College of Medicine

The College of Medicine (CoM) was established in 1991 as a constituent college within the University of Malawi (UNIMA). It is the only medical school in Malawi. The CoM has gradually grown from a program with an intake of 10-15 students per year and a handful of Malawian faculty, to a program with a medical student intake of on average 60 per year with 110 faculty members, of whom approximately 67% are Malawians. To date the college has graduated over 250 medical doctors. The CoM recently commenced undergraduate courses in Pharmacy and Medical Laboratory Technology in 2006. Read more about CoM

University of Malawi

50 Year of Excellence in Education

MPH Handbook

//MPH Handbook

We would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to this exciting course. The MPH course is focused on how to improve the health of populations and communities and particular groups within them through the prevention of disease, the promotion of health and the provision and evaluation of appropriate treatment and care. The course aims to equip students with skills to analyze public health problems and design, implement, and evaluate actions to improve them.

The material in this handbook applies to the MPH (Master of Public Health) and PGDPH (Post Graduate Diploma in Public Health) courses offered by the School of Public Health and Family Medicine.

We would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to this exciting course. The MPH course is focused on how to improve the health of populations and communities and particular groups within them through the prevention of disease, the promotion of health and the provision and evaluation of appropriate treatment and care. The course aims to equip students with skills to analyze public health problems and design, implement, and evaluate actions to improve them.

The emphasis of this course is on:

  • The critical evaluation of evidence
  • Methods of analysis
  • Practical effective interventions
  • Management
  • Evaluation

This MPH is comparable with MPH courses run elsewhere within the continent and internationally. Throughout the world, expertise at postgraduate level is required to run health services at national and district level. Graduates with an MPH degree are in an ideal position to use this professional qualification within health service management teams in the public and private sectors including the Ministry of Health, local and international Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) institutions and United Nations organizations. Some MPH graduates go onto research and teaching posts.

Studying for your MPH or PGDPH will be a challenge. Over the next two, or three, years you will be able to build upon work you have previously done, learn new knowledge and skills and learn from both the teaching staff and your colleagues on the course. Your enthusiasm and commitment to achieving your MPH is the most important thing you can bring with you at the start of the course.

We wish you every success with your study, and we will do our best to ensure that the next two years are exciting, stimulating and above all rewarding for you personally and professionally.

The material in this handbook applies to the MPH (Master of Public Health) and PGDPH (Post Graduate Diploma in Public Health) courses offered by the School of Public Health and Family Medicine.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge in the core disciplines of public health: epidemi-ology, statistics, health management, health services, disease prevention and social sciences.
  • Demonstrate specialised knowledge and skills in other areas relevant to the practice of pub-lic health from a wide range of choices (for example, health promotion, demography, organisational management, health information systems).
  • Apply these skills to identify and assess public health problems and evaluate actions de-signed to improve public health.
  • Formulate public health strategies and approaches to public health problems which are ap-propriate to different cultures and environments.
  • Critically assess relevant aspects of their own and other student’s professional experience in the field of public health.
  • Apply appropriate research skills, including literature review, study design and analysis and evaluation and use of research findings.

eCoM is an electronic communication and submission system for submission of assignments and research project related documents.

Every student in the program is provided with a College of Medicine e-mail address upon completion of registration procedures. The CoM domain is hosted by Gmail and is widely accessible across Malawi. You should expect to receive information concerning timetables, venues, assignments etc via this account and therefore to check it regularly. You should use this account for communication with your supervisors too.

For submission of assignments and research project related documents e-mail should not be used. An electronic portal should be used. It can be accessed via a link on the College web-pages or via the link This link is known as eCoM. To log into it you will use your CoM e-mail login details (full e-mail address and password). For each piece of work you are expected to submit there will be an area into which to upload it, after you have registered for the module or other component of the course. After you have uploaded your work you will be able to view what you have submitted. Where relevant your supervisor will post feedback in the same system. Access to your submissions is limited to those authorised to access your work.

To protect the integrity of the document you submit you are advised to use pdf format for submis-sion of each typeset document. This ensures that the original document is viewed in the same layout etc on any computer.

The College uses an electronic Curriculum Management System (CMS) to facilitate the sharing of course materials with students. This can be accessed via a link on the College web-pages or via the link To log into it you will use your CoM e-mail login details (full e-mail address and password).

Accessing eCoM
eCoM Login
Submission Slots
Submission Status Page
Protocol Submission Page

The curriculum consists of

  1. Eight core modules (totalling 60 credits)
  2. Elective modules (totalling 60 credits). Elective modules are single (5 credits) or double (10 credits).
  3. Two integrated case studies (5 credits each)
  4. A dissertation (50 credits) – only for those anticipating obtaining an MPH.

Course Summary

Course Contact Hours Self study Total hours Credits
L P T Total
Core modules 130 85 105 320 480 800 60
Elective modules Variable mix 320 480 600 60
Case studies 8 24 32 68 100 10
Dissertation 76 4 80 320 500 50

L= Lectures; P=Practicals; T=Tutorials

Core Module Requirements

There are eight core modules within the MPH programme. Core modules are compulsory for all MPH / PGDPH students. However, exemptions may be given where students can demonstrate credits gained from another institution or evidence of having completed the content of the module and which has been formally assessed by another university. Students are allowed to transfer a maximum of 50% i.e. 400 credit hours of the core module credit hours from another institution.
The core modules offered in this programme are listed below:
Module Code Core module Total hours Credits
MPH601 Orientation 80 0
MPH602 Essential Epidemiology 100 10
MPH603 Essential Biostatistics 100 10
MPH604 Health Systems – Health Economics & Health Policy 100 10
MPH605 Globalisation & Organisational Theory and Health Management, 50 5
MPH606 Disease Prevention – Health Promotion and Environmental Health 100 10
MPH607 Social Sciences for Public Health 100 10
MPH608 Bioethics – Good Clinical Practice 50 5
Total 800 60

The orientation module is considered a core module and is compulsory although it does not appear on the academic transcript and does not carry any credits.

