We place a strong emphasis on the role of our teaching activities in building the field of HPSR and extending our networks.  Therefore, through the broader teaching programmes of our respective Unviersities, we offer a range of specialist post-graduate courses focusing on health policy and systems analysis and research and health management.  We also offer PhD supervision in these fields.

Several of our courses have been developed jointly, and with other colleagues teaching in this field in Africa and Europe. Details can be found on the CHEPSAA, UCT and UWC websites.

In addition, we jointly offer three continuing education short courses during the annual Winter Schools held at the University of the Western Cape.

All our courses are aimed at professionals working in or adjacent to the health sector. The majority of our students are from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, although we also have some students from Asian countries as a result of our collaborations with institutions in India, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. The vast majority of our students work while they study, often in quite senior positions in government departments or NGOs. Our teaching approach and learning materials are therefore structured to accommodate and support our students’ work life and experience.

Outlines of Winter School short courses can be found  at https://soph.uwc.ac.za/continuing-professional-development-activities-in-public-health/

Below are outlines of the three Masters level modules taught at UCT and UWC (also on http://www.hpsa-africa.org/index.php/modules-courses/modules-courses):


Versions of this course are taught at both UCT and UWC

In order to understand the functioning of health systems, and act towards strengthening them, it is necessary to grasp the notion of complexity and see how it plays out in the system, through the behaviours, actions and relationships between people. The Introduction to Complex Health Systems course provides an opportunity to study and understand this important aspect of health systems. It explores how the health system is a platform from which health services are delivered, and how a well-functioning system is therefore necessary for the provision of quality – effective and caring – services for the sick and vulnerable.

The course is made up of ten sessions. Sessions 1 & 2 work together, introducing and discussing health systems; sessions 3 & 4 look at and develop ideas around a particular example of health system functioning; sessions 5-7 together develop analysis of the roles and behaviour of people in the health system; sessions 8 & 9 pull the strands of the course together through case studies; and finally session 10 wraps up the course concepts.

Course learning outcomes

By the end of this course participants are expected to be able to:

  1. Show understanding of the dynamic and complex nature of health systems by reflecting on and describing their value bases and functioning, as well as the central roles and behaviours of a range of agents.
  2. Show understanding of health systems as social constructions, influenced by, and influencing the agents within them, as well as influenced by broader political and economic forces, generating public value and contributing to societal development.
  3. Apply these understandings to assessment of own health system and comparison between health systems.
  4. Apply relevant analytical skills and an understanding of complex systems in order to develop ideas about action to strengthen health systems.
  5. Develop the personal communication, teamwork and leadership skills which are important for supporting health system change.
  6. Demonstrate understanding of and openness to different perspectives on the nature of health systems, by expressing these in writing or orally.


Versions of this course are taught at both UCT and UWC

This course seeks to introduce participants to: (i) key processes, concepts and theories in health policy and policy analysis and (ii) an approach to policy analysis that can be applied to any policy. This is achieved by introducing participants to “big picture” concepts and theories relating to policy development and implementation, but also by examing key elements and interactions in more detail, including the central role of actors in policy processes, the analysis of policy content and context, and ways of thinking about planning and managing policy processes.

Course learning outcomes

The course as a whole has seven learning outcomes. By the end of the course participants should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of the varied and iterative nature of policy change processes;
  2. Recognize that implementation is part of the overall policy change process;
  3. Identify key components and factors facilitating and constraining policy and implementation processes;
  4. Conduct comprehensive analyses of policy and implementation processes;
  5. Apply theoretical frameworks and approaches in understanding policy and implementation processes and use specific policy analysis tools;
  6. Use policy analysis for strategic planning; and
  7. Work in teams to achieve specific goals.


Versions of this course are taught at both UCT and UWC

This course provides an introduction to the practice of health policy and systems research (HPSR). By the end of the course participants are expected to be able, confidently, to identify substantively relevant HPSR questions, to select appropriate research strategies for addressing these questions in specific contexts and to think through approaches that support the use of research evidence in decision-making. The course is framed within the understanding that HPSR is rooted in real-world problems, and requires constant consideration of the ties between policy-making and research.

Logic of the course

The core themes addressed during the course are sequenced according to a particular logic, as shown below.

Introductions: Why HPSR?
Starting points
What is a health system? What is health systems’ strengthening?
What is health policy? What are the boundaries of HPSR?
What is HPSR?
Identifying HPSR issues and framing HPSR questions
From question to research strategy and study design
Understanding HPSR (critique and rigour)
Practice–research engagement

Course learning outcomes

This course has eleven learning outcomes. While not all sessions address all of the outcomes, most of them weave through the majority of the sessions, albeit with different weightings in each session. By the end of the course participants are expected to be able to:

  1. Identify researchable health policy and systems issues, including those focused on action to strengthen health systems and the processes of policy change;
  2. Formulate substantively relevant health policy or health systems research questions, by drawing on relevant empirical work, practice knowledge, and theoretical insights;
  3. Be familiar with the range of research purposes, questions and strategies used within HPSR;
  4. Identify appropriate research strategies and study designs for different HPSR issues, purposes and question types;
  5. Show awareness of critical issues in, and approaches to, ensuring rigour in HPSR;
  6. Be able to source HPSR materials and critically appraise HPSR empirical papers;
  7. Appreciate the value of multiple perspectives (positional and disciplinary) in conducting HPSR;
  8. Have some understanding of how the complex and socially constructed nature of health policy and health systems is addressed in HPSR methodology;
  9. Plan activities that support the use of research evidence for and in decision-making;
  10. Be aware of critical ethical issues for HPSR;
  11. Recognise that personal skills, such as listening and facilitation, are critical to being a health policy and systems researcher.

Examples of linked HPSR courses:

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