Call for SAAHE 2017 awards

Note: This page has been updated to reflect extensions to the submission deadlines for the two awards.

We are pleased to announce the call for nominations for both the Distinguished Educator and Best Publication awards for 2017.

The annual SAAHE Distinguished Educator Award recognises an individual in health sciences education who has made a significant contribution either in teaching in the health sciences or who has contributed to the development of scholarship in the discipline of health sciences education. The award seeks to recognise excellence at a national level and to create an awareness of what constitutes excellence in health sciences education. As such, this is the premier award of its kind in South Africa.

The award for Best Publication is made annually to promote excellence in research in health sciences education (HSE), as an important component of advancing the field of HSE. This award is for a peer-reviewed publication (paper; book chapter) on HSE or HSE research, with a South African first author, published anywhere.

The closing deadlines for nominations are:

Western Cape regional symposium: Teaching with technology

On the 17th October the SAAHE Western Cape regional committee hosted a symposium for members on Teaching with Technology (see programme below).



While 50 participants initially registered to attend, we ended up with about 30 who actually managed to make it, owing to the challenges experienced by academics at the 4 institutions at the time. We are grateful to those who gave up their time to attend and present at the symposium and look forward to hosting more of these initiatives in the future.

An Open Letter to the State President and the Ministers of Higher Education and Finance

Save our public universities

We, academics of South African universities, call on our government to address the funding crisis in higher education.

A key strategy that post-apartheid governments undertook to reduce race and class inequality after apartheid was to substantially increase access to universities in South Africa. Between 1994 and 2014, the number of students in our public universities more than doubled.(1) During the same period the proportion of black students at universities increased from 52% to 81% of the student population.(2) We have welcomed the massification and deracialisation of access to universities as a necessary democratisation of higher education after apartheid, and as our contribution to building a better society.

The problem is that massification has not been matched by adequate funding. Year on year we have seen a decrease in real terms of government funding to public universities. The effect of this has been to create conditions of austerity in universities, as well as to force universities to grow their revenue by increasing tuition fees and ‘third stream’ income. Despite increases in NSFAS, high student fees continue to cause exclusions and our students are increasingly stressed by mounting debt, which has risen staggeringly since the mid-1990s.(3) Public universities have thus been put in slow decline: the quality of teaching and infrastructure of our institutions of higher learning is deteriorating because of long-term austerity, and this has been accompanied by a submission to privatisation and debt.

Our public universities can in fact barely be called public, with national government subsidies to university budgets falling from an already low 49% in 2000 to 40% in 2012.(4) This has placed enormous pressure on the maintenance and improvement of core educational infrastructure such as laboratories, libraries, lecture theatres and student residences. Furthermore, staff:student ratios have continuously increased because the employment of full-time academic staff has not matched increases in student numbers. There is also a growing tendency to casualise academic labour through short-term appointments, which has led to the exploitation especially of younger academics, while undermining the quality of teaching, and increasing the administrative burden on full time academic staff. Crucially, casualisation and increased workloads at universities undermine our research capacity. The impact of high quality original research on national development cannot be overstated, and the threat to research capacity has enormous consequences for the future of our country.

Lack of investment in our public universities is not only a national crisis, but has negative effect on our standing in Africa. Since the end of Apartheid, our universities have trained cohorts of postgraduate students from the region and across the continent. South Africa’s tertiary institutions currently educate many of the continent’s best students, who are increasingly turning to South African universities as Africans are de facto excluded from British and North American institutions. Investing in our universities would maintain our reputation on the continent, create strong connections between future African leaders, and produce goodwill and opportunities for South Africa in decades to come.

