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Wits hosts new training scheme

- By Wits University

Wits is one of seven universities  in low and middle-income country setting, and one of three in Africa that have been selected to host an international postgraduate training scheme in implementation science for masters and PhD level students.

Implementation science supports the identification of health systems bottlenecks and approaches to address them. Each of the successful universities will provide training for up to ten postgraduate students per year, for the duration of the four-year grant.  

The award is provided by TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. TDR is hosted at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, where it is co-sponsored by UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and WHO.

“This initiative is most welcome and in line with the vision of the University as it provides Wits – a research intensive and postgraduate oriented institution – with further opportunities to build capacity in the region,” said Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs at Wits University

“The TDR grant will complement the new field of study in implementation science at the Wits School of Public Health, which is the first training of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa and a joint initiative with the University of North Carolina, commencing in January 2016. The grant confirms the premier status of the School, not only in South Africa, but in the entire Africa region,” said Professor Laetitia Rispel, Head of the Wits School of Public Health.

Wits is one of the leading universities in the world, one of the top two on the African continent and recognised by the Thompson Reuters World University Ranking for the significant contribution made to HIV/AIDS and TB research. Read more at 

The total TDR grant for the seven universities is about US$ 13 million (more than R158 million) and will provide support for over 200 PhD and master’s degree students over the next four years. The goal is to enhance graduate training capacity and boost the number of researchers in these countries, and to provide regional support through these universities and other Regional Training Centres supported by TDR.

“This is a sea change for us. We are moving from managing individual training grants from Geneva to strengthening ongoing programmes at major universities in disease-endemic countries, where the work needs to take place,” says TDR Director John Reeder.

Grant applications will be released on 15 June 2015 for the 2016 academic year. Recipients will be enrolled as postgraduate students at the Wits School of Public Health, and their careers will be tracked with the new TDR Global alumni and stakeholder platform that will be launched in the next year, providing ongoing monitoring of the impact of the programme, as well as networking and increased visibility opportunities for students.

The universities selected

Of the 49 applications submitted, seven were selected for site visits and approved for funding. Each university is expected to manage around 5-10 postgraduate fellowships supported by TDR each year.

In addition to Wits, the other six institutions are the James P. Grant School of Public Health at the BRAC University in Bangladesh; the School of Public Health at the Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia; the School of Public Health at the University of Ghana; the Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon; and the Department of Public Health at the University of Zambia.