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Master’s in Programme Evaluation



Since the early 2000s, programme monitoring and evaluation has experienced an unprecedented growth as a profession, industry, governance tool and field of applied academic research. Over 200 professional associations exist globally that are dedicated to the practice of programme evaluation, and increasing numbers of service providers are offer evaluation services to public and private sector clients. In addition, a growing majority of government and non-government organisations employ their own in-house monitoring and evaluation specialists, and in South Africa statutory bodies such as the Department for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) continue to drive local demand for qualified programme evaluators to inform questions about service delivery and policy performance.

In response to this growing demand for qualified programme evaluation practitioners, the University of Cape Town’s Master of Philosophy in programme evaluation was established in 2009 as the first named degree in programme evaluation in South Africa. The degree is currently one of only two accredited degrees specialising exclusively in programme evaluation in South Africa, and one of the few registered degrees in this field globally.

The MPhil has a highly applied curriculum straddles an innovative, interdisciplinary space that has been influenced by academics and professionals trained in a range of disciplines – from psychology, economics, health and education, to the political and even natural sciences. Our aim is to produce graduates that go on to become recognised leaders in using advanced evaluation techniques to improve the quality, accountability and transparency of a wide range of social and development programmes. Our graduates are highly sought after as applied interdisciplinary researchers and programme evaluators, working for non-governmental organisations, government, or as evaluation associates and consultants on a wide range of social programmes.

What is programme evaluation?

When one evaluates a programme‚ one asks: Is it working? Sometimes we also ask: How is it working? To answer to these questions‚ an evaluator needs to be able to apply fundamental academic research design and data analysis skills to real-world questions and problems that have an evaluative (or judgement) value. Programme evaluation as a discipline thus appeals to graduate students with a strong solutions-based approach to research wishing to apply their academic skills in a very real way to pressing social problems.

The people who choose this degree are people who want to make the world a better place by applying their high-level‚ scientific skills to programme improvement. They can think logically‚ plan systematically and solve complex problems. Programme evaluation and improvement is an intellectually challenging activity that provides intrinsic job satisfaction. Programme evaluators are constantly challenged in finding ways to answer specific questions around whether or not social programmes are performing as intended. Very often, they are also required to engage actively with social programme designers, assisting them in redrafting or correcting their programme designs so that activities speak more directly to desirable impacts.

What types of programmes are evaluated?

Our students work with a wide range of social programmes, including programmes for poverty alleviation‚ children at risk‚ HIV/AIDS, public health‚ eradication of informal settlements‚ domestic violence‚ drug addiction, agricultural development, or food security and nutrition. Many of our students also work with people management programmes (programmes in big companies aimed at improving lack of skills‚ poor performance‚ or organisational culture). Programme evaluators find out if these programmes work and how to improve them so that they work better.

What are the minimum admission requirements?

Because programme evaluation aims to teach the application of social science research skills to specific evaluation problems, our students require existing knowledge of research design, research methods, and both quantitative and qualitative approaches for rigorous empirical data collection and analysis.

In order to qualify for selection into the programme‚ you must have:

  • An honours degree or a four year professional bachelor’s degree at HEQF level 8.
  • Completed a component of quantitative research methods/statistics in your honours degree.
  • An average mark of 65% for your honours degree.

Please note that a bachelor’s degree or a postgraduate diploma is not accepted.

How do I apply?

Applications should be completed online through the UCT application system. Please click on the button below and follow the instructions. Applications usually open in May and close mid-November in the year preceding the year in which you would like to study. Applications close on 30 November and no late applications are accepted. Students are encouraged to apply as early in the year as possible.

Apply Here

Please note that you will have to up–load your Honours degree transcript or equivalent with your application. A transcript is an official document from the university where you obtained your Honours degree and should reflect your marks for this degree, and the specific courses or modules that you elected to take. Please do not upload copies of degree certificates or generic course outlines or curricula.

Please note that no other documents (other degrees‚ referees’ reports‚ intended dissertation topic‚ etc.) are required. Do not upload these.

Applications close on 30 November and no late applications are accepted.

The degree is in Programme Evaluation, but is registered in the School of Management Studies (under Organisational Psychology). What is the relationship?

