Most students at the University study in order to obtain a degree. The University also recognises study that is undertaken for non-degree purposes (commonly known as NDP). This covers the situation where an interested person wishes to register for a module offered by the University (for example motivated by interest in the subject alone) but without the intention of actually graduating with a degree.


Students registered for a specific degree may be required to perform research as part of the syllabus for that degree. Some degrees are research only: these include the Master of Medical Science ( MMedSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees offered in the SCM. Others require research as one component of the degree, combined with coursework modules. This includes the Master of Medicine (MMed) degree undertaken by those training to be medical specialists. In all these cases, the research project is undertaken in order to graduate with a degree.

Research for the MMed degree

Undergraduate medical students, interns and medical officers are frequently interested in undertaking a research project, yet this is not required for the current degree for which they are registered (e.g. the MBChB), or they are not currently registered for any degree (e.g. interns and medical officers). It is possible for people in this category to register for the appropriate modules of the MMed for non-degree purposes (NDP). These are the Research Methodology (PMED801) and Research Project (PMED802) modules. Such candidates will register for the modules but not the degree, and will pay fees per module. Once registered they have access to all the privileges of a university student, including access to supervisors, research support, libraries et cetera.

What happens if a student with some research experience subsequently registers for the MMed?

Students previously registered for the MMed Research Methodology or Research project as NDP students

Students who subsequently register for the MMed degree, having previously registered for PMED801 or PMED802 as NDP students, will receive credit for these and may carry the credit forward into the MMed programme. If they have satisfactorily completed the two modules (which would include successful publication or examination of a thesis), they will not be required to repeat these modules or undertake a new research project (although we strongly recommend that they forward their interest in research by undertaking new research, possibly with the intention of receiving a PhD). Those who are registered for NDP and have partly completed the work of the modules, are entitled to continue the registration of those modules within the MMed, and therefore to continue with the work already started.

Other research experience

As a general rule, research work performed prior to registration for the MMed outside of prior formal registration for PMED801 and PMED802 will not be recognised for the purposes of the MMed, even where a paper has been published. This may happen in two situations:

  • The student performed the research as part of another degree (e.g. MSc or MMedSc). Since a single research project may not be used for two different degrees, no credit can be given for it in the MMed.
  • The student participated in a research project which was independent of a degree. The important point here is that the participation in the research methodology and research project modules is regarded as the educational point of the research component of the MMed degree: not merely an outcome, as in having a paper published.

For these reasons, students entering the MMed programme are required to register and participate in these modules, i.e. register for PMED801 and PMED802, perform all the work required for these and undertake a new research project.

There are two possible exceptions to this, as described below.

Recognition of prior learning

The University rules do allow exemption from a module if the College Academic Affairs Board (a high level academic committee) can be convinced that the scope and quality of a student’s previous work is comparable to that of the module from which exemption is sought. Under exceptional circumstances it may be possible to receive credit for previous research activity coupled with participation in an active research educational programme. This is not however guaranteed and, in the case of the MMed, is highly unlikely.

Students previously registered for MMed at another university

Should they subsequently transfer to UKZN, such students may be entitled to have their previous work in that University’s equivalent modules recognised. This is however subject to approval on a case-by-case basis, and is dependent upon the scope, intensity and quality of the work performed elsewhere.


Some prospective students who wish to specialise at a later date express an interest in commencing or completing a research project while occupy an intern or medical officer post. This may be because of a special interest in research (which we will strongly encourage), but is often because they would like to get the research project required for the MMed out of the way before they actually register for the MMed. Such students should register for the two MMed Research Methodology and Research Project modules (PMED801 and PMED 802) as NDP students. Should they subsequently be accepted into an MMed programme, then they will receive credit for any work done in these modules.

Interns and medical officers should not register for the MMedSc degree unless they intend to complete it. Students registered or previously registered for the MMedSc who subsequently register for the MMed degree will not receive credit within the MMed for the research work performed as part of the MMedSc. This is a policy decision taken since students who register for but do not complete a degree (such as the MMedSc) have a negative impact on throughput figures and therefore substantially disadvantage the University.

Students who register for an MMedSc degree and complete it will of course graduate with that degree. However, should they subsequently register for the MMed degree, they will be required to undertake a new research project, since students cannot be credited for the same research work for the purposes of graduating with two different degrees. (This is known as “double-dipping.”)