The Organisational and Institutional Studies programme has opened applications for its newest PhD.

The Wits school of social sciences will introduce an organisational and institutional studies (OIS) degree at doctoral level in 2020.

The multidisciplinary OIS programme focuses on the foundations of theoretical debates on institutions and draws on a number of different fields of study including politics, history, sociology, law and economics.

The introduction of the PhD extends the OIS programme from the honours degree which was introduced in 2018 and the Masters which was introduced earlier this year.

“Studying OIS at PhD level gives you an even deeper comprehension of institutions and gives you knowledge to understand the history and social structures of states,” said Dr Federica Duca, the academic coordinator of the degree.

Obert Nangara, an OIS master’s student, said institutions are recognizable in everyday life. “Marriage is an institution, so is a law which can be categorized under social institutions,” he said.

“South Africa, as a country, is an institution,” Nangara said, adding  studying OIS helped him understand the relationships between states and citizens.

Dr Marcus Walton, the OIS honours lecturer, said the study of institutions is important, given the South African context.

“South African democracy has faced several deep-seated challenges in the 21st century centering around the role and makeup of the state, the persistence of inequality in the post-apartheid era, and the contested distributions of political power,” Walton said.

“The OIS programme seeks to address these, and other critical topics by foregrounding the study of structures, norms, laws, bureaucratic arrangements, and historical legacies which continue to shape these developments,” he added.

Nangara hopes to pursue the OIS PhD  with an economics focus. Thereafter, the 45-year-old Zimbabwean said he aims to plough back his knowledge in his country of birth by contesting the 2028 presidential elections.

“To be a good head of state, you need a sound grasp of commerce,” Nangara said.

“If Wits is to be at the cutting edge of the knowledge economy it needs intellectual labourers, people who can bring forth new forms of knowledge to ensure the survival and sustainability of the economy,” said Professor Robert Muponde, director of the Wits University postgraduate affairs office.

Duca said that having studied the OIS programme at master’s level is not a prerequisite for studying it at PhD level.

Prospective candidates are expected to have an academic background demonstrating a sound social science understanding. “This is because the PhD degree involves in-depth analysis and ethnographies,” Duca said.

“However, I would like to stress that the study of institutions is really open,” Duca said, adding that the institutions studied do not have to be linked to the state.

“For example, the study of network security relates to the state but is not entirely linked to it,” she said.

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr Federica Duca, OIS academic coordinator, hopes the new PhD programme will allow scholars to further understand institutional studies. Photo: Ntombi Mkandhla