The Council on Higher Education, established by the Department of Higher Education and Training itself, argues that despite the fact that ‘higher education in South Africa has been regarded as a key to social and economic development… its expenditure on higher education is much lower than desirable or needed.’(5) South Africa spends a mere 0.6% of GDP on its universities, lagging behind many other countries (Russia at 1.8%, Argentina and 1.4, India at 1.3%).(6)

With government not funding in full the financial shortfall resulting from the 0% fee freeze in 2016, universities have had to cut costs further from their already-stretched budgets. This has impacted all of us in our daily work, but Historically Black Universities have been the hardest hit because of a historical deficit in reserves and reduced access to private income. Thus, a further hierarchisation of our universities is taking place, compounding older race and class divisions in higher education.

In short, our universities are chronically underfunded. We are being threatened with cuts to our teaching programmes, our research budgets, hiring is being frozen, posts down-graded, and the core functions of universities are being put under threat. We have reached a limit. We simply cannot weather any further cuts without jeopardizing the academic project.

As academics responsible for the quality of South African universities, we call on government to take seriously the worth of university education as a public good, and to reverse the decline in public higher education by substantially increasing the state subsidy to universities.

Circulated by the academics of the School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand

  1. Student numbers rose from 495,000 in 1994 to almost a million students in 2014. Council on Higher Education. 2016. South African Higher Education Reviewed: Two Decades of Democracy. Pretoria.
  2.  Higher Education South Africa. 2014. South African Higher Education in the 20th Year of Democracy: Context, Achievements and Key Challenges, pp.1-2. These numbers do not of course capture the manner in which institutions remain differentially racialised.
  3.  Steyn and De Villiers. 2006. The Impact of changing funding on higher education institutions in South Africa. Higher Education Monitor, No.4, March.
  4.  PriceWaterhouseCooper, Funding of public higher education institutions in South Africa.
  5.  Council on Higher Education. 2016. South African Higher Education Reviewed: Two Decades of Democracy. Pretoria.
  6.  Bozzoli, ‘Behind the university funding crisis’ Politicsweb 19 October 2015.

SAAHE AGM at the 2016 conference

Notice is hereby given of the SAAHE Annual General Meeting to take place on the 22nd June at the National Conference in Port Elizabeth.

Members are encouraged to review the documentation for the AGM below, and to attend the meeting at 16:00 on the 22nd.

SAAHE 2016 Distinguished Educator announced

It is with great pleasure and pride that we award the 2016 SAAHE Distinguished Educator award to Professor Marietjie de Villiers, from the Family Medicine and Primary Care Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University.


From the nomination:

A true health professions educator is one who facilitates learning in every possible way from introducing a group of excited first-year students to the field of medicine, through supporting postgraduate students in their endeavours to become masters of their craft, to engaging a group of practicing clinicians around their continued professional learning. In addition, a true educator functions as advocate and activist for learning and teaching, challenges accepted norms with a view to enhancing teaching practice, and fosters the establishment of enabling environments where potentially transformative learning can take place. Marietjie de Villiers is such an educator. In a career of over 35 years (23 in academic medicine at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Stellenbosch University), Professor de Villiers progressed from being a lecturer to full Professor in 11 years and to Deputy Dean: Education in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2006. More importantly, however, she has been the catalyst for a whole range of learning and teaching innovations and projects that through the years have established the FMHS as a pioneer in the field of medical and health professions education. Her work is characterised by a dedication and commitment to her students and the staff with whom she works, and is informed by an enduring commitment to the provision of quality health outcomes within a socially just context. In this submission, we track the career of this remarkable educator and teacher, and present it as motivation for why she would be a worthy winner of the SAAHE Distinguished Educator award.

After matriculation at the Paarl Gymnasium in 1973, Marietjie spent a year at the SA Women’s Army College in George before embarking on her medical degree at Stellenbosch University in 1975. After graduation and internship she joined a general practice in Kuilsriver in the Western Cape before moving to Mfuleni where she worked in the local township for six years spurred on by a commitment during the apartheid years to care for the poor and the oppressed. As teacher at heart, however, she eventually took up a position in the FMHS at SU in 1993 having obtained her Master’s degree in Family Medicine (1988). Later she obtained her PhD in Family Medicine which focussed on the development of content and appropriate methods for maintenance of competence for generalist medical practitioners working in rural areas (2004), which was the first research on rural medicine in South Africa at the time

