MSc – Bioinformatics


The purpose of the qualification is to provide successful graduates who will be capable of undertaking all aspects of research, both individually and as part of a team, and may be able to continue with further postgraduate studies in the field of Bioinformatics. As South Africa has a shortage of highly qualified scientists in research and teaching, this Masters qualification will produce highly qualified scientists who can use their skills and knowledge to contribute to the national and international advancement of science. They will provide benefits to society and the economy, either through continued research, or by passing on their knowledge and skills to others. 

Structure and content:
(Structure and content of the program, subjects covered; assessment methods; etc.)

BIF 801 – Bioinformatics seminar (18 credits): the assessment for this module is in the form of a written seminar on a chosen topic. The seminar is also presented orally. Both the written seminar and the oral presentation are assessed.

BIF 802 – Trends in Bioinformatics (9 credits): students do a literature review on the latest trends in bioinformatics and present this orally. The oral presentation is assessed.

BIF 803 – Bioinformatics research project (213 credits): the research project culminates in an MSc dissertation. The University of Pretoria guidelines for the assessment of dissertations are stipulated in the General regulations G.57 – G. 60. and are as follows:

EVALUATION OF THE DISSERTATION AND THESIS

1. Appointment of the examination panel 
(a) A student should inform the Head: Student Administration, in writing, of the intention to submit the dissertation/thesis at least three months prior to submission, in order that examiners can be notified accordingly.

(b) The Postgraduate Committee appoints the examination panel for a particular candidate subject to the provisions of regulation G.60.1(c).

(c) The supervisor in consultation with the head of the department concerned compiles a list of names of potential examiners both inside and outside of South Africa from which the Postgraduate Committee appoints examiners in the following manner:

(i) For dissertations: At least one internal examiner and at least one external examiner from outside the University or two external examiners if an internal examiner is not appointed.
(ii) For theses: At least one internal examiner, at least two external examiners from outside the University, of whom at least one must preferably be from outside South Africa and at least two substitute examiners for purposes of attending the oral examination as provided for in G.60.4(e)(ii). If an internal examiner is not appointed an additional external examiner must be appointed.

(d) The supervisor may not be an internal examiner.

(e) An external examiner should not be associated in any way with the candidate or in any way be involved in the research that the candidate has done previously, neither should a substitute examiner in any way be involved in the research that the candidate has done previously.

(f) External examiners must be from different institutions.

A summary of the dissertation/thesis in English of not more than 500 words compiled by the student will be made available to potential examiners in order to enable them to decide whether they have the expertise to accept the nomination.

(h) As soon as a potential examiner has accepted his appointment as examiner, he/she is supplied with a formal letter of appointment as well as documentation on the policy of the University concerning examinations. Examiners must sign an acceptance form, which is to be returned to the Head: Student Administration.

2. Identity of members of the examination panel 
(a) The identity of the examiners may not be revealed to the candidate until the examination process has been completed and then only with the consent of the examiner and the Postgraduate Committee.

(b) The identity of the examiners is made known in the programme of the graduation ceremony at which the degree is to be conferred on the candidate.

3. Criteria for evaluation 
(a) A dissertation must be proof of a candidate's ability to work independently.

(b) A thesis must contain proof of a candidate's ability to conduct original research that contributes to the development of new knowledge and expertise.

(c) A dissertation/thesis is also evaluated on the following and should otherwise also comply with the requirements stipulated by faculties:
(i) scientific and academic standard of research; research procedures and techniques; methodology; definition and extent of research; theoretical foundation; coverage of literature and comprehension of field of research;

(ii) scientific and academic quality of processing; presentation, analysis and synthesis of data; structure and logical development and arrangement of content; as well as critical findings, conclusions and recommendations;

(iii) editing and use of language;

(iv) technical finish and layout which must meet the requirements set by faculties; and

(v) whether the dissertation/thesis or parts thereof is publishable.

(d) If a dissertation has been rejected in terms of regulation G.60.4(d)(v), the student may submit an amended version or another dissertation within two years, and in such a case the student must bear the full cost of the examination.

(e) A student is allowed to submit a thesis that has been rejected only once in amended form, and in such a case, he or she must bear the full cost of the examination.

4. Examiners' reports 
(a) Every examiner independently and individually submits a report to the Head: Student Administration. The reports are treated confidentially.

(b) Every report has to contain one of the following recommendations, namely:
(i) that the degree be conferred without any changes to be made by the candidate to the dissertation/thesis;

(ii) that the degree be conferred as soon as minor changes have been made to the dissertation/thesis by the candidate, to the satisfaction of the head of the department;

(iii) that the degree be conferred as soon as the candidate has made major changes to the dissertation/thesis to the satisfaction of the examination panel;

(iv) that the dissertation/thesis does not meet the required standard, but that the candidate be invited to review the dissertation/thesis and to resubmit the dissertation/thesis at a later stage for re-examination;

(v) that the dissertation/thesis be rejected and that the candidate does not pass;

(vi) that the candidate should be called for oral questioning by the examination panel prior to finalisation of the result;

(vii) in addition to the above in the case of dissertations only, the mark that the candidate has achieved: on condition that at least 50% be regarded as a pass mark and at least 75% as a pass with distinction.