Public health is a broad discipline and the standard degree provides a general course conferring generic competencies. To accommodate more focused competencies the College of Medicine allows concentration of study into five special interest areas. To major a student should complete 30 elective credits and a dissertation in their chosen specialty area, the completion of which will be noted as majoring in the speciality in the student transcript. Completion of 30 credits in the chosen specialty area, will be noted as minoring in the speciality in the student transcript.
The six special interest study areas and the required modules are listed below:
Field of Study A choice of 30 credits from these elective modules
Bioethics MPH613a, 613b*, 613c, 613d, 613e*, 613f, 613g, 613h,
Health Management MPH612, 617*, 618*,619, 626*, 629, 630, 632*,, 642*, 643, 648, 649a, 649b
Reproductive health MPH 610, 625, 627, 628, 631, 634, 646
Epidemiology MPH 623, 644a, 644b ,MEP611*, 612*, 613*, 614*
Nutrition MPH 635a*, 635b*, 635c, 635d, 635e, 635f, 635g*
Health Informatics MPH615a*, 615b*, 616a*, 616b*

* Module carries 10 credits

All other modules carry 5 credits

Candidates may elect to major and must register their intention when making their elective module choices in the first six months of the course. To take a major specialty course the dissertation must be in the specialty and supervised by a member of faculty from that specialty.

Elective modules, covering a range of topics, are normally scheduled to be delivered in five half days, either as 2½ days or spread over one week with another module running concurrently, and accumulate 50 hours each. Tutorials may take place outside the timetabled module contact hours. Students select 600 hours (or 60 credits) of elective modules (currently from more than 30 offered modules). An elective module which is valued at 50 hours constitutes 1 module and 100 hrs is equivalent to 2 modules.   Students will receive guidance from their academic supervisors in the selection of elective units in order to fill gaps in their existing experience, build upon their strengths or to enhance a proposed career outline. Each student is permitted to take a maximum of 75 credits or 750 hours of elective modules ONLY as part of the course. Additional modules over this limit may be taken, but at an additional charge. Attendance of selected elective modules is compulsory, i.e. students may not be assessed if they have not attended classes.

The elective modules offered in this programme are listed in the table below. However, it should be noted that not all modules are offered every year and some electives modules may be offered but if less than 6 students register, it most probably wont be delivered.

Students choose modules after completion of the core modules, and again at the beginning of year 2.

Module Code Elective module Total hours Number of


MPH610 Adolescent health 50 5
MPH612 Application of Health Economics 50 5
MPH613a Bioethics – Introduction to theories, principles, guidelines and African bioethics 50 5
MPH613b Bioethics – Ethical review of research, clinical trial monitoring and ethics committee management 100 10
MPH613c Bioethics – conflict of interest and integrity 50 5
MPH613d Bioethics – Informed consent, justice and research with vulnerable populations 50 5
MPH613e Bioethics – Globalisation and research ethics 100 10
MPH613f Bioethics – Public health law 50 5
MPH613g Bioethics – Special and current topics 50 5
MPH613h Bioethics – Health, ethics and human rights 50 5
MPH614 Introduction to health informatics 50 5
MPH615a Database design and management I 100 10
MPH615b Database design and management II 100 10
MPH616a Implementation of health management systems I 100 10
MPH616b Implementation of health management systems I 100 10
MPH 617 Health policy implementation 100 10
MPH 618 Resource allocation in health care 100 10
MPH 619 Health system design and evolution 50 5
MPH622 Child health 50 5
MPH623 Communicable Disease Control 50 5
MPH625 Demography 50 5
MPH626 Effective group leadership 100 10
MPH627 Family planning 50 5
MPH628 Gender and health 50 5
MPH629 Health financial management 50 5
MPH630 Introduction to Health Management Information Systems 50 5
MPH631 HIV and AIDS 50 5
MPH632 Strategic Human resource management & planning 100 10
MPH633 Malaria 100 10
MPH634 Maternal health 50 5
MPH635a Nutrition 100 10
MPH635b Nutrition epidemiology and assessment of nutritional status 100 10
MPH635c Nutrition – management of severe and moderate malnutrition 50 5
MPH635d Nutrition – infant nutrition and breastfeeding 50 5
MPH635e Nutrition – diet and disease 50 5
MPH635f Nutrition and HIV 50 5
MPH635g Nutrition – an integrated district nutrition improvement plan 100 10
MPH642 Primary health care 100 10
MPH643 Programme planning 50 5
MPH644a Research methods and proposal writing 50 5
MPH644b Research Synthesis – systematic reviews 50 5
MPH646 Sexually transmitted diseases 50 5
MPH647 TB 50 5
MPH 648 Quality assurance in health care 50 5
MPH 649a District health governance Part1 50 5
MPH 649b District health governance Part2 50 5
MPH655a Essentials of Data Management and Analysis for dissertations 28 0
MPH655b Introduction to Data Management and Analysis using Stata 32 0
1.1.1      MEP611 Descriptive Study Design and analysis 100 10
1.1.2      MEP612 Case Control Study Design, binary and logistic regression analysis 100 10
1.1.3      MEP613 Cohort Study Design and Time-to-event Analysis 100 10
4.3.4   MEP 614 Experimental Studies and correlated data analysis 100 10

Students are required to complete two integrated case studies, which together make up 10 credits or 5% of the course. The completion of two case studies is compulsory for all students to complete either the MPH or the PGDPH. The objective of the case studies is to ensure that students can identify and solve health problems and health system problems in a comprehensive manner using the strengths of a multi-disciplinary team. The case studies are based on given or real health problem or health system problems. The topics available vary from year to year.

