This is a professional Master’s level degree. Following successful completion of the degree, the graduate is eligible for registration as a specialist in South Africa by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).


Most South African applicants will be admitted to the programme following appointment to a “registrar” (specialist training) post on the provincial Department of Health (DOH) establishment. This is currently a four-year contract appointment during which time the candidate will receive all the benefits of a public service employee, including a salary and benefits. Note however that HPCSA has expressed an intention to increase the required minimum training period for certain specialties to five years. This has not as yet come into effect.

Applying for a post

Selection is competitive. A selection committee is appointed for each discipline comprising members of both the DOH and the University, who will shortlist applicants and then invite the shortlisted applicants for an interview. Those accepted for registrar training are automatically accepted by the University into the MMed programme.

Duration of training

DOH registrar contracts are time-limited. Students will sign a “Registrar contract” with the DOH. Those who have not completed the degree within four years will not have their contract renewed except with special permission (usually granted for circumstances such as extended illness or maternity leave). After four years, students who have not completed their studies are required to find another post, usually as a Medical Officer within the DOH, if such a post is available. Such a post is not guaranteed, and may not be in a training hospital. It will also not carry any educational privileges. Provided the student continues to register annually and pay their fees, they remain postgraduate students of the University, and may continue with their research project and attend clinical teaching opportunities, provided these do not interfere with their duties as a Medical Officer.


It is also possible to enrol for the MMed programme without being appointed to a registrar post on the KwaZulu-Natal DOH payroll:

  • Some students may be funded by the Health Department of another South African province and are seconded to UKZN to receive specialist training, where this is not available in their own province.
  • Some international students may be funded by their governments.
  • Students can potentially be self-funded.

Such students are not employed by the DOH and do not receive a salary or employment benefits from the DOH. The University will however request permission from the DOH for the student to work and train within DOH health institutions, where the bulk of training is received. Such students are generally referred to as “supernumerary registrars”, as they perform the duties of registrars but are not held against posts on the DOH establishment. Their duties and responsibilities are however identical to those of provincially-employed registrars, since these are necessary in order to develop the clinical skills and experience required of the specialist.

South African citizens and permanent residents

These students are subject to a number of additional requirements

  • Registration with the HPCSA in order to be allowed to practise medicine in South Africa while undergoing training
  • Possession of a valid, appropriate visa or study permit
  • University requirements for international students.

Applying for admission to the programme

Prospective externally-funded students wishing to be accepted into the program as “supernumerary” registrars should communicate with the School directly using the email address They will then be advised further.


Clinical training

The student will be required to register sequentially for two modules, Clinical and Professional Practice 1 and Clinical and Professional Practice 2. In the course of these modules the student provides full-time clinical service within the hospitals and health facilities of the provincial DOH in KwaZulu-Natal, principally in Durban or Pietermaritzburg, though service elsewhere may be required. The service is provided under specialist supervision at all times, and it is expected that all clinical experience will be seen as a practical learning opportunity. Students will receive regular group and individual teaching, both during the course of clinical service and in dedicated tutorial time. The student may be required to pass a basic and/or intermediate level fellowship examination offered by the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) which is accepted by the University as equivalent to its own examinations. At the conclusion of training, the student is required to pass the final exit-level fellowship examination of the CMSA.

Research component

Each student is required to register for a Research Methodology module, and thereafter to devise, implement and complete a research project under the direction of a supervisor. This project must be written up, either as a paper accepted for publication by a journal on a list held by the University (in which case no formal thesis as necessary), or as a short thesis comprising a research manuscript with an accompanying explanatory chapter, which is sent out for examination.

Recognition of previous research experience

Whether previous research experience is recognised for the purposes of exempting students from the research component is subject to the circumstances. Read here for further details.


These may be accessed from the College of Health Sciences Handbook.

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