Master (MSc) in Public Health - orientation Health Systems and Disease Control (MPH-HSDC)

The Master of Science in Public Health orientation Health Systems & Disease Control (MPH-HS&DC) targets health professionals, health system and programme managers, policy-makers and researchers with a passion for health systems strengthening and improved disease prevention and control. Its aim is to enhance their capacity to face current challenges such as the achievement of Universal Health Coverage, the organisation of care for chronic diseases such as NCD, HIV and TB, the control and elimination of (neglected) tropical diseases, the preparedness for outbreaks, the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents, inequities in health, and accountability vis-à-vis the people. The focus of the MPH is on resource-constrained settings and vulnerable populations. In this orientation students will develop research and management skills and combine evidence-informed insights from multidisciplinary perspectives with real-life applications in diverse contexts.
The structure of the MPH-HS&DC allows students to build a coherent tailor-made programme. They can opt for a full-time (one year) study track at ITM or spread the course over a period of maximum 5 years in the part-time study track. In this part-time track students alternate studies and work and at the level of advanced course components they can opt for credit mobility from accredited partner institutions such as the tropEd network  (see
Applicants for the full-time track need to have at least 2 years relevant experience in the domain of health systems and disease control in resource constrained settings or vulnerable populations. Applicants for the part-time track can start the MPH-HS&DC with at least 6 months experience but must have at least two years of relevant professional experience before graduation.

Learning Objectives

The specific learning objectives of the MPH-HS&DC build further on the MPH learning objectives detailed in the general information on the MPH.
At the end of the MPH orientation HS&DC, students should be able to:  
  • Discuss the roles of health care and other determinants, in improving population health and wellbeing
  • Apply theoretical frameworks and appropriate research methods in the analysis of health systems and policies, at local, national and global levels, taking all stakeholders’ perspectives into account
  • Formulate policy advice for health systems’ management and strengthening
  • Apply quantitative and qualitative research methods in the analysis, monitoring and evaluation of specific health problems, their determinants and the impact of specific prevention/control interventions
  • Formulate evidence-based and context-specific health programmes/interventions, and plan their implementation, taking the resources, perspectives and priorities of providers and beneficiaries into account
  • Retrieve, appraise, summarise and report scientific and tacit evidence for decision-making in public health, in a systematic and transparent way

Programme structure

The MPH-HSDC programme consists of:

  • A core of 20 ECTS credits.
  • Advanced course components (25 ECTS Credits).
  • A master thesis (15 ECTS credits).






The structure of the MPH-HS&DC allows students to build a coherent tailor-made study plan. A provisional study plan is part of an application file. Students can opt for a full-time (one year) study track at ITM or spread the course over a period of maximum 5 years in the part-time study track.  In the part-time track students can alternate study (face-to-face or on-line) with professional activities and can include advanced course components from other accredited higher education institutions in their study plan (credit transfer).
The MPH-HS&DC programme consists of three main building blocks:
  • A core course (introduction of 20 ECTS credits)
  • Advanced course components (25 ECTS Credits)
  • A master thesis (15 ECTS credits)
Note: Detailed course component descriptions are available via links under the heading programme structure.
Core course
Students follow the core course Introduction to Health Systems & Disease control (3 course components). At least 2 years of work experience in the domain of health systems and disease control are required.
Note: Applicants with less work experience but who do comply with minimum 6 months of work experience in Public/International Health can start the part-time track of the MPH-HS&DC with the Introduction to International Health (IIH) core course. Holders of the Introduction to International Health credit certificate can enroll in the MPH-HS&DC full or part-time track for the advanced course components and thesis, if they have the required professional experience.
Advanced course components
For the advanced course components students are expected to choose a coherent combination of methodological and thematic subjects in function of their learning needs and thesis topic. The resulting study plan should fit within the scope of the HS&DC learning objectives.
For the selection of advanced course components, the following rules are to be taken into account:  
  • On application, candidates must select 5 preferred course components (CCs) and 3 alternative course components as part of their (provisional) study plan, and justify their choices by citing career goals, planned thesis topic or other valid reasons
  • Students are advised to balance their study plans with methodological and thematic content
  • Students of the part-time track can include a maximum of 10 credits via e-learning
  • A maximum of 10 previously earned credits (before registration in the MPH-HS&DC) from advanced course components can be accepted in the study-plan if relevant for the HS&DC orientation. These courses have often been followed as short courses for continuous professional development
  • Once admitted, students can reconsider their choices after discussion with a course coordinator and thesis coach. A final study plan will be agreed upon before the end of the core course
  • The course calendar at ITM will be organised in such a way that participants can - as much as possible - follow the courses of their choice
Advanced course components available for both full-time and part-time study tracks
The offer of the advanced course components (CCs) reflects the methodological and thematic expertise domains of the PH department at ITM. Most thematic CCs take a multidisciplinary perspective and build on the public health, clinical and biomedical expertise of ITM.
All advanced CCs listed under programme structure are organised face-to-face at ITM and have a duration of 3 weeks. The student investment of each single advanced CC corresponds to 5 ECTS credits. Please read the course component descriptions carefully (click on the hyperlinks) and note that CCs can have specific entry criteria in terms of lengths and nature of experience.
Advanced course components available only for the part-time track
  • Advanced course components / short courses organised by ITM (see list under programme structure)
  • Accredited courses offered in the international tropEd network
  • Relevant NVAO-accredited courses organised by Belgian/Dutch universities
A master thesis
On application, the MPH candidates will submit a draft thesis outline. Admitted students will revise their thesis outlines during the introductory part of the MPH programme. Each student will work closely with a thesis coach who will support her/his thesis project and writing process.
The master thesis project gives the students the opportunity to integrate knowledge, methods and skills acquired during the MPH-HS&DC course. It allows them to collect, analyse and use primary and/or secondary, quantitative and/or qualitative data, as well as carry out reviews of literature. They will also critically appraise their personal experiences and contextual issues and use this in developing their arguments and conclusions. The students will select thesis topics in line with the HS&DC orientation, personal interests and experience.
The thesis document and oral defence will be assessed by an international examination board.