Students should indicate which available case studies they wish to undertake as a case study. The choices should be registered when registering choices of elective modules. Students select with which other students and on which case studies they wish to work.

  • Each case study has an academic supervisor appointed by the Public Health and Family Medicine Research and Postgraduate Committee.
  • Each group should consult the academic supervisor of the case study prior to undertaking the work.

Learning Objectives

Case studies are intended to help students integrate learning done in other modules and to apply knowledge and competencies to improve health or health systems. Two case studies need to be successfully completed for the MPH / PGDPH to be awarded. Students should work in groups of between 3 and 5 and they can choose from any of the case studies listed below. The case studies can be taken concurrently or consecutively. Each case study is expected to take 50 hours. Students should typically plan to take 10 hours reviewing the literature, 5 half days working together, one day for field work accessing relevant unpublished information, and 12 hours writing up and preparing the presentation. Evaluation of each case study is done through a report.

They provide a preliminary opportunity to produce an extended piece of work and gain experience relevant to the conduct of a dissertation project. After successful completion of case studies the student is expected to be able to

  • Work in a group to discuss and agree a solution to a practical public health issue
  • Identify the features of the selected problem and review the current scientific literature surrounding the problem
  • Design and undertake an analysis of the local situation
  • Analyse the results of the situational analysis and reach sound conclusions based on the facts found
  • Choose appropriate recommendations for action.

Case Study Topic Selection

A list of Case Studies available for selection is posted on the MPH area of the CMS. It is expected to be revised annually.

You need to select two case studies to complete. For each Case Study you need to form a group of between 3 and 5 students with whom to complete it.

When you have agreed as a group on a case study you wish to pursue you should contact the Supervisor prior to beginning the work.  You should also inform the MPH Office which Case Study you are pursuing.

Case Study Assessment

The case study supervisor will assess the case study report on its completion. Your report and a summary of assessment compiled by your case study supervisor will be sent to the PHFMPRC and reviewed by one of its members. The standard grading system outlined in Section 8.2.3 will be used.

Students must complete a dissertation. The dissertation research work takes place following completion of all core and elective modules and all case studies. However, proposal development must begin in the first year with the identification of a research topic, identification of a dissertation supervisor, and the development of a 2 page proposal followed by a full proposal, along with the research methods and proposal writing module. Because the MPH is aimed primarily at practitioners in the field of health systems and public health, the dissertation should demonstrate that the student can identify and investigate health and health system problems in a comprehensive manner, and that he/she can begin to formulate appropriate interventions.

Students will select a project or topic in consultation with their academic supervisor.

The dissertation can take one of three formats:

  1. Research project: Students will be able to decide whether to focus more intensely on the quantitative or qualitative methodology rather than the intervention, and this constitutes a research project.
  2. Intervention: Students can identify a problem, formulate a workable solution, implement an intervention of some sort, and evaluate the changes that result from it. In this case, the emphasis is more on action than on methods, and this constitutes an intervention project.
  3. Policy report: Students focus on the provision of scientifically well-founded advice to policy makers to help decide on an appropriate course of action. This dissertation focuses on identification of the problem, a review of the evidence, synthesis and recommendations. It may or may not include primary or secondary data collection.

For purposes of the MPH each of the three is valid.

All MPH students are required to submit a two paged proposal and then a full proposal prior to conducting their research study for their dissertation. Securing funding from a third party for a research project to be undertaken for the dissertation is not reason for by-passing requirements of the MPH program.

Detailed guidelines for dissertations will be available to students.

There are three office bearers who service the program and provide support for students in the program: The MPH Tutor and MPH Coordinator are available to assist students.

The MPH Tutor is a member of Faculty within the Department responsible for oversight of the program. The MPH Coordinator is an administrative member of staff who is responsible for timetabling and coordination of modules, maintenance of material on online sites, management of student grades, and mostly communicates with students and module coordinators.. The MPH Tutor’s responsibilities include overseeing timely assessment of modules, dissertations etc, overseeing student’s progress with the core and elective modules and with the dissertations and selection of dissertation supervisors.

The design of the MPH / PGDPH course is such that two-thirds of time is spent by the student at the place of work and only one third at the College of Medicine. The supervision and support arrangements have been designed to accommodate this. In addition to those above who service the program, each student will normally have two supervisors, although sometimes the role of dissertation supervisor may be taken up by one of the other supervisors. In other cases there may be a second dissertation supervisor.

Academic supervisor – each student is allocated an academic supervisor by the department of Public Health. The Academic Supervisor is the primary point of contact for the student with the Program.

2)   Dissertation supervisor – each student should identify a primary and where necessary a secondary dissertation supervisor who should to be approved by the Public Health and Family Medicine Postgraduate and Research Committee (PHFMPRC). When the primary supervisor is not a member of faculty within the School a secondary supervisor based within the College is required. In cases where the student cannot identify a dissertation supervisor, the PHFMPRC will assist in identifying one for the student. The Primary Supervisor must hold an MPH or have other multidisciplinary qualifications suitable to the candidate’s research project. In some cases, the supervisor may not hold a higher degree but must nevertheless have an outstanding publication, research and/or academic record, particularly in supervision, which the PHFMPRC accepts as equivalent in standing to the higher degree.


