Send to

Choose Destination
Health Res Policy Syst. 2012 Apr 4;10(1):11. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-10-11.

Investing in African research training institutions creates sustainable capacity for Africa: the case of the University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health masters programme in epidemiology and biostatistics.

Author information

School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.



Improving health in Africa is a high priority internationally. Inadequate research capacity to produce local, relevant research has been identified as a limitation to improved population health. Increasing attention is being paid to the higher education sector in Africa as a method of addressing this; evidence that such investment is having the desired impact is required. A 1998 3-year investment by the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) in research training at the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa was reviewed to assess its' impact.


A descriptive cross-sectional survey of the 70 students registered for the masters programme in epidemiology & biostatistics from 2000-2005 was conducted. Data were collected from self-administered questionnaires.


Sixty percent (42/70) of students responded. At the time of the survey 19% of respondents changed their country of residence after completion of the masters course, 14% migrated within Africa and 5% migrated out of Africa. Approximately half (47%) were employed as researchers and 38% worked in research institutions. Sixty percent reported research output, and four graduates were pursuing PhD studies. Government subsidy to higher education institutions, investments of the University of the Witwatersrand in successful programmes and ongoing bursaries for students to cover tuition fees were important for sustainability.


Investing in African institutions to improve research training capacity resulted in the retention of graduates in Africa in research positions and produced research output. Training programmes can be sustained when national governments invest in higher education and where that funding is judiciously applied. Challenges remain if funding for students bursaries is not available.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center