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Strengthening Schools of Health To Improve National Health

Resource type: Grantee Story

The University of the Western Cape was established in 1959, during the days of apartheid, as a university for students classified as belonging to the “coloured” population of South Africa. During the past 30-plus years, the university has had a varied political, financial and academic history and was strongly associated with anti-apartheid activism by staff and students.

The school is now drawing on its history and resources to contribute to the democratic reconstruction of the country. The majority of students enrolled at the university are black and, although the university has white students, its students come from all 11 language groups in South Africa.

Purpose and Impact of the Grant

The School of Public Health (SPH) was founded at the university in 1992, with a staff of only three individuals, representing two academic positions and one administrative position. During the past 10 years, the SPH has dramatically increased both the size and scope of its activities.

With support from Atlantic, the school increased its staffing capacity by appointing seven new academic staff to five-year contract posts. At the end of the grant period, the university will establish each of these positions as permanent posts.

The SPH now hosts the largest continuing-education programme in public health in the Southern Hemisphere. The programme has a particular focus on district-based health workers – the cadre of health professionals who work where the health system directly interfaces with communities. The school also offers a large post-graduate programme in public health that is linked to other research and service development programmes. Its staff now varies between 35 and 40, with many staff being employed in externally funded research projects.

The school has become increasingly seen as a reference point and centre of excellence in the region, as well as by the international public health community. Requests for collaborations and partnerships with international organisations are rising continuously. The World Health Organization has designated the SPH as a “Collaborating Centre for Training and Research in Human Resources for Health.”

Related Resources



Global Impact:

South Africa


School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, UWC