In line with a modern concept in continuous professional development, contracts are agreed between the student and each of the academic supervisor and the dissertation supervisor (see Appendices E and F). Each supervisor is expected to maintain a log of communications with their student(s).

At the start of the course all students will be allocated a supervisor. The role of the supervisor is to help guide the student’s learning, to assist them to gain maximum benefit from the course. The supervisor can either help students with problems they are having during the course or, if the supervisor cannot help the student, they will suggest people with special skills or refer the student on to someone else.

The supervisor is the main person with particular interest in the progress of individual students. Academic Supervisors assist their tutees with academic progress, choice of elective modules, curriculum vitae preparation, and career planning and personal issues.

Below are listed some areas in which a supervisor might assist a student:

  • If students are having problems with the course (they just do not understand, cannot keep up etc.) then they should see their supervisor as soon as possible. The supervisor will be able to help the student clarify the nature of the problem and suggest ways to solve it.
  • If a student is experiencing problems with a particular teaching module the supervisor may be able to help direct the student to additional learning resources or people that may be able to help them with the particular problem they have.
  • A supervisor can help a student to choose the most appropriate elective units for their chosen career path or interests. In addition supervisors can offer guidance about choice of assignment topics and dissertation subject.
  • If students have social or emotional problems which may be having an impact on their progress they should inform their supervisor. The supervisor may be able to refer them on to someone else for help and can also inform the course Coordinator and other teachers (with the consent of the student) of the difficulties they are experiencing and how they may be impacting on that students performance
  • The supervisor may also help students with practicing particular study skills such as essay writing, or presenting work.

A dissertation supervisor is an academic employee of the University of Malawi or approved external consultant who is responsible for providing support, assistance and mentoring to a postgraduate research candidate in conducting a research project and is appointed by the PHFMPRC.

The purpose of this assistance is to enable the candidate to complete the research project and, to the best of their ability, produce a dissertation that will be accepted by examiners as making a contribution to the field.

A Dissertation Supervisor should provide guidance, instruction and encouragement in the research activities of their student(s) and to participate in the evaluation of their progress and performance. The student and the supervisor should sign a contract at the beginning of the dissertation work.

The roles of the Dissertation Supervisor include:

  • Chairing supervisory team, who shall approve the proposed study
  • Monitoring the candidate’s progress
  • Arranging regular meetings of the candidate with the supervisory committee if necessary
  • Responding to all material produced by the candidate.

Students are encouraged to identify a dissertation supervisor who has expertise in the area they are interested to study and with whom the student expects to be able to work. The PHFMPRC can help identify a supervisor if there is need. Students can approach a senior member of staff at their place of work with expertise in their research topic. If a student is eager to work on a particular project, but lacks the contacts he/she can ask one of the lecturers or his / her academic supervisor for contact details. If the student wants to choose any other supervisor (e.g., a professor from another university, a practitioner in public health, etc.), the supervisor needs approval by the PHFMPRC. A curriculum vitae of such a proposed dissertation supervisor should be sent to the MPH Coordinator’s Office. The dissertation supervisor should have a keen interest in the proposed topic of study.

Each student asks someone with as close to the following characteristics as is possible to be their Service Advocate:-

  1. MPH holder with at least 5 years experience
  2. Based in the same organisation and even better – the same place
  3. Interested in postgraduate training

A service advocate can provide a vital role in helping the student balance the inevitable tension between academic and their workplace.

Regular informal discussions between modules are necessary and on occasions the offering of advocacy on behalf of the student with the employer might be appropriate.

Practical advice on the choice and logistics of the dissertation would also be helpful.   Advice would be valuable in helping the student put theory into practice.

The advocate might also be able to help the student obtain resources such as computer access. There might be times when a joint meeting between the service advocate and academic supervisor is necessary to solve an issue.

The service advocate may:-

  • Make time available to meet the MPH student as soon as possible after each module
  • With the academic supervisor offer supervision and support to the student during the dissertation work.
  • Help translate learning into practice such as by supporting the introduction of “one new” initiative into the place of work after each module and assist in the assessment of these initiatives (if established)
  • Where possible assist procuring resources – laptop, internet access, printing, photocopying etc.
  • Help develop a balanced plan between academic, service work and other family and community responsibilities
  • Provide feedback to the MPH Tutor as necessary and meet with the student and academic supervisor if appropriate.


The current tuition fees are available from the Registry; these vary according to whether the student is Malawian or not. These fees cover the following:-

  1. Modules, case studies and dissertation
    • teaching and tutorials during the academic modules
    • supervision and support of the dissertation
    • teaching and tutorials of the 2 case studies
    • internet access, library and computer facilities on site at the campus
    • use of College internet resources and services required for the course which are accessible both on and off campus
  2. Transport
    • transport to and from the College of Medicine on field trips and to rural training and research stations
  3. Supervision
    • An honorarium for the practical supervisor at place of work
    • Travel and expenses for the practical supervisor to attend annual workshops
    • A personal academic tutoring service provided by the School of Public Health and Family Medicine
  4. Assessment
    • Examination fees
  5. Teaching material
    • A student handbook
    • Reading material for each module
    • Software for learning, writing up work and research analysis

Note that in the event that a student who wants to take more than 75 credits of elective modules extra tuition fees must be paid for the additional modules.


The fees do not cover:-

  • A salary / stipend.
  • Housing allowance.
  • Transport costs to and from College of Medicine.
  • A laptop or computer for use at home or place of work.
  • Costs associated with the dissertation research project.
  • The College of Medicine does not provide meals or accommodation for MPH / PGDPH students.
  • Each student should be prepared to arrange for his/her meals and accommodation when attending or participating involves travel from their place of work.