The degree is registered in the School of Management Studies (Commerce Faculty), and is administered by the Section of Organisational Psychology. However, graduates of this degree qualify with an MPhil in programme evaluation, not organisational psychology or management studies. A background in organisational psychology or management studies is not a requirement for entry into the degree, and graduates will similarly not acquire a professional qualification in organisational psychology on the basis of the degree.

Programme evaluation is a truly interdisciplinary degree, and we accept students into the degree from a wide range of backgrounds – including economics, business science, public health, development studies, sociology, social work, psychology, the applied natural and sciences and education. However, an interdisciplinary degree such as programme evaluation is still required within South Africa’s higher education system to be administered by a single academic department – which at UCT, is Organisational Psychology.

How does the selection process work?

All applicants who fulfil the minimum requirements and have submitted the required degree transcript will proceed to a selection process. Academic performance in the Honours degree is the main selection criterion. Short-listed candidates and applicants might be contacted and requested to submit writing samples, or other such examples of your prior academic work. Applicants will usually be informed of the outcome of the selection process during the first week of December, although earlier notifications may occur.

Please note that because of infrastructure and human resource constraints‚ the selection process is highly competitive and offers are made to a limited number of applicants.

What does the degree consist of?

The degree consists of two parts: a coursework section and a research dissertation, which are equally weighted (50/50) towards a final degree mark.

The curriculum as a whole aims to show students how to 1) frame and tailor specific evaluation questions to a given programmatic context, 2) how to develop an evaluation design or assessment methodology suited to a particular set of questions, 3) how to adapt general principles of design and analysis to the specific assessment of a social programme’s implementation, outcomes and impact, 4) and how to analyse, present and interpret evaluation data and findings. We also provide students with an understanding of monitoring (tracking the progress of the programme) and programme theory (the way in which programmes change a problem or people), and the relationship of programme theory to programme design.

BUS5037W   (Coursework)

The coursework aims to equip students with advanced programme evaluation knowledge and skills. The course consists of five compulsory modules (the first three modules are usually presented in the first semester and the last two modules in the second semester). At the discretion of the Head of Section some second semester modules could be offered in the first semester.

It is a requirement that students pass all modules in order to pass the coursework component.

  • Principles of programme evaluation

This module provides a systematic overview and introduction to programme evaluation and its methods. We focus on the logic of programmes and how evaluation tracks this logic‚ we explore different evaluation questions and consider questions of programme integrity and strength. We also deal with stakeholder relations‚ user-friendly client reports and the ethics of programme evaluation. During this module, students will engage during classes with a real programme in need to evaluation services, in order to give them an opportunity to see how the theoretical content taught in class might be operationalised in practice.

  • Data analysis for evaluation (Research methods I)

The aims of the Research methods I and Research methods II modules are to teach students how to link evaluation or research design, to data collection and analysis. The module considers the primary value of empirical data within the context of programme evaluation in extending and enhancing the capacity of stakeholders to understand‚ improve and judge policies and programmes. In this foundational statistics course‚ we explore the use and application of descriptive and inferential statistics to an evaluation context. The course is structured to include both theoretical content, and practical laboratory sessions using the SPSS statistical package.

  • Research design for evaluation (Research methods II)

In Research methods II we concentrate on what is required to building a causal (or programme impact) argument by means of research designs, in other words – has the programme, and nothing else, caused observable changes in beneficiaries?  The module makes use of published evaluations to show how we use quasi-experimental and experimental designs to provide us with answers to our evaluation questions. We also focus on the key elements of good research and evaluation design.

  • Monitoring using programme theory

Monitoring refers to tracking the progress of a programme. In order to do this‚ we need to understand monitoring terminology and be able to track programme implementation and outcomes over time. In specific instances‚ we also need to know about local and global monitoring indicators or the monitoring requirements of funders, as well as an appropriate (complementary) evaluation design. In this module students learn how to develop and apply a plausible programme theory (or an explanation of what works and what does not work in a specific field) to the design and operationalisation of monitoring and evaluation frameworks. Students will learn how to produce appropriate indicators‚ measures and standards for specific programme outcomes and track programme progress against these. In addition‚ students will be able to design a monitoring framework for programme implementation by formulating appropriate data collection questions for coverage‚ service delivery and programme organisation.

