Thank you for your interest in the Wits School of Public Health Interdisciplinary PhD programme. The programme, established 4 years ago, built on existing PhD training to ensure that doctoral candidates within the School and related departments gained broad exposure to critical areas in public and population health as well as to their particular field of study. We aim to produce well-rounded graduates who can make a substantial contribution to improving public health, whether through academia or policy making.
Doctoral students in our programme are supervised by world-class faculty with a wide-range of research interests which address health care challenges on the African continent. The relationship is by no means a remote one however - we emphasise supportive supervision with mentorship. Another key feature of the doctoral training we offer is a structured programme which emphasises not only the PhD research and thesis, but also continued intellectual engagement through a regular seminar series during which students interact with outstanding faculty within the School, University and African public health sphere. We have also established professional development milestones which ensure our graduates can satisfy the most rigorous of employment environments.
We have a vibrant programme with over 50 doctoral students and boast over fifteen graduates since the inception of the programme in 2009. Our recent graduates are employed in varied positions, including academia, government and non-governmental organisations.
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The PhD programme has three components
This comprises seminar and coursework components.
Doctoral students are expected to attend the weekly School of Public Health (SPH) academic meetings. In addition, there are twice-monthly seminars at which experts discuss key interdisciplinary topics and ethical issues in public health, as well as build capacity in generic research skills. At least once a month, doctoral students present their proposed research for peer review. Candidates are expected to attend at least 60% of the seminars during the course of the academic year.
The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development (CLTD) at the University both offer extensive catalogues of courses. Doctoral students are also able to take advantage of courses within the taught components of the Masters of Public Health and Masters of Science in Biostatistics and Epidemiology offered by the School. Students, with their supervisors, are encouraged early during their PhD to identify areas in which they need additional support and tailor a coursework programme appropriately.
There are seven core areas of professional development in which candidates are expected to demonstrate competence: scientific communication, research leadership, tutoring/supervison, scientific writing, peer review, grant writing and policy writing.
A significant amount of effort during the course of doctoral studies is directed toward conducting research and writing this up in the form of the PhD thesis. To be awarded a PhD , the research conducted must be an original piece of work which contributes substantial new knowledge to the field. Candidates work closely with their supervisors to develop their research proposals and these are peer-reviewed in the School prior to being reviewed at Faculty level to ensure the proposed work meets the required standard.
The Faculty of Health Sciences accepts theses either as monographs or with publications. We encourage theses with publications as the candidate then has several manuscripts published or in preparation at the time of graduation. Both forms are, however, acceptable and supported.
Each candidate meets with the programme leadership at least annually to review progress over the past year, including supervisor reports and adherence to programme requirements.
In addition, there are several milestones to ensure candidates are progressing satisfactorily:
Undertaking a PhD is an intensive process. Our PhD programme has several support mechanisms to assist students in their training and as they plan for their future careers.
Every year, PhD students are invited to attend a 2 ½ day retreat where they are provided with mentorship and support to help them progress with their scientific writing, regardless of their stage in the PhD process. The cost of the retreat is covered for candidates registered in the SPH.
We encourage our candidates to actively plan for their future careers. During the academic year, there are seminars on professional skills such as leadership and networking and the programme also hosts networking events.