Students are expected to complete the course in two years. However, they are allowed to apply for an extension of one year (for regulation details see Duration and structure of the MPH Programme). To obtain an extension an application for extension form must be completed and submitted prior to the expiry of the registration period. If the student is granted the year extension, they are expected to pay an extension fee.

Applicants are required to pay 50% of their annual fees or agree in writing with the Registrar of the College of Medicine the method and regularity of payments prior to commencing the orientation module of the MPH / PGDPH.Applicants who are exempt from parts of the course are required to pay the appropriate proportion of the fees.

Failure to pay fees will result in all of the following as appropriate:

  • The student not being allowed to attend classes
  • The student’s assignment not being marked
  • The conferment of the MPH / PGDPH certificate being withheld.

From time to time the College receives funding to provide scholarships time for exceptional MPH students, who, but for the scholarship, would be unable to take the course. The sponsor’s procedures and criteria are followed when such scholarships are awarded.

Funding for dissertation work is the responsibility of the student and/or the sponsor.

Students have a minimum of two years and a maximum of three years to complete the MPH. In special circumstances this may be extended by one year. The Public Health and Family Medicine Research and Postgraduate Committee (PHFMPRC) decides upon eligibility for extensions. Special circumstances include long term sickness, maternity leave, a work requirement to travel abroad for a significant period and similar situations. Students who fail to meet the requirements of the MPH will not be allowed to extend beyond three years.

When required an application for an extension must be submitted to the MPH Tutor at least three months before the end of the second year of study, with approval from the Academic and Dissertation Supervisor.

The core modules, elective modules accumulating 60 credits, two case studies, and dissertation are compulsory, unless exemptions have been granted.

Students are expected to regularly meet and discuss their progress with their allocated Academic and service Advocate.

On entry to the program each student will be assigned an Academic Supervisor approved by the Head of Department.

Within six weeks of entering the program students are required to register for elective modules which they wish to pursue. Subsequently revisions to the modules selected will be permitted at the discretion of the MPH Tutor. Thereafter de-registration from a module will only be permitted in unforeseen circumstances such as the death of a close family member. Before the end of the second semester students should register their choice of Case Studies. During the first year each student is expected to develop a dissertation proposal.

Before the end of the first year each student is required to complete an Annual Progress Report form which should be submitted to the Head of Department. The dissertation proposal should be submitted to COMREC during the first year for progress to year two of the MPH to be approved. Failure to progress this far will result in being advised to fulfill the requirements to exit the program with a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health

Three months before the student expects to submit their dissertation an intention to submit form should be completed and submitted.


A student will be eligible for an award of a Masters in Public Health if they fulfill the following:

  1. Must pass each core module (totaling 60 credits) with 50% or above
  2. Must pass, elective modules (totaling a minimum of 60 credits) with 50% or above
  3. Must submit two case studies and pass each with 50% or above.
  4. Must pass the dissertation with 50% or above.


A student will be eligible for an award of a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health if they fulfill the following:

  1. Must pass each core module (totaling 60 credits) with 50% or above
  2. Must pass, elective modules (totaling a minimum of 60 credits) with 50% or above
  3. Must submit two case studies and pass each with 50% or above.

A mark of 50% is a pass. A mark of 65% to 74% is a credit and a mark of 75% or more is a distinction.

All assessment (examinations, in-course assessment, assignments and min-dissertation) will be based on the following general criteria:

Feedback Grade Percentage Grade point Criteria
Excellent 75 – 100 5 Outstanding achievement of distinction level. A comprehensive discussion of the topic giving all the relevant information, showing in-depth critical understanding of the topic, going beyond conventional answers, and bringing in additional ideas or material
Very Good 65 – 74 4 Very good pass. A full discussion of the topic that includes all relevant information and critical evaluation
Good 55 – 64 3 Good pass. The major points are discussed, but relevant though less important considerations are omitted
Satisfactory 50 – 54 2 Sufficient relevant information to pass is included but not all the major points are discussed and there may be some errors or interpretation
Unsatisfactory 45 – 49 1 Borderline Fail. A few points are included but real lack of understanding shown and often use irrelevant points
Fail 0 – 44 0 Outright Fail. None of the major points present, many irrelevant points included, serious lack of understanding or not submitted or submitted after deadline without extension granted

The College Board of Examiners

Candidates’ results are determined by the Senate on the recommendation of the College Board of Examiners.

The College Board of Examiners is responsible for supervising the assessment process.

The results of the core module examinations will be submitted to the College Board of Examiners for approval. A mark of 50% is a pass. Those candidates who fail will be sent a written warning. Those candidates who fail three or more core modules at first sitting will be required to withdraw from the course.

At completion of the elective modules the Board of Examiners will be presented by the MPH coordinator with the percentage point for each elective module. Each candidate will be required to show 60 credits of elective modules completed with at least a pass grade for each module. Candidates who fail more than 25% (15 credits) of the elective modules will be required to withdraw from the program. Students will only be allowed to take elective modules totaling a maximum of 75 credits during their program.

At completion of the case studies the Board of Examiners will be presented by the MPH coordinator with the percentage points for the case studies. Each candidate will be required to complete 2 case studies which in combination yield an average percentage point of at least 50% to pass.

At completion of the dissertation the Board of Examiners will be presented by the MPH coordinator with the percentage point of the dissertation. In the event that the initial assessment of a case study is a fail the opportunity to revise it is given. If the revised work fails the group will be deemed to have failed the case study.

The external examiner will be sent a selection of in-course assessments, examination papers and dissertations representing a variety of grades, and shall provide an annual report.

