The Master’s in Programme Evaluation [CM033BUS015] is a specialised degree that provides students with comprehensive knowledge and skills of evaluation theory and practice. We aim to produce graduates that go on to improve the quality, accountability and transparency of a wide range of social and development programmes. The applied curriculum straddles an innovative interdisciplinary space that has been influenced by the latest developments in evaluation theory and practice.
Since the early 2000s, programme monitoring and evaluation has experienced unprecedented growth as a profession, industry, governance tool and field of applied research. A growing majority of government and non-government organisations employ 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.
When one evaluates a programme‚ one asks: Is it working? Sometimes we also ask: How is it working?
To answer these questions an evaluator needs to be able to apply fundamental 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 and those wishing to apply their academic skills in a very real way to pressing social problems.
Our students require existing knowledge of research design, research methods and both quantitative and qualitative approaches for rigorous empirical data collection and analysis.
To qualify for selection into the programme‚ you must have:
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 sciences and education. Regardless of background, all students must have met the minimum admission requirements.
How do I apply?
Applications should be completed online through the UCT application system. UCT usually opens their applications in May of the year preceding registration and they close at the end of October. Please click on the button below and follow the instructions. Late applications can be considered up to the end of November by special request to the course convenor (please email Sarah Chapman). However, due to the amount of time required for visa processing, international applicants are strongly advised to apply before October. No applications are accepted after November.
Decisions on applications are usually made in November or December, and you will be notified of the outcome by the end of December. However, please remember that should you wish to apply for an NRF or other scholarship to support your studies, you need to submit your application in line with the UCT internal deadlines, which are usually in June of the year preceding study. Thus, should you wish to apply for funding, you may require an early offer. In this case please apply online as soon as possible, and then personally notify the course convenor (please email Sarah.Chapman@uct.ac.za) that you have applied online and wish to be considered for an early offer due to funding deadlines. The course convenor will then deem if you might qualify for an early offer, and if possible your application will be reviewed and processed on an accelerated timeline by the selection committee. Please note that if you do not request an early review in this way, you will be notified as to the decision on your application along with the rest of the applicant pool, in November or December.
* When you apply, be sure to select the Faculty of Commerce, and then go on to select Master of Philosophy. From there – the option for specialisation in Programme Evaluation will come up.
You will have to upload 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. If your transcript contains symbols, you will be required to upload you’re the reverse side of the transcript which usually has the descriptions of the symbols.
No other documents (other degrees‚ referees’ reports‚ intended dissertation topic‚ etc.) are required. Do not upload these.
The degree is registered in the Commerce Faculty and is administered by the Section of Organisational Psychology within the School of Management Studies. Graduates of this degree qualify with an MPhil specialising in programme evaluation. A background in organisational psychology or management studies is not a requirement for entry into the degree.
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, as is the research methods and/or research background of the candidate. Please note that some postgraduate diplomas, although graded at NQF 8 level, do not have a strong research component, and will thus reflect poorly on the competitiveness of your application. 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. Should you wish due to funding or visa issues to know earlier whether it is likely that you would get into the MPhil programme, please submit your application online, and then email the course convenor (Sarah.Chapman@uct.ac.za) requesting an early review.
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.
The degree consists of two parts: a 90-credit coursework component and a 90-credit research dissertation which are equally weighted (50/50) towards a final 180-credit 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 principles of research 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).
The coursework aims to equip students with advanced programme evaluation knowledge and skills. The course consists of five compulsory modules comprising at least 55 hours of contact time. 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 to pass the coursework component.
Principles of programme evaluation
This module provides a systematic overview and introduction to theory-based programme evaluation and its methods. We focus on the logic of programmes and how evaluation tracks this logic, and explore different evaluation questions and consider questions of programme integrity and strength. Students are also taught the principles of stakeholder relations‚ user-friendly client reports and the ethics of programme evaluation.
Statistics for evaluation
In this foundational statistics course, students are taught to identify and apply correct statistical procedures to the quantitative exploration of questions often important in an evaluation context. For example, did a group of programme beneficiaries significantly improve on an outcome after the introduction of an intervention, and if so – was there a different rate of change in an intervention relative to a comparison group? Is there statistically significant evidence of a causal effect of the programme on outcomes of interest? The course is structured to include both theoretical content and practical laboratory sessions using the SPSS statistical package.
Research design for impact evaluation
In this module, we concentrate on what is required to building a causal (or programme impact) argument utilizing research designs, in other words – what kind of research designs establish if the programme, and nothing else, caused observable changes in beneficiaries. Students are taught the different experimental and quasi-experimental impact evaluation designs and how to assess their strength, limitations and applications in different evaluation contexts. Critical engagement with published evaluations in a combination with taught content provides students with a thorough grounding in core principles of good research and evaluation design.
Monitoring using programme theory
Monitoring refers to tracking the progress of a programme. 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. Also‚ 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 long module builds on the foundational content covered in the preceding modules and aims to put students at the forefront of the latest conversations about how we should assess programme impact. In the first half of the module, we take an in-depth look at some of the more nuanced and innovative approaches increasingly used by evaluators to make causal inferences when randomised treatment allocation is impossible or otherwise compromised. Methods discussed include the use of propensity-scores to aid in the counterfactual estimation, the application of an instrumental variable approach to aid causal inference, and the use of advanced regression techniques to aid the analysis of panel, repeat measures or discontinuity-design evaluations. Practical sessions allow students to apply these principles to real data sets and/or evaluation problems.
In the second half of this module, we take a step back from the largely positivist, quantitative position assumed in the first part of this module, and consider alternate (or possibly complementary) evaluation approaches to framing the assessment of programme impact. Approaches covered here include the use of qualitative methods in evaluation, applications of complex systems theory to evaluation problems, applying a valuing (including cost-efficiency) approach to the interpretation of evaluation findings, and techniques and merits of conducting a utilisation-focused evaluation. We also consider recent thinking in the development of an Africa-centric evaluation theory of practice.
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. The research dissertation only commences at the start of the second semester (July of the first year of registration). The dissertation 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 organisation 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. Data collection and write-up are 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.
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 coursework component of the programme, which typically runs from February – October in the first year of registration. Please note that attendance at all scheduled lectures for the coursework is compulsory. This compulsory attendance requirement is strictly enforced.
A number of our students have 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 on occasion scheduled during conventional working hours (i.e. before 17h00), and sometimes a module might be taught “block release”, where classes will run back-to-back over, for example, three days.
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 when applying for the degree.
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 by early November. The dissertation component starts in July and ends by mid-June the following year. Graduation, if all deadlines are adhered to, would usually be in December of the second year.
Please go to the fees website and access the latest fees handbook. Check the cost of BUS5037W (Coursework) and BUS5036S and BUS5036F (dissertation modules in the first and second semester).
International applicants should check under the relevant section, International Students, for their fees. Special concessions on international fee levies are made for SADC residents, but non-SADC international students will be required to pay an international fee levy on top of the basic tuition outlined above.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.
Should you want to know about student housing at Cape Town University‚ please contact email@example.com.
Estimated cost of housing for sponsors are available from:
Please direct specific questions to the course convenor Assoc. Prof Sarah Chapman: Sarah.Chapman@uct.ac.za 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.
For more information on the programme, please refer to pages 78 and 79 of the 2020 Commerce Postgraduate Handbook.