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The Course is not being offered for 2014 until further notice

Programme Convenor: Professor Lucy Gilson

School of Public Health and Family Medicine

Graduate School of Business


The Diploma in Health Management was initiated just after the first democratic elections in South Africa, in 1994. The then Department of Community Health at the University of Cape Town sought to offer training that would provide new health managers with skills relevant to their roles in transforming the health system, and to support a community of leaders who could work together in shaping that transformation.

Over time, the post-graduate Diploma has become a core part of a broader health management programme called the Oliver Tambo Fellowship Programme. This name was chosen, after consultation with the Tambo family, in recognition of Oliver Tambo's strong and inspiring leadership. It is the only programme of its kind in South Africa, geared primarily towards senior public health managers, focussed on the practice of management practice and involving both formal post-graduate teaching and continuing and wider engagement with the community of health managers. Since its inception until 2009, nearly 200 senior managers have been trained through the post-graduate diploma course.

The programme as a whole was funded until 2004 by the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation. Following a favourable external evaluation in 2005, the Atlantic Philanthropies has provided grant funding for the period 2007 to 2011. The evaluation included interviews with alumni and senior health managers and concluded that there is a strong need and demand for the Programme.


The overall programme goals are to support South African health managers, particularly those within the public sector, to develop the practices and behaviours of strategic and effective leaders; and so to strengthen the South African health system. In addition, the programme seeks to develop a network of health managers through which exchange of information, experience, best practice and knowledge can take place.

The programme as a whole has four elements:

1. a post-graduate Diploma in Health Management;
2. a mentorship programme to support Diploma candidates in developing their leadership skills;
3. an alumni network to enable sustained engagement and learning among fellows;
4. engagement with other senior health managers through regular seminars and events.


1: Post-graduate Diploma in Health Management (pgDip HM)

The 18-month Diploma is designed and presented as a high quality multi-disciplinary and cross-faculty qualification; it is run jointly by the UCT's School of Public Health and Family Medicine and Graduate School of Business. This partnership brings together these organisations' strengths in health policy and system work, and the application of systems thinking to management.

Primary target audience:

Senior South African public health managers working at provincial or national departments of health, and responsible either for strategic leadership of particular programmes or of service development within a defined geographic area. Some places are also open each year to health managers with equivalent experience and responsibilities working in other health organisations, particularly non-government organisations.

Overview of curriculum:

The programme is based on action and adult learning principles, and consists of four, equally-weighted components (see below). Three residential modules, of around seven days each, introduce participants to a set of inter-related frameworks of management practice. These frameworks together encourage critical thinking and reflection on participants' own management practice as well as providing ideas about how to strengthen it. Each of the three modules involves a range of tasks allowing the application, testing and refinement of new ideas and approaches to management. Each module is also accompanied by a series of inter-modular tasks and assignments which require participants to apply the management practice frameworks to issues in their own workplaces, and to reflect on their evolving management practice. The fourth and final module then allows integration of the skills and knowledge gained in the earlier modules, by introducing action learning principles and approaches. Following the module, participants then implement an action-learning research project focussed on a substantial management problem in their workplaces.

pgDip Health Management modules:

School of Public Health and Family Medicine

Managing health policy implementation which equips participants with skills and analytical approaches relevant in managing the process and politics of health policy implementation.

Managing health systems development, which introduces participants to a range of priority setting and planning approaches and tools important to health systems development.

Graduate School of Business

Public health management practice, which introduces systems thinking, action learning, and adult learning theories, and integrates these into the concepts of organisational learning and knowledge management.

Public health technical report, which supports participants in conducting an action-based investigation which adds substantive depth to their management studies.

2: Mentoring programme

The mentorship programme supports Diploma candidates in developing their management practice. The programme staff work collaboratively with participants to appoint a mentor to each of them for the duration of the programme. Mentors receive support on coaching principles to ensure effective mentor-mentee relationships.

3: Alumni network

The alumni network seeks to support sustained professional development for Fellows. As a new area of the Oliver Tambo Fellowship Programme activity it will develop and evolve over time. The aim is to encourage peer support and engagement, and provide opportunities for sharing experience and personal development beyond the post-graduate Diploma course.

4: Top management seminar

The top management seminar is a regular event which brings senior national, provincial and local government health leaders together in Cape Town for a day, to share experiences on a particular topic, learn from one another and other countries' experiences and have an opportunity to engage with each other in an unpressured manner on the challenges of the day.



Anyone interested in applying for the post-graduate Diploma is encouraged to contact the Programme Administrator (see contact details below).
The recruitment process begins around September each year, for the following 18 month cycle.

There are two routes of application:

Public health managers must apply through their Human Resources Department, which secures approval for nominations and forwards them to UCT for final decisions. All nominees must meet the annually specified requirements in terms of seniority and area of experience. Public sector nominees are sponsored partly by their departments and partly by scholarship funding from UCT. In final decisions, efforts are made to ensure distribution of available scholarship funding across the country.

Managers from outside the public sector must apply directly to UCT, following the usual procedures. They must be of similar seniority and experience to public health managers. They will cover the full costs of participation themselves, including the costs of fees as well as accommodation and transport costs for the residential modules.

All applicants must also:

  • have at least a Bachelors degree or equivalent
  • be prepared to manage the workloads entailed in taking a part-time, post-graduate course
  • be computer literate and have regular access to a personal computer


For further information about any aspect of the programme, including the post-graduate Diploma in Health Management please contact the Programme Administrator:

Ms Sue MacHutchon
Tel: +27 21 406 6608
Fax: +27 21 447 1569
Health Economics Unit
School of Public Health and Family Medicine
Faculty of Health Sciences
Anzio Road
Observatory, 7925

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