Failure to take examination

Normally the accepted valid reason(s) for failure to take examination(s) are illness and bereavement of the immediate family. Under those circumstances, permission has to be obtained from the MPH Coordinator prior to the examination, and in the case of illness a medical certificate must be submitted to the MPH Coordinator from a practitioner approved by the College.

Extra-curricular or extra-mural activities, misreading of the examination time-table(s) et cetera are not accepted as valid reasons.

Only in very exceptional circumstances e.g. a student incapacitated by sudden illness or accident while officially away from College, may a student, on production of a medical certificate from a practitioner approved by the College, be excused for failure to write examinations.

A student who fails to take examination(s) without acceptable reason(s) is awarded a mark of “zero” which is a “Fail” for that examination.

Students who fail three or more core modules are withdrawn.

Any one of the following shall constitute a serious warning:

  1. Failure in a core module
  2. Having to sit a supplementary examination(s)
  3. Failure to appear for examination(s) without valid reason(s)

A student who fails a core module supplementary examination is withdrawn.

Students who fail more than 25% or (15 credits) of elective modules are withdrawn.

Any appeals against withdrawal on academic grounds should be directed to the University Wide Appeals Committee through the Vice-Chancellor within 3 weeks of results being published.

The College Student Disciplinary Committee has the power to investigate and exercise authority in respect of misconduct by any student and then make recommendations to the College Principal.

Results will be withheld for candidates who are indebted to the College of Medicine until all debts are cleared.

Any other withdrawal e.g. on grounds of pregnancy or ill health is interpreted by the College as voluntary withdrawal.

Final award of the MPH Degree/Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health

Successful candidates are awarded the MPH degree or the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health.

Results will be withheld for candidates who are indebted to the College of Medicine until all debts are cleared.

A student who completes all other course work for the award of an MPH degree but for any reason wishes not to complete the dissertation process shall be eligible for the award of a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health.

A student who earns a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health will not be eligible for continuation or re-admission into the MPH program unless a minimum of year has elapsed from the award of such a Diploma.

Compulsory core modules

Compulsory modules are assessed by unseen written examination held immediately prior to the start of the following module.

The examination questions will be drafted by the module coordinator and sent to the MPH Management Team for approval. All questions if held in electronic form will be typed directly by the examiner and be held under password control.

Module coordinators will be expected to set a marking scheme for examiners and assessors to follow. This will be based on the overall course-marking scheme set out above, but with specific detail relevant to the module.

The examinations will be marked by one examiner. Borderline and failed papers will be marked by a second examiner.

In such cases the two examiners will agree the grade. Where two examiners have more than ten percentage points difference in their marking, a third examiner will be asked to mark the work and then all three will reach agreement on the grade.

Students have to pass all compulsory components of the program. A student who fails one or two compulsory modules will be permitted to sit the supplementary examination for those modules. Students will only be permitted to take one supplementary examination of each compulsory module. Students are required to withdraw immediately they fail a supplementary exam.

Students who fail three or more core modules at first sitting will be required to withdraw from the course.

Elective modules

Elective modules will be assessed at the discretion of the MPH Management Team. Where written assignments are used, students must submit a typed electronic copy of all written assignments by the first day of the seventh week following the module to the MPH Coordinator via the electronic portal provided. Assessment is completed using a standard assessment form.

Students who feel the assessment for a particular module is unsatisfactory should discuss the result with the module coordinator. If the issue cannot be resolved the student may take the grievance to the MPH Management Team which has the final say in the grade to be allocated.

Students have to pass elective modules amounting to 60 credits and may not fail more than a quarter of elective modules (calculated as more than 15 credits).

Each student is permitted to take 75 credits of elective modules as part of the course. Modules over this limit can be taken but at an additional charge.

Penalties for late submission of written work

A student who fails to submit an assessment, case study or practical assignment, by the set date will have:

  • 10% of the marks subtracted if the work is up to 72 hours late
  • 25% of the marks deducted if the work is 72 hours to one week late.
  • If the assessment is more than a week late the student will be assumed to have withdrawn from the module.

A student may not withdraw from a module after he/she has submitted the assignment.

A student will be permitted to ask for an extension in advance of the deadline (more than 48 hours) and these extensions will be given at the discretion of the MPH Tutor in conjunction with the module coordinator, and lodged on the personal file of the student.

Case Studies

Each candidate must submit two case studies.

Each case study has an academic supervisor appointed by the Public Health and Family Postgraduate Committee.

For each case study they identify a group of between three and five students to work together on the case study.

Candidates choose two case studies that they wish to undertake. For each case study they identify a group of between three and five students to work together on the case study.

Each group can consult the supervisor prior to undertaking the work.

Each group submits a joint case study report to the supervisor who assesses the submission.

Students have to reach an overall percentage point pass (50% or above) for each of the two case studies.


For each dissertation there shall be a supervisory team comprising the academic supervisor of the student and one other faculty of the CoM (a Dissertation Supervisor) with a special interest in the topic under study, one of who will be appointed the main supervisor by the Public Health and Family Medicine Research and Postgraduate Committee. The two supervisors will be approved by the College Postgraduate Committee. The two members can co-opt one other member from outside the CoM to the supervisory team if that person has special expertise in the topic under study.

Duties of the Main Supervisor shall be:

  • chairing supervisory team, who shall approve the proposed study
  • monitoring the candidate’s progress
  • arranging regular meetings of the candidate with the supervisory committee if necessary
  • responding to all material produced by the candidate.

The amount of supervisory sessions with the main and second supervisors will be noted on a sheet submitted with the thesis.

The supervisory team should meet at least twice during the project proposal writing period. The dissertation proposal will be approved by the College of Medicine Postgraduate Committee on the recommendation of the Public Health and Family Medicine Research and Postgraduate Committee.

