MSc in Occupational Therapy by coursework (MM018)

This Occupational Therapy Coursework and Minor Dissertation programme is offered to graduates who want to learn more about the possibilities for re-visioning the contributions of the profession and explore key ideas in greater depth. The purpose of the programme is to develop critical thinkers at the forefront of the profession who are able to offer leadership in Africa towards contextually relevant practice and research. The combined content of the respective courses offers the student opportunities to consider the philosophy and practice of occupational therapy in the African context from multiple perspectives. The niche area of the UCT postgraduate curricula is a focus on professional epistemology, axiology and ontology rather than technical specialisation in a particular intervention modality or domain of Occupational Therapy. An Occupational Science emphasis promotes rigorous engagement with the theory and assumptions underpinning core professional constructs and intervention approaches. The literature and emphasis of the coursework is updated annually to reflect relevant national, regional and international professional trends and developments, thereby ensuring a socially and contextually responsive curriculum.  
Individual courses for non-degree purposes. A maximum of two courses may be taken without registering for the degree.

Admission requirements

  • Degree in occupational therapy or equivalent qualification recognised by the Senate.
  • Minimum of two years practice experience is recommended.
  • Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa or equivalent body in the country in which research will be conducted.
  • Computer literacy.

Duration of the degree
The MSc in Occupational Therapy by coursework must be completed in a minimum period of three years of part-time study, and a maximum period of five years. The minimum possible period for completion is two years (full time study). Not all courses are offered every year; some are offered every second year.

Programme outline
The programme consists of six courses and a minor dissertation. The coursework component is offered over two years, followed by a minor dissertation. Three or four courses are offered per year (usually two per semester). Not all courses are offered every year.

Compulsory courses offered every year:

  • Research Methods (AHS5014F)
    This course introduces students to the research process, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed method research approaches, and equips them with necessary skills and competencies to develop research proposals for their selected research projects. The course enables students to develop an understanding and an appreciation of what research is, and the process of research at the postgraduate level.
  • Research Methods II (AHS5018S)
    This course provides more in-depth preparation for students to plan, execute and report research. The course includes advanced qualitative and quantitative research methodology and evidence-based practice. A major focus is on the further development of the research protocol.

    At the end of this course, students will: (1) have an advanced appreciation of evidence-based practice as an approach to clinical decision making; (2) be able to formulate a focused clinical question about intervention effectiveness; (3) be able to plan and conduct an effective search using a variety of databases to find relevant research articles to answer a clinical intervention question; (4) have developed the skills required to appraise systemic reviews and randomized controlled trials; (5) be able to apply research findings to health practice in an African context; (6) be able to situate qualitative research correctly with consideration to paradigmatic orientation and/or ontological orientation; (7) be able to critique qualitative research in terms of goodness of fit between research question and data; (8) be able to incorporate relevant strategies in or to ensure trustworthiness of findings generated into the research process; and (9) be able to explain particular dimensions that require attention when ethics is being considered in qualitative research.

Compulsory courses offered every second year:

  • Human Occupation: Theory & Critique (AHS5015F)
    This course has a strong occupational science focus. The science of occupation is an academic discipline, the purpose of which is to generate knowledge about the form, function and meaning of occupation. Human Occupation I focuses on the many dimensions that influence human occupation and examine the impact of occupation on health and adaptation.

    At the end of this course, students will be able to: (1) identify and describe key theoretical frameworks used by occupational science theorists to understand occupation; (2) name and explain a documented critique on key occupational science constructs; (3) use personal lived experience and practice examples to affirm or disaffirm different theoretical perspectives on human occupation; (4) provide a comprehensive analysis of context as it relates to human occupation; (5) appreciate the collective dimension to occupational engagement; and (5) appreciate the political dimension of occupation.
  • Occupational Therapy: Identities & Practices (AHS5016F)
    This course builds on and will inform the content of AHS5015F (Human Occupation I) in which the historical, theoretical and philosophical background to human occupation in context and its significance for health, development and adaptation are covered.  It explores the phenomenon of occupation within the context of daily life and across the lifespan in order to inform occupation-based practice (OBP).  It focuses on the dimensions, principles and processes of OBP with particular emphasis on the African context.  Relevant factors that impact directly and indirectly on service provision are considered, including occupational performance, engagement and participation; principles of occupational justice; and processes of enabling occupation, including evidence-based practice.  At the end of this course the student will be able to: (1) critically appraise assumptions in occupational therapy about the nature of occupation and occupational performance; (2) explain occupation centred practice in the African context; (3) describe and theorise contextual influences on occupational performance, engagement and participation of individuals, groups and communities; and (4) critically appraise professional models and frameworks for enabling occupational participation and inclusion.

