Programme Doctor of Philosophy in Biostatistics

The PhD in Biostatistics is a 3 to 5-year full time programme by research. Its aim is to produce a highly trained cadre of individuals who will contribute to knowledge generation in field of biostatistics.

Objectives of the Programme

a. To produce graduates in biostatistics with the capacity to independently generate and impart knowledge in this field.

b. To produce graduates with capacity to independently conduct research in biostatistics and communicate results effectively

c. To enable graduates to acquire relevant transferable knowledge and skills (research, writing, etc) necessary for continued professional development

Programme Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the PhD programme, graduates should be able to:

i. Demonstrate knowledge and practical understanding of discipline of biostatistics that is generated through personal research or equivalent work which makes a significant contribution to the development of the subject/discipline;

ii. Use a significant range of the principal and complex skills, techniques, practices and materials associated with biostatistics;

iii. Apply a constant and integrated approach to critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas, information and issues;

iv. Identify, conceptualize and offer original and creative insights into new, complex and abstract ideas, information and issues;

v. Communicate at an appropriate level to a range of audiences using a range of software and adapt communication to the context and purpose;

vi. Exercise a high level of autonomy and initiative in professional and equivalent activities, taking full responsibility for own work and/or significant responsibility for the work of others;

vii. Demonstrate leadership and/or originality in tackling and solving problems and issues, working in ways which are reflective, self-critical and based on research/evidence;

viii. Deal with complex ethical and professional issues;

ix. Make informed judgments on new and emerging issues not addressed by current research works or practices;

x. Write and publish papers, articles or monographs addressing current issues in biostatistics.

Programme Structure and Mode of Delivery

Students will dedicate their full time to the programme, spending their time on campus at Chancellor College or at a collaborating institution depending on agreements and availability of resources. The students will be required to attend and participate in regular seminars, reading exercises and presentations, offer tutorials to MSc and BSc students, and attend to other scholarly activities as may be arranged by the Programme, Department, Faculty or Postgraduate Office from time to time. All students must participate in regular meetings with supervisors and must submit regular student progress reports to the programme. During the entire period of their studies, students must also devote at least 90 hours of teaching or tutoring undergraduate or MSc students, which is equivalent to offering 3 regular BSc modules.

Research supervision

Students will be assigned at least two supervisors to work with, one of whom shall be the main supervisor who shall be at Associate Professor or Professor Level.  Students will in the first place, with guidance from the supervisors, write and defend a proposal before an assessment team composed of the supervisors, Programme Coordinator, Faculty PG and Senate representatives, at a seminar attended by faculty members. This must be completed within the first 18 months.

Guided reading and assessment

During the first semester of study, students will be required to conduct a guided reading exercise in their field of specialisation. Students will sit for, and must pass examinations on the directed study area before presenting a research proposal for approval. The area of study and type of examination (oral or written) are at the discretion of the supervisors, but must be such area(s) that give the candidate sufficient background to bridge any gaps in order to carry out research in the proposed area.  Upon satisfactory completion of the examinations in their first year of study, students will be required to finalise their PhD proposals in the first semester of the second year of study. Students who fail examinations will be allowed to re-sit once. Subsequent failure will lead to withdrawal from the programme. Students’ doctoral research proposal will be presented to the assessment team (in the presence of faculty members) who will assess the candidate’s potential to proceed into the next phase. Any candidate who fails to produce a pass proposal will be allowed a further six months period to re-work on the proposal, and there will be no further extensions except to withdraw the student.

After acceptance of the proposal, the student will then write the thesis for a minimum 18 months (3 academic semesters) and a maximum of three years (six academic semesters). Consequently,

The first year of study will be dedicated to:

• induction into scholarly issues in the field of biostatistics through guided reading, participation in an advanced seminar series or colloquium and other relevant scholarly exchanges;

• preparing and sitting for guided examinations;

• preparing a PhD research proposal.

The second year of study will involve:

• finalising proposal development and approval by the programme;

• where necessary, getting research ethics approval for the execution of the study;

• further reading and/or writing;

• attending further seminars in the Department and Faculty;

At third year (and up to 5th year where it is not possible to complete in 3 years), students will sequentially:

• complete data collection and analysis of their research findings;

• write up their thesis;

• present preliminary results in advanced seminars and conferences;

• publish at least two referred journal articles and submit a third one for publication;

• submit the completed thesis for examination; and

• defend their thesis.

Information about assessment regulations

The programme will conform to the guidelines outlined in the UNIMA PG Policy. Assessment shall be either pass or fail based on oral or written examinations. The pass mark will be 50%. Candidates who have completed and submitted thesis and have satisfied the minimum 90 hours of teaching/tutorial shall be required to defend their thesis before a panel of examiners. The viva voce will comprise 25% and the thesis will account for 75% of the grade.

Award and Multiple Exits

• Candidates who will have published two referred journal articles; submitted a third article for publication; and who will have successfully defended their PhD thesis will be awarded a PhD in Biostatistics, depending on their research area.

• Candidates who will have published at least two referred journal articles and pass the guided examinations, but fail to produce or defend a PhD thesis may be awarded an MPhil.

Support for students and their learning

Students learning will be supported through:

i. Adequate orientation program at the beginning of the programme. Arrangements will be made to ensure that students are oriented on the use of library facilities including Information Technology and e-resources.

ii. Students will be assigned to specific supervisors to assist them with any challenges they may have on academic and social affairs.

iii. Seminars, discussions and supervisory reports will provide an on-going monitoring strategy to students’ performance in academic matters.

Indicators of quality assurance/management

The eligibility, selection procedure, supervision and the research process will follow the guidelines outlined in the UNIMA PG Policy and rules and regulations for Chancellor College. PhD candidates may take taught modules from the taught MSc programmes as deemed fit by the supervisors to strengthen their functional knowledge in their respective research area; however, they will not be examined on such modules.  Moreover, quality assurance will be undertaken through external examining, candidates’ evaluation reports, individual lecturer’s evaluation reports, and periodic curriculum reviews.

Entry Requirements

Students will be admitted into the programme if they hold a Master’s degree in statistics or related disciplines obtained from accredited institutions of higher learning. Those with first class BSc honours degrees in statistics may also be admitted. Experience will not be a substitute for these requirements.

Further information

For further inquiries, please contact:

The Coordinator, PhD in Biostatistics, Mathematical Sciences Department, Chancellor College, P.O. Box 280, Zomba, Malawi, or Email: to ; Phone: +265 1 524 222

News Search

About Chancellor College

Chancellor College is the largest among the constituent colleges of the University of Malawi. Ever since its establishment, the college has produced graduates who have gone on to become leaders in various sectors of Malawian society.

Learn More