Student progress reports will be presented to the College Postgraduate Committee for approval.

The dissertation will be submitted once signed off by the dissertation supervisor in electronic format and examined by one member of the faculty of COM, who is not on the supervisory team and one external examiner both appointed by the PHFMPRC and approved by the College of Medicine Postgraduate Committee. The dissertation will be marked independently by the two examiners. The examiners will be required to fill out feedback sheets attached to the work.

Students and supervisors will receive feedback sheets and students one copy of the dissertation following marking; the MPH coordinator will retain the other copy.

The two examiners grades will be compared. Where two examiners have more than one grade difference in their marking, a third examiner will be asked to mark the work unseen and then all three will reach agreement on the grades.

Once passed the dissertation together with course work marks endorsed by the Board of Examiners is submitted to the Post graduate Dean for approval by the College of Medicine Postgraduate Committee and onward transmission to the University Senate:-

The submission will comprise four bound copies of the dissertation signed by the candidate and two supervisors in the following format:-

  • typewritten in double spacing on A4 paper with 3cm margins on left, top and bottom
  • with a title page that shall record the title of the thesis, the names and degrees of the candidate, noting “submission is in part-fulfillment of the MPH degree of the University of Malawi”
  • followed by a signed declaration by the candidate that the dissertation is his/her original work and has not been presented for any other award at this or any other university
  • an electronic copy of the dissertation
  • The External Examiner’s report
  • The Internal Examiner’s report
  • If applicable a confirmation letter from the Head of Department that any corrections required by the examiners were carried out
  • a certificate of approval of formatting from the College library.

If successful the University Registrar shall then distribute the bound copies as follows:

  • College library concerned
  • Appropriate department
  • University office
  • Candidate.

A student who has a postgraduate diploma obtained within the past five years will be eligible to be enrolled in the MPH programme to enable them complete a dissertation/thesis. This is subject to having one year elapsed since the award of the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health.

University regulations do not permit a student who was withdrawn on academic grounds to be considered for re-entry.

Such students to be enrolled in the MPH programme may be advised to take some coursework before proceeding to their thesis/dissertation. Such coursework will be determined on a case by case basis and will not contribute a grade to the student’s assessment.

The categorization of the MPH (pass, credit or distinction) will however take into account both PG Diploma Courses grades and the thesis grade as the usual MPH programme.

Maintenance of academic integrity by both employees and students is important to the reputation of the University of Malawi.   As such plagiarism, cheating and fabrication of work are serious disciplinary issues. It is essential that each student understands the intellectual property rights of all whose work they use in their studies, as well as their own rights concerning their work.

All work submitted as part of the requirements of the MPH must be expressed in the students’ own words, and incorporate their own ideas and judgments. Plagiarism – that is the presentation of another person’s thoughts or words as though they were your own – must be avoided, with particular care in course work and projects. Direct or indirect quotations from the published or unpublished work of others must always be clearly identified as such by being placed inside quotation marks and a full reference to the source must be provided. Any student who is suspected of plagiarism will be reported by the MPH Tutor to the Chair of the Board of Examiners, and may not be permitted to complete the degree program if the allegation is found to be true.

Cheating is similar to plagiarism but more serious. Cheating means submitting another student’s work, knowledge or ideas while pretending that they are your own. Any students suspected of cheating will be reported to the Chair of the Board of Examiners and will not be awarded their degree if the allegation is found to be true.

Fabrication of work is as serious as cheating. Students should retain all background documentation such as questionnaire answers, coding sheets, computer files of statistical analysis and focus group discussion transcripts until the degree has been awarded.

The trainee will:

  • attend all core and selected elective modules and make suitable arrangements of cover in their organisation during such absences
  • seek to apply new knowledge to the benefit of the organisation
  • take the initiative in seeking service and academic supervisor support
  • take the initiative in procuring resources for the dissertation research project.

Students are expected to regularly meet and discuss their progress with their allocated academic supervisor as well as their service advocate.

Students are expected to put in 100 hours for each core module, and for elective modules, they are expected to put in 50 hours for each credit. About one third of this will actually be spent in contact time with members of staff; reading, thinking and preparing assessed course work are all equally important.

When students are attending courses at the College of Medicine we expect them to spend about 50 hours a week on work related to the MPH. When they are back in their workplace we expect them to spend about 10 hours per week devoted to their MPH course. This could be 3 evening sessions of approximately 3 hours or one day at the weekend or the time could be split up over the week. The MPH will be quite intensive and students should certainly expect to work in the evenings and at weekends. On the other hand there should also be an opportunity for students to spend time doing other things that are important to them.

Students should also make sure that during the year there are times when they take a break from their MPH work. This will allow them to re-charge their batteries but will also provide them with an opportunity to reflect on what they have been taught. We are aware that you not only have study and work demands but you also have important family and community responsibilities as well.

Students will also be expected to undertake units offered in a range of study skills. Although not compulsory, these units are highly recommended. Units may cover a range of topics including the following:

  • Rapid reading
  • Literature searches
  • Internet searches
  • Essay and report writing
  • Group work techniques
  • How to study
  • Examinations

Some of these courses will be offered during the orientation period. Other courses and workshops will be organized throughout the course. Students are encouraged to identify the need for particular courses to complement their academic studies and to discuss this with their academic supervisor.

Students who have only recently completed their first degree or other professional training will be well aware of how to study. For others, however, this may be their first experience of formal teaching and learning after being away from formal study for some years and they may wonder how well they will readapt to studying in the MPH course, which is intensive. There is a lot to cover in a short time and a high standard is expected. Although knowledge of the basic facts in public health is essential, at this level we expect to see evidence of independent critical thought and real understanding of concepts.