Teaching and learning methods

The MPH-HS&DC explicitly uses methods for adult learning, emphasising a participatory approach to learning: we believe that learning and teaching are co-created by students and staff. The programme consists of interactive lectures, exercises, critical reading, small group sessions, followed by plenary presentations, debates, and coached individual or group assignments.
In addition to the contact hours, personal study time is required for preparatory and additional reading and for the assignments. All teaching materials, including theme-specific readers, will be available on an online learning platform.


The assessment procedures depend on the chosen course components and include the thesis and its defence. The Degree of Master of Science in Public Health is awarded to participants who have successfully completed each of the course components, the thesis and the defence.
Important: before graduation, the MPH-HS&DC participant must have at least 2 years of professional experience in the domain of health systems and diseases control in resource-constrained settings and/or vulnerable populations.  

Admission requirements

Academic degree
Applicants must be holder of a university degree of minimum 4 years equivalent to 240 ECTS (referred to as a Master’s degree in the European Union) in medicine or health sciences such as pharmacy, nursing, midwifery, health economics, medical sociology, medical anthropology and biomedical sciences.
Note: health professionals with a non-university degree and/or a degree of less than 240 ECTS (e.g. nurses, midwifes, clinical officers, and public health officers) and other professionals holders of a non-health sciences university degree of min 240 ECTS (e.g. biologists, bio-engineers, economists, sociologists, political scientists, IT specialists) can ask for a special admission procedure. This procedure will require additional information.
Applicants need at least 2 years of public health experience in the domain of health systems and disease control in resource-constrained settings and/or vulnerable populations to be admitted to the full-time track.
Candidates for the part-time track can enroll with at least 6 months of relevant experience but must take into account in their study plan that specific advanced course components may have additional admission criteria in terms of lengths and nature of professional experience and that they must have at least 2 years of relevant professional experience before graduation.
Language proficiency
Required level for English: TOEFL 580 (paper-based), 230 (computer-based) or 88 (internet-based), IELTS 6.5 or equivalent. (ITM Toefl Code 7727).
Note: native English speakers are exempt from these language requirements. Applicants whose first language is not English are equally exempt if they have obtained 60 credits from a higher education programme taught in English. Non-native English speakers are also exempt from the English language requirement if they have a higher education diploma from a Flemish Community higher education institution.
Documents required at application
  • Copies of academic and professional degrees
  • Copies of transcripts of academic records (scores)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Passport-size photograph
  • Passport copy
  • If relevant, proof of English language proficiency (e.g. TOEFL)
  • Motivation letter
  • Provisional thesis-outline
  • Provisional study-plan MPH-HS&DC
  • Contact details of 2 referees
  • Funding plan
  • If relevant, a DGD-scholarship application with letter from employer
Instructions on each of the required documents are provided during the application process.
Only complete applications can be taken into account.

Selection criteria

  • Relevance of the professional/research experience
  • Academic performance (based on the transcript of academic records)
  • Motivation
  • Quality of the provisional thesis outline
  • Quality of the provisional study plan
  • References
 For the full-time study track a maximum of 45 students can be admitted. The selection committee will take into account the diversity of the student group, so as to maximise the potential of peer-to-peer learning.


Note: in the part-time track the total cost for tuition will vary, depending on the choice of advanced course components, especially if course components from other institutions are included in the study plan.


Programme director: Bart Criel
Coordinator (s): Marianne Pirard, Marlon Garcia Lopez
Secretary: Nadine Nuyts
Tel: +32 (0)3 247 63 09


The course study load is equivalent to 60 ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer and accumulation System credits).
Fee & schedule >