Medical School Admission Criteria and Curriculum by 8 Deans of Health Sciences Faculties

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Health

19 April 2011
Chairperson: Dr B Goqwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Deans of the Human Science Faculties of eight universities on the admission criteria and curriculum of their MBChB programme. The meeting had been requested by the Committee in order to ascertain the progress made in redressing the historical imbalances of the apartheid legacy which had restricted applicants in terms of colour, language and class. The critical shortage of doctors and other health professionals was of concern especially in the rural context. The Committee wanted to know how the faculties were addressing the challenge of recruiting and training appropriate candidates to function in the Primary Health Care system which was what the country needed most at present.

Communalities that emerged were that selection criteria for the MBChB programme had been formulated that encouraged recruitment from applicants from disadvantaged and rural educational backgrounds. Historical imbalances in the student profile were being redressed in their admissions policies in some instances by a quota system. Gender representivity had been achieved and the majority of the institutions had more female students than male. In terms of language policy, all institutions now required that students attain some proficiency in a South African language other than English and Afrikaans. The profile of academic staff had also become more representative.

Extensive student support both academic and socio-economic was being provided to ensure that students succeeded and the problem of under-prepared students was raised in relation to the quality of the school system. Many institutions reported that students from disadvantaged and rural backgrounds were going hungry and that there were problems with bursaries, accommodation, insufficient student residences and transportation problems.

On the training of doctors in Cuba it was reported that the success rate of students in the additional year of study they completed in South Africa was relatively low and doctors could be trained cheaper in South Africa, all things considered.

Members raised questions about some universities having a six year MBChB programme and others a five year curriculum and asked if this affected the standard of the qualification. They also asked about the possible lowering of training standards to accommodate students from disadvantaged educational backgrounds and the fact that entrance requirements for maths and physical science had been lowered. The quality of the country's matric was also questioned.

The Committee was briefed by the Deans of the Human Science Faculties of eight universities on the admission criteria and curriculum of their MBChB programme. The meeting had been requested by the Committee in order to ascertain the progress made in redressing the historical imbalances of the apartheid legacy which had restricted applicants in terms of colour, language and class. The critical shortage of doctors and other health professionals was of concern especially in the rural context. The Committee wanted to know how the faculties were addressing the challenge of recruiting and training appropriate candidates to function in the Primary Health Care system which was what the country needed most at present.

Communalities that emerged were that selection criteria for the MBChB programme had been formulated that encouraged recruitment from applicants from disadvantaged and rural educational backgrounds. Historical imbalances in the student profile were being redressed in their admissions policies in some instances by a quota system. Gender representivity had been achieved and the majority of the institutions had more female students than male. In terms of language policy, all institutions now required that students attain some proficiency in a South African language other than English and Afrikaans. The profile of academic staff had also become more representative.

Extensive student support both academic and socio-economic was being provided to ensure that students succeeded and the problem of under-prepared students was raised in relation to the quality of the school system. Many institutions reported that students from disadvantaged and rural backgrounds were going hungry and that there were problems with bursaries, accommodation, insufficient student residences and transportation problems.

On the training of doctors in Cuba it was reported that the success rate of students in the additional year of study they completed in South Africa was relatively low and doctors could be trained cheaper in South Africa, all things considered.

Members raised questions about some universities having a six year MBChB programme and others a five year curriculum and asked if this affected the standard of the qualification. They also asked about the possible lowering of training standards to accommodate students from disadvantaged educational backgrounds and the fact that entrance requirements for maths and physical science had been lowered. The quality of the country's matric was also questioned.

Members were concerned about the shortage of health professionals and teaching staff at health faculties and questioned the Department's HR policy and whether sufficient resources were being allocated by government to address the problem within a given timeframe. Could they give some indication of their engagement with the Health Department on the Human Resource plan since the launch of the policy? Members raised questions about the training of doctors in Cuba as it contradicted the information they had received from the Department.

A concern was raised by the body of deans that there was a lack of communication between the highest decision-making body around health and those who were desperately trying to be accountable. A decision was made that the meeting reconvene at a later date for an in depth engagement with the Deans and the Department where they could have a focused discussion on the issues raised.

Meeting report

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