To help students study we provide introductory sessions during orientation and advice and support from your academic supervisor and the MPH Tutor.

Almost all modules will include some lectures. Lectures are not meant to convey detailed information, which is much better provided in printed form but to set the scene, explain general concepts and excite you about the relevance and importance of the topic.

Many lecturers provide more or less detailed hand-outs (or references to key reviews) which will provide a permanent record of the subject matter; you should go equipped to take notes but do not attempt to write down everything that is being said. Instead, concentrate on listening and understanding the arguments; note down key concepts, exciting insights and also anything that you do not understand.

Always try to speak to the lecturer immediately afterwards if you have a query – before you forget what you wanted to know.

The MPH / PGDPH has no prescribed texts. Students are required to use scientific journal articles and systematic reviews in their literature searches for each subject. This is a key transferable skill essential for students to learn so that they can keep themselves up to date once they have finished their studies.

The MPH / PGDPH places a strong emphasis on evidence based research, decision-making and policy implementation. To keep up with current research and thus evidence, students need to be familiar with the current literature in scientific papers and journals. In addition there are recommended texts, which have been purchased for the College of Medicine library, which will be used to complement the journal articles.

Every module that you take will provide you with a reading list – the content of these will vary. In some cases you will be expected to have read a particular paper or chapter before coming to a practical class or seminar. This essential reading is very important. You will gain very little from the subsequent group work if you have not done it.

Other articles or books are important but in a more general way – they cover the same material as a lecture but in more detail or from a different perspective. Reading this material will deepen your understanding and fill gaps – things you may have missed or not understood during a lecture.

Finally many modules will provide supplementary reading lists of material that you may wish to read if you want to investigate a particular topic in depth.

Reading as part of your MPH / PGDPH is not a passive activity (it is often described as focused reading or focused study) and you need to think about the material and about the author’s arguments as you read. Making notes or highlighting text (if it is your own copy!) is very helpful and these notes may be useful when you come to revise.

The ability to produce good written work is vital not only to obtaining you MPH but also in your professional life.

Academic writing, particularly when it is formally assessed has to follow certain rules and conventions. But do not forget that as well as summaries of what other researchers have found we also want to see details of what you think of your findings and your interpretations.

Students should not be afraid to be critical of other people’s ideas, however eminent the author (academic life is based on criticism) but the reasons for disagreement should always be given.

Guidance on writing assignments will be provided to students.


How to reference a work within the body of your dissertation /document
How to create a list of references
Vancouver Style Example
Essential point to remember in creating a reference list

How well you do in unseen written examinations is mainly determined by how well you have learned and understood the material covered in your modules. Examination technique, however, is also important if you are to do yourself full justice and you may find the following helpful:

  • First, read the paper right through to the end, then go back and read the instructions again (even if you think that you know how many questions are to be answered). Notice very carefully:
    • If any questions are compulsory
    • If you must answer at least one question from each section
    • If you are allowed to answer a maximum number of questions from any one section
  • Always answer the required number of questions.
  • Before you start writing choose all the questions you are going to answer. In this way you avoid realising when you have answered one or two questions that you should really have answered different ones. Reread your chosen questions very carefully. Some questions that look easy at first glance turn out to be hard when you have a second look.
  • Plan how you are going to spend the time you have available. Look at the weighting given to different questions.
  • One of the easiest ways to lose marks is by not answering the question. Read it carefully, especially the verbs such as list, describe, compare, contrast, discuss, and explain.
  • In any written examination you should spend about a sixth of your time just thinking and planning and not writing answers at all. In a three hour examination spend the first 10 minutes studying the whole paper carefully, reading the instruction and selecting the questions you are going to answer.
  • Develop a plan for each answer. Decide what facts and arguments you are going to present and draw up an outline of a logical coherent well argued answer. You can always add additional points to your plan.
  • Remember that some questions contain several parts and you will be marked down heavily if you only answer some of them.
  • It is better to write short concise answers which are clear, critical and well-organised than long rambling essays which actually say very little.
  • If you write anything which you do not wish the examiners to mark then cross it out clearly.
  • Finally get the practical things right. Find out where and when the exam will be. Bring several pens that work and spare batteries for your calculator.   Do not take anything into the exam room that could possibly lead to you being accused of cheating. Don’t worry about what other people are doing and above all don’t panic!

Distinctions are awarded to those students who go beyond what they have been taught. This has two main components. The first is reading widely. The second, equally important part is thinking critically and applying what they have learnt in some modules to the material in others.   In particular, you get outstanding marks if you do not just cite research but briefly describe the comments and methods used in the research. “Research by X shows” is a very weak statement. Lots of research shows nothing at all because it is badly designed or conducted.

You should apply what you have learned about methods and think sceptically about all research you read. When you review an area say which research is designed well and why this is so, and which results have been replicated, and so on. It is perfectly acceptable to say about an area where little research has been carried out that little is known because satisfactory studies have not been carried out. Get into the habit of using a cautious critical vocabulary: “So and so seems to be the case” or “research so far suggests” or “unfortunately most studies in this area have failed to….”.

Students will be required to notify the MPH / PGDPH co-ordinator of any absence within 24 hours, and an expected date of return should be given. Students must produce a doctor’s certificate or letter from their employer for absences of longer than 3 days.

Where students are sick and feel their health may influence or affect them in assessment or examination, they must obtain a doctor’s certificate, addressed to the MPH / PGDPH coordinator, who will in turn inform the Chair of the Examination Committee in advance of the examiners meeting at the end of the course. These letters must be received within one month of the extenuating circumstances that they relate to.