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CPMH’s MPhil Programme developing researchers for Africa

The MPhil in Public Mental Health was initiated in 2012 and is a part-time research degree that aims to develop advanced research skills, enabling participants to undertake their own research projects (such as evaluating services, policies and interventions) as well as interpret research findings for mental health policy and practice.

The programme is designed to be accessible to practitioners who work full-time, and who are from a range of backgrounds, like social work, psychology, medicine, occupational therapy, nursing, health economics, public mental health, public health, health service management, policy making and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The training aims to build the professional capacity and leadership of the participants in their work, while contributing to knowledge generation in Africa. The degree requires: 1) The completion of a 3-week residential training module in research methodology for public mental health in Cape Town; and 2) The preparation of a dissertation of a minimum of 20 000 words in either monograph or publication-ready format.

The following report is a summary of the MPhil in Public Mental Health to date. It includes a throughput of students since 2012, details on the completed MPhil dissertations that have been adapted for publication as well as survey results of MPhil graduates.

Graduation Day
Prof. Crick Lund (second from left) and Erica Breuer (right) from the Centre with two MPhil graduates on their graduation day.

Student Throughput (2012-2015)

The table below represents the number of students registered at UCT and Stellenbosch for each year of the MPhil. The table also gibve sinsight into trhe number of students currently studying towards the MPhil and those who’ve completed or dropped out of the programme. Since 2012, 30 students have enrolled in the MPhil (19 at UCT and 11 at SU). Overall, 12 have graduated (12 UCT and 3 SU), 15 are still registered and 2 have dropped out (sadly one student passed away).

Mphil in Public Mental Health (2012-2015)
Year 2012 2013 2014 2015 TOTALS
Number Registered
UCT 5 3 5 6 19
SU 4 2 3 2 11
AFFIRM Fellow 5 5 5 5 20
Total 9 5 8 8 30
Number Graduated
UCT 4 2 3 0 9
SU 2 1 0 0 3
AFFIRM Fellow 3 3 2 0 8
Total 6 3 3 0 12
In Progress 1 1 5 8 15
Dropped Out 1 1 0 0 2


Publications from MPhil Dissertations

To date, only two students have published their thesis. However, five students are in the process of preparing a manuscript. Given that the majority of the 12 students who have graduated from the programme did so recently (in the last year), we anticipate more students to publish shortly. In order to facilitate this, Dr. Katherine Sorsdahl, the course convener for the MPhil in Public Mental Health, will be conducting webinars to assist in this process.

Survey results of MPhil Graduates

A survey was disseminated to all 12 students who have graduated from the MPhil programme since its inception in 2012. Ten of these students completed the survey (a response rate of 83%). Overall, all of the students felt that after completing the MPhil in Public Mental Health they are now skilled in research methods and can read a journal article with a more critical eye. Three students have already enrolled in a PhD,  while five more are contemplating embarking on a research career through a PhD programme. Since the MPhil programme started, five students have collaborated on writing a paper (not necessarily on their MPhil research) and two have assisted in grant writing.

When asked about the 3-week course they attended in Cape Town, 75% felt that the course was long enough and covered enough details. However, the remaining 25% felt that the course could be greatly improved if the length of this course was extended.  This viewpoint was encapsulated in the words of one student who stated:

“A lot of material covered within a limited time. Really wished more time could have been allocated to important lessons like research methods and proposal development. These are very crucial areas for one to complete the course but I feel they were rushed because of time. Adding a week to the course can really help. The duration of the 3-week course should have been 4 weeks.”

In terms of supervision, all students agreed that their supervisor provided feedback in a timely manner, provided them with constructive criticism and feedback and was approachable and supportive through the MPhil process. This general high satisfaction is illustrated by one student who said:

“My supervisor was excellent. She was always there to give me useful feedback on my work. I was able to argue my case where I differed without worrying about annoying her. She was always there to answer my questions and concerns until I was satisfied. She has very high standards and it forced me to work hard. However, I was pleased to do so as I knew the end result will be worth it. Moreover, in the beginning I was worried about data analysis and she gave me a clear understanding and made data analysis an enjoyable experience for me. Lastly, I feel my supervisor was a great force who made it possible for me to finish my dissertation in the shortest possible time.”

In 2014, with the placement of an MPhil course co-coordinator, webinars were integrated into the MPhil curriculum. These occur monthly and provide an opportunity to discuss research progress and obstacles. Each webinar included a discussion on a research topic such as how to use reference managing software, responding to reviewer comments or specific data-analysis topics. All four students who participated in the webinars felt strongly that they contributed to the timely completion of their thesis and should be permanently integrated into the MPhil curriculum. The importance of these webinars to the MPhil is illustrated by one student who said:

“Wow! The webinars were really great. Firstly, they encouraged me to do more and work hard. By seeing what others were doing, they motivated me to also strive hard to finish different parts of my dissertation. The course could have really been unbearable without their support. The convener organised the webinar in such a way that each one of us was given a chance to share our progress and where we felt stuck. Immediate help was provided and we could ask more questions through emails if we still wanted more help.”

Read more about two of our recent graduates by clicking here.

Read morea bout applying to complete the MPhil in Public Mental Health by clicking here.