. I always had positive feedback and gentle criticisms.

    Going to the graduation for my D.Ed. was the highlight of my life. Beautiful.

    I’m grateful to the people at UNISA.

    Adrienne Rosen

    15 Dec 14 at 10:27 pm

  5. […] I received an email from a fellow scholar without a doctorate, who had read one of my blog entries about the University of South Africa (UNISA) and my work towards a doctorate.  I was going to just respond back to him directly, but I am one […]

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