South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
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National Health Scholars Programme, PhD Scholarships  

An initiative by the National Health Research Committee (NHRC)


One of the key recommendations in the 2011 National Health Research Summit Report is to build human resources for health research through a large-scale PhD programme for all health professional categories with degree-based qualifications.  The aim, as proposed by the National Health Research Committee, is to fund the education and training of 1000 PhDs in health sciences over the next 10 years.

The PhD Scholarships will be awarded to health professionals for doctoral research to be conducted in South Africa or abroad.  The scholarship will be awarded for a period ranging from one to four years as a tax free scholarship for full-time study in a chosen field. Renewal of funding after year 1 will depend on academic performance.

This programme will be aimed at postgraduate students (e.g., clinical psychology students, nurses on a Masters programme, and registrars on an MMed programme) and academic staff members in Faculties of Health Sciences, Research Councils, Government Departments and other organisations who wish to commence or complete PhD training on a full-time basis. The intention of this scheme is to contribute to staff development and succession planning programmes in Academic Health Complexes and other governmental and non-governmental organs that are involved in knowledge production.

Health professionals who are eligible to register with one of the statutory health councils may apply, including those in the fields of Audiology and Speech therapy, Clinical Psychology, Dentistry, Dietetics, Medical Science, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, and Optometry.

Requirements for application

  • South African citizenship/permanent residents.
  • A Master’s degree or equivalent.
  • A full-developed research proposal for a PhD
  • An experienced supervisor who is willing to host the student for the duration of training
  • Availability of funding and research facilities for the research project

Selection criteria and applicable documents that must be submitted with the application

  • Suitability of the candidate
    A 1-page motivation that is accompanied by a complete and up-to-date curriculum vitae containing a full list of publications and other meritorious achievements.
  • Quality of the science
    A 1-2 page abstract of the PhD proposal outlining the rationalé, design, feasibility and potential impact of the proposed doctoral research project.
  • Track record of supervisor
    A statement from the supervisor indicating commitment to educate and train the applicant, together with a full list of publications, grants and experience of supervising PhD students.
  • Research environment
    A letter from the host institution stating the level of  funding, facilities and infrastructure for the research project, and plan for the career of the applicant upon completion of the PhD.

Value of the Award
This is a tax free scholarship that is equivalent to the after tax level of pay of the applicant in terms of the public service professional scales.


  • Scholarship holders are expected to spend at least 90% of their time conducting research. Teaching and clinical activities may not take up more than 10% of the time of the scholar. Scholarship holders may not receive, concurrently with this scholarship, other bursaries, grants or remuneration which binds them to enter the service of any organization without prior approval from the SA Medical Research Council (MRC)
  • Candidates may not hold a bursary from more than one statutory science council at any given time
  • Scholarship holders may not receive, concurrently with this scholarship, other non-binding remuneration/fellowships and grants without prior approval from the MRC
  • Scholarship holders may not, without obtaining the MRC’s prior approval, register at a university other than that through which the application has been submitted
  • Once the award has been made the scholarship holder may not change his/her supervisor without informing the MRC
  • Supervisors will be expected to submit 6-monthly progress reports. The renewal of funding will be considered on an annual basis subject to satisfactory progress being made.
  • Successful applicants will be required to enter into an agreement with the MRC to complete their studies within the specified time period

Contact person

Thobile Mabuya,
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Last updated:
29 February, 2016
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