It is, however, her work in educational leadership and management – at faculty, institutional, national and international level – that sets Marietjie de Villiers apart as advocate for health professions education. Prof de Villiers is not only an educator who makes things happen, she is also a teaching scholar and is regularly called upon to present plenaries at national and international scientific meetings. More than 25 of her peer-reviewed publications focus on an aspect of education, with community based education being a strong theme in her research. She regularly presents her work at local and international health professions education conferences and has attended ten SAAHE meetings and conferences through the years. She was the FMHS representative on SAAME (the SAAHE precursor) and led the transition from SAAME to SAAHE at the FMHS at the time.

Prof de Villiers has earned international, African and national standing as a leader in health professions education. She has presented 172 papers at international and national conferences, and published 89 publications of which 40 original research articles and 12 book chapters. Marietjie de Villiers is a believer – she believes in people, she believes in the power of education to influence health outcomes, and she believes in South Africa. In 2007 she co-authored an article in Medical Teacher entitled: Medical Education in South Africa: Exciting times. The closing paragraph in that article says the following:

Despite all the odds, medical education in South Africa continues to produce excellent doctors using up to date educational strategies. We are proud of our political, economic and social changes. We are not complacent about further changes that need to take place. Watch this space and watch this country.

Since the publication of that article, Marietjie has continued to strive towards effecting the ‘further changes’ that are needed in health professions education on the African continent, influencing practice in the FMHS and beyond, doing so in a generative and meaningful way, taking others with her along the way. There can be no doubt that she would be a worthy winner of the SAAHE Distinguished Educator Award in 2016.

On the passing on Prof. Wendy McMillan

Photo of Wendy (for posters) (23 May 2011)It is with sadness that we note the passing of Prof Wendy McMillan on the 23rd December, 2015. Prof McMillan was a role model, a colleague, a friend and an Education Advisor to the UWC Faculty of Dentistry. She held various degrees, including in education, an honours in curriculum, and PhD in educational sociology. She was a substantially published author in health sciences education, a past National Chair of the South African Association of Health Educationists (SAAHE) and a SAAHE Council Representative. She received the SAAHE distinguished educator award and HELTASA teaching excellence award in 2012. Prof McMillan also served as an editorial board member of the  African Journal of Health Professions Education.

Her loss will be felt by both SAAHE and SAFRI and we salute her for the important work she has done in both organisations. As the SAAHE community, we pay tribute to this pioneer in SAAHE and Health Professions Education in South Africa. We pass on our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Prof Wendy McMillan with the news of her death.

2015 national conference update

This year the SAAHE national conference will be jointly run by SAAHE and The Network / Towards Unity for Health. This meeting offers a wonderful opportunity, not only for South African health professions educators to come together and share their experiences, but to connect with international colleagues as well. The 2015 conference is the culmination of an exciting collaboration with The Network / TUFH and we are excited to see you all in Pretoria in a few months time.

Conference details:

See the conference website for additional information and registration.


2015 SAAHE Distinguished Educator award

It is with great pleasure that we announce the winner of the 2015 SAAHE Distinguished Educator award, as Dr Jacqueline van Wyk. The following exercpt, taken from Dr van Wyk’s nomination, is testimony to the high level of scholarly activity that she has engaged in, and the contributions that she has made to South African health professions education:

Dr Van Wyk has been actively involved in higher education since 1995 and started at the University of Natal Durban’s (UND) Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine in 2000 when appointed the education consultant to implement a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum. She has made a significant contribution to staff development and played various roles in the oversight of the curriculum which included the initial establishment of an integrated assessment office, which she headed from 2001-2003 while improving the teaching and quality of the MBChB programme. She served on each of the integrated theme design teams and on the assessment and curriculum committees and guided and prepared module templates for Senate approval. She headed the evaluations office (2004-2007) and she played a central role in preparing the faculty for the HPCSA accreditation visits to UKZN in 2001; 2005 and 2010.  Dr Van Wyk’s teaching responsibilities revolved around training staff in health education and problem based learning, assessment, teaching and learning and research methodology and this led to improvements in the teaching and learning on the MBChB programme. She also participated in educational research and capacity development at the NRMSM and had co-authored many publications with various members of staff. She was the first educationalist to be selected for the FAIMER programme in 2004 when the programme was mainly aimed at clinicians and became part of the team that started the South African regional FAIMER institute (2007). Since 2008-2012, she has also played various roles in the design, teaching and administrative functions of SAFRI, has as its aims to develop networks and research capacity of health educators in the sub-Saharan African Region.

