National Student Competitions


Supervising lecturers may nominate abridged written operations research masters theses of high quality which were completed during the previous calendar year (submission up to the end of January of the following year will be considered at the discretion of the committee provide the student has not re-registered for the same degree) for consideration in ORSSA's annual student competitions (masters category) during any academic year.

Field of Study

Operations Research (OR) covers a wide range of topics and is applied in many other fields of study. It originated as a multidisciplinary field centred on mathematical modelling. In practice it often uses computer-based systems as an aid to decision making. Recent developments in OR include, for example, metaheuristics, community OR and sustainability. Complex business problems today often require integrating hard and soft operational research approaches. Owing to the multidisciplinary nature of OR, it is recognised and accepted that many courses offered and projects undertaken at tertiary level within the field of OR are the responsibility of departments that do not include the name Operations Research in their title. Projects may, for example, be included in the programmes of departments such as Management Science, Quantitative Management, Industrial Engineering, Decision Science, Statistics, Computer Science, Applied Mathematics or Mathematics. For the purposes of this competition, the judges shall decide whether a particular project is acceptable as an OR project or not. Prospective participants are welcome to contact the Competition Coordinator should they need guidance in this respect.

Nature and extent of entries

Individual initiative is encouraged. Therefore, as few limitations as possible are placed on the nature, content and extent of entries. Entries may be either practical or theoretical. Originality will weigh heavily in the adjudication process.


Elements contained in an entry

Each competition entry shall be submitted in the form of an abridged written Masters thesis, containing at least the following elements

  • a clear statement of the background and objectives of the project,

  • a description of the approach or methodology adopted,

  • a clear presentation of the results and conclusions,

  • a discussion of the actual or possible implementation, and

  • a bibliography with references to the relevant literature.

The submission shall be formatted according to the ORiON Journal author guidelines and shall not exceed an upper bound of 20 pages. The submission shall be accompanied by the full project report or theses for adjudicator reference should any part of the entry need greater clarification. Entrants may indicate whether they want to have their abridged document automatically considered by the Editor of ORiON for publication in this journal

Involvement of the supervising lecturer

It is assumed that each project will be conducted under the guidance and supervision of a university or technikon lecturer. However, the initiative should, as far as possible, remain in the hands of the student. For the purpose of this competition, the responsibility of the supervising lecturer should at most involve the following

  • helping the student to choose a meaningful and feasible project, and

  • advising the student, upon request, during the course of the project.

Selection Process for the Masters Level Category Student Competition

  1. Nominations for written projects in the masters level competition category are gathered by the Competition Coordinator.

  2. Entries to the competition are then ranked by a Selection Committee based solely on the written submissions, after which the top two entries in the masters competition category are designated as finalists.

  3. These finalists are invited to submit abstracts online for presenting their work at a special finalists' competition session scheduled at the annual conference.

  4. The finalists (or representatives appointed by them) are required to present their work in the special finalists' competition conference session. Should the finalist be unable to present their work, a video recording of the presentation may be submitted instead. A representative is then required to take questions on the finalist's behalf.

  5. Each finalist's conference registration fee (or that of their representative) is waived and a stipend to the value of three nights' shared accommodation at the conference venue is paid out to the finalists or their representatives (who then have to make their own accommodation arrangements).

  6. The finalists (or their representatives) are responsible for their own travel arrangements and costs.

  7. Should a be able to present their work at the conference, be unable to send a representative to present their work on their behalf, or be unable to send a video recording of their presentation, such an entry will be disqualified, in which case the third ranked entry, then the fourth ranked entry and so forth will be designated as finalist, until two finalists have been identified whose work can indeed be presented at the conference.

  8. The Selection Committee decides on a winner from among the two finalists (based solely on the written work), but the results are only communicated during the awards ceremony at the conference.

  9. The winner is awarded the prestigious Theodor Stewart Medal for the Masters Thesis during the gala dinner at the annual conference.


Adjudication criteria

The rubric of criteria and quality descriptors shall govern the adjudication process of selecting a winner of the masters level category student competition is available here.