Students should choose two of the following courses (offered every second year):

  • Occupational Therapy in Primary Health Care (AHS5044S)
    This course examines the role of occupational therapy in comprehensive primary healthcare. It considers how the PHC philosophy and approach can be facilitated through occupation centred health promotion, prevention, therapeutic and rehabilitative programmes within the district health system. It reviews national and international policy frameworks and principles that guide community-based rehabilitation and the advancement of disability-inclusive development. At the end of this course the student will be able to: (1) critically discuss the relevance of comprehensive primary healthcare in the African context; (2) justify the focus of occupational therapy in promotive, preventive, therapeutic and rehabilitative programmes within the district health system; and (3) appraise a range of pertinent national and international policy guidelines for community-based rehabilitation and disability inclusive development.
  • Occupation-Based Community Development Practice (AHS5045S)
    This course examines how occupational therapy is able to contribute to an emancipatory agenda in which population inequities are addressed. It considers how critical perspectives on occupation are able to inform practice that aims to facilitate the participation, social inclusion and, therefore, the well-being of vulnerable people. It introduces an appraisal of how occupational-science constructs may be integrated into occupation-based community development practice. At the end of this course the student will be able to: (1) explain the relationship between social inclusion and occupational engagement; (2) identify critical perspectives of occupation that inform community development practice; (3) explain and theorise occupation-based frameworks of practice that are locally situated and globally relevant; and (4) theorise the design of occupation-based community development services.
  • Introduction to Disability as Diversity (AHS4089F)
    The course presents the shifts towards viewing disability as a human rights issue by focusing on the individual, social and psycho-analytical models of disability. Issues of power and privilege are introduced and theories on identities, sharing and resistance to oppression explored. Marginalisation and exclusion and their intersections with disability are considered.

Minor dissertation (AHS5011W)
The minor dissertation will be completed in the third year of study (usually submitted by mid-August of the third year of study). However, students are expected to produce a research proposal and to obtain ethical approval for the study by the end of the second year of study. The formative assignments in the compulsory and elective courses leading up to the minor dissertation are therefore designed to channel students towards the early identification of a research focus. Students are encouraged to approach each assignment topic from the perspective of a potential research area. In so doing, they systematically construct a body of knowledge that enables them to fine tune a research question and to write the research proposal for a minor dissertation. The identified research topic, which evolves throughout the course work curriculum,  must be professionally relevant, comply with all scientific, ethical and legal requirements and must meet the criteria of:

  • intellectual rigour
  • contribution to the field
  • clear writing
  • relevance

The dissertation is contained in size by a maximum of 25,000 words (excluding references and appendices). The student will be expected to work independently under the guidance of a supervisor. In some cases there may be funding available to assist the student with the research project. The dissertation is marked by two external examiners and contributes 50% to the overall mark for the degree (90 NQF credits).

Method of instruction
Lectures are offered on a block release system with two-weeks of teaching per course (usually January and April for first semester courses, and July and September for second semester courses). Readings are posted on the learning management system (Vula) and students are expected to read course materials in preparation for teaching weeks. Teaching consists mainly of lectures, discussions and small group tasks. There are usually two assignments per course and a final examination. Specific requirements per course are available from the course convenor.

Application procedure
If you decide to apply to UCT you will find important information on applying for admission as a postgraduate student at the UCT postgraduate and postdoctoral studies hub at
Please apply online by going to and clicking on the "Applicants and Students" link. Apply for the programme of study in which you are interested. Your application will be referred to the relevant department who may be in touch with you regarding further application requirements.
*Please note*
All postgraduate applicants must apply online. Follow the link below for important information and postgraduate application directions:

The following need to be submitted:

  • Completed online UCT Application form
  • Letter of motivation – this should briefly describe your reasons for applying for admission to the degree, and your current and previous involvement in occupational therapy. The letter of motivation will be reviewed by the selection committee, and should be a maximum of 300 words.
  • A curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Academic transcript
  • Names and contact details of two referees.

Please contact Ms Salega Tape (+27 21 406 6340) with any further enquiries regarding the application form.
Selection committees meet periodically to consider applications and if you are admitted the faculty office will make the necessary arrangements for your registration.

Closing dates are usually:

  • International applicants: 31 July
  • South African applicants: 30 September

The Postgraduate Office must receive a completed application form before the closing date for the student to be considered for admission to study in the following year.

Information on fees and other important information around payments is available in the university fees handbook at:

Financial assistance
Opportunities for applying for financial assistance are available through the Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Studies Hub. Enquiries may also be directed to the Postgraduate Centre & Funding Office.

Potential students are encouraged to contact A/Prof Helen Buchanan (Telephone: 021 406 6383)  or Ms Amour McCarthy (Telephone: 021 650 5350) for further information.