Dr Van Wyk has served as Teaching and Learning representative for the NRMSM on the senate and became part of the task team that formulated the T and L policies for the UKZN. Once of these relates to the “up-skilling” of all academics (with educational qualification) in educational matters. Dr Van Wyk has been teaching on these modules for the UKZN Education Induction Programme (UEIP) initiative on the Assessment and Teaching and learning courses.  She also teaches on the Post-Graduate Diploma in Higher Education for the Centre of higher Education. The challenges in health professions sector have to innovative designs to expand training in research and education. This has culminated in the design of the programme to be delivers in e-learning format for Staff Development in the College of Health Sciences. Since 2006, she served on various panels such as those for the internal review for Quality Assurance of modules in the Department of Education prior to SAQA’ (HEQA) audit. In 2007 Dr Van Wyk  became a  founding member of the Women in leadership leverage (WILL) group at the Faculty of Health Sciences (UKZN) and served on the executive committee of this group designed to promote the development of research capacity and leadership ability in women within the University of KwaZulu Natal. Since 2011 serves an educationist for Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) for accrediting of undergraduate medical curricula. Her mentoring in research and post graduate supervision began in 2009 when she participated in  cohort supervision for Masters and PhDs.

Dr Van Wyk journey into contributing to health education and research at an international level began when she became one of the founding members of the Sub-Saharan African FAIMER Regional Institute (SAFRI).  SAFRI’s purpose is to improve the teaching and research capacity of health educators and foster growth of research into health professional education within the sub Saharan African region.   Since 2007, she became the Programme director and executive member for SAFRI FAIMER as well as taught on the Design modules in Teaching & Learning, Programme Evaluation; Faculty Development, Research as well as supervised Post Graduate projects as part of SAFRI.   The University of Venda recognised her expertise in curriculum design and staff development toward teaching problem based learning though inviting her to be a consultant during their Curriculum Indaba on Problem- based learning in 2005. This trend toward collaboration for the improvement of international health professional education continued when she was invited as a guest lecturer to collaborate on the Brazil FAIMER Regional institute.

Dr Van Wyk has engaged in research of her own and has presented papers at both international and national conferences. These research projects have been in collaboration with colleagues both in South Africa and internationally. These conference presentations include (2014) Towards Unity for Health (November 19-24) in Fortaleza Brazil, 2013 AMEE  Prague 24-28 August 2012 and 2013  and 2012 The Network Conference Thailand and Canada respectively. On a national level she has presented at the SAAHE for several years.

Dr van Wyk has worked toward disseminating research and contributing towards debates in health professions education though serving as a reviewer for the South African Journal of Family Practice, BMC-Medical Education, and an evaluator for the National Research Foundation. S also served as a reviewer and is currently a deputy editor for the African Journal for Health Profession Educators (AJHPE).

To conclude, it can be seen from the contributions and collaborations in her research that Dr Van Wyk has impacted on capacity building for the health education and research both locally and internationally. She has assisted in furthering the body of knowledge on health professional education though her own research and collaborations with others as well as serving as reviewers for journals. From the attached references from students it can be attested that on a personal level. Dr van Wyk models the teaching methods that she advocates and her mentoring and assistance has helped develop and inspire academic both within KwaZulu Natal and internationally.

We are extremely proud of the achievements of Dr van Wyk and that we are able to recognise her significant contribution to South African health professions education through this award.