  • Advanced approaches for complex evaluations

This module builds on the foundational content covered in the preceding modules, to explore some of the more advanced (and sometimes novel) approaches used to guide evaluation design, data collection and data analysis in the context of complex evaluations. The content aims to put students at the cutting edge of the latest in evaluation theory and practice. Using specific evaluation case-studies, we take an in-depth look at the theory and application of some of the more complex experimental and quasi-experimental evaluation design and analysis techniques. We consider the merits, limitations and application of alternative  evaluation theories and approaches in particular contexts.  Practical sessions give students the opportunity to apply these principles to real data sets and/or evaluation problems.

At the discretion of the Head of Section, modules may be added or withdrawn.

BUS5036S and BUS5050F (Research Report)

The research dissertation requires students to write a 20‚000 word evaluation of an existing social or people management programme. It provides an opportunity to evaluate a ’real-life’ programme and write it up as a client report. Students have to choose a programme that is being planned or that is currently running from a list of potential programmes that the course convenor has pre-identified. Students can if they wish also identify and approach a programme of their own choice as a subject of their dissertation.

In consultation with their supervisor and a client from the organization planning/running the programme, students formulate appropriate evaluation questions and levels. A proposal for the evaluation has to be presented to the Section and submitted to the Commerce Faculty Ethics in Research Committee by the end of the first year of the MPhil (i.e. December in the year of initial registration). Data collection and write-up is then ongoing through the first half of the following year. Students are required to obtain at least 50% for their dissertation. The dissertation component contributes 50% towards the final mark for the degree.

Is the degree presented on-line or on a part-time basis?

No‚ this is not an on-line course and it is not presented on a part-time basis. All students are required to be residential students at UCT for the duration of the programme. Please note that attendance at all scheduled lectures for the coursework is compulsory, and that you will be required to meet regularly with your supervisor over the dissertation period. This compulsory attendance requirement is strictly enforced.

Can I do this if I work full time?

A number of our students have successfully completed the MPhil degree while working full-time. The majority of classes are scheduled from either 17h00-19h00 or (occasionally) 16:00-19:00, two days per week – which suits people who work full-time. Students should be aware, however, that practical sessions may be scheduled during conventional working hours (i.e. before 17h00), and for up to five days of the year, there can be full-day engagements (such as workshops) that students will be expected to attend.

While it is possible to work full-time and complete the MPhil, we should emphasise that the MPhil is not presented on a part-time basis. The coursework and dissertation components tend to put considerable demands on students who are also working full-time, and for this reason we strongly recommend that working students acquire the support and buy-in of their employer and/or supervisors before applying for the degree.

How long is the programme?

The MPhil is an eighteen month‚ full time programme. The coursework component for the programme starts at the commencement of the academic year (in February) and ends in mid-October. The dissertation component starts in July, and ends at the end of July the following year. Thus, for the 2018 intake you can expect to register and commence lectures in February 2018, begin work on your dissertation in July 2018, finish your coursework by the end of October 2018, and submit your dissertation by the end of July 2019. Graduation, if all deadlines are adhered to, would usually be in December 2019.

Cost and financial assistance

Please go to the fees website: to check the cost of BUS5037W (Coursework) and BUS5036S (dissertation in the second semester of year 1) and BUS5050F (dissertation continuation in the first semester of year 2).

International applicants should check under the relevant section, International Students, for their fees.

There is currently no dedicated scholarship or bursary programme for the MPhil in programme evaluation. However, limited financial support is available to all eligible UCT students in the form of scholarships‚ bursaries and student loans. Please contact the Postgraduate Funding Office for more information ( Please note that some scholarships require application by June of the year preceding your study year. You are advised to apply in June even if you do not know by then whether you have been selected into the programme.

International students should note that funding is limited and are advised to apply for sponsorship in their own countries.

Student housing

Should you want to know about student housing at Cape Town University‚ please contact

Estimated cost of housing for sponsors are available from: 

Who should I contact if I wish to ask or discuss anything else?

Please direct specific questions to the course convenor Assoc. Prof Sarah Chapman: or 021-650-5218. Please read the content of these FAQs carefully before making a general enquiry for information, as specific questions are more likely to yield useful answers.