(c) The examiners' reports are made available to the head of the department by the Head: Student Administration.

(d) In the case of a dissertation, the supervisor and the head of the department review the examiners' reports and submit a consolidated report with one of the following recommendations to the Postgraduate Committee:
(i) that the degree be conferred;

(ii) that the degree be conferred as soon as minor changes have been made to the dissertation by the candidate to the satisfaction of the head of the department;

(iii) that the degree be conferred as soon as the candidate has made major changes to the dissertation to the satisfaction of the examination panel;

(iv) that the dissertation does not meet the required standard, but that the candidate be invited to review the dissertation and to resubmit the dissertation at a later stage for re-examination;

(v) that the dissertation be rejected and that the degree is not conferred on the candidate;

(vi) that the candidate should be called for oral questioning by the examination panel prior to finalisation of the result;

(vii) in addition to the above, the mark that the candidate has achieved: on condition that at least 50% be regarded as a pass mark and 75% as a pass with distinction.

(e) (i) In the case of a thesis, the examiners' recommendations made in terms of G.60.4(b) are preliminary in nature and subject to the successful completion of an oral examination by the candidate as provided for in G.60.4(e)(ii)–(iv) below, or such recommendations are treated as provided for in G.60.4(f) below, as the case may be.

(ii) The supervisor arranges an oral examination chaired by the head of the department during which the candidate is required to do a presentation on the thesis. The examiners appointed in terms of G.60.1 constitute the examination commission for the oral examination. If an examiner cannot participate in the examination the supervisor calls upon one of the substitute examiners appointed in terms of G.60.1 to act as a member of the examination commission.
(iii) The supervisor in consultation with the head of the department makes the relevant section(s) of the examiners' reports available to the candidate in accordance with G.60.5(c) beforehand in order for the necessary changes to be made to the thesis before the presentation.

(iv) After the presentation by the candidate, the examination commission constitutes a closed meeting chaired by the head of the department to consider the success of the candidate's representation, to review all the examiners' reports and to submit a consolidated report with one of the following recommendations to the Postgraduate Committee:

– that the degree be conferred;

– that the thesis does not meet the required standard, but that the candidate be invited to review the thesis and to resubmit it at a later stage for re-examination;

– that the thesis be rejected and that the degree not be conferred on the candidate.

(f) In the case of a thesis, where all the examiners recommended in terms of G.60.4(b)(v) that the thesis be rejected, the supervisor and the head of the department review the examiners' reports and submit a consolidated report to the Postgraduate Committee.

5. Treatment of examiner's reports 
(a) Under no circumstances shall any party modify any examiner's report.

(b) The contents of the examiners' reports or the consolidated examiners' report may only be revealed to the candidate with the permission of the Postgraduate Committee and with the consent of the examiners.

(c) In the event that the candidate has to make corrections to the dissertation/ thesis, the relevant section(s) of the examiners' reports will be made available to the candidate by the supervisor in consultation with the head of the department in order for the necessary changes to be made to the dissertation/thesis.

6. Finalisation of reports 
(a) Should the examiners' reports not reflect substantial consensus, the head of the department in consultation with the supervisor, submits a report to the Postgraduate Committee with a recommended solution. Under no circumstances shall a report of any examiner be ignored.

(b) Should it be impossible to reach consensus, the dean, after consultation with the Postgraduate Committee and the head of the department, appoints an additional external examiner who has international standing in the field of research to evaluate the dissertation and report to the Postgraduate Committee on the matter.

(c) The Postgraduate Committee, after considering all the reports (including the report mentioned in G.60.6(b)) makes a preliminary decision on the conferment or not of the degree. The committee may make any one of the recommendations as indicated in G.60.4(d) or (e)(iv). The recommendation, together with all relevant documentation, is submitted to the dean.

Should the dean concur with the recommendation, he/she takes a decision accordingly.
(e) Should the dean not concur with the recommendation, he/she consults with the Postgraduate Committee. For purposes of this meeting, the dean becomes a member of the Postgraduate Committee and also acts as chair of the Postgraduate Committee. The extended committee takes a decision by means of a majority vote. Should there be a tie of votes, the dean has a deciding vote.

(f) After a decision on the result of the dissertation/thesis has been reached as indicated in G.60.6(d) or (e), the Head: Student Administration has to
(i) address a letter to the examiners to thank them for their participation in the examination and for their recommendations;

(ii) inform the examiners of the final result and indicate to them what their further involvement, if any, will be in the remainder of the process;

(iii) inform the candidate, the supervisor, the co-supervisor and the head of the department of the final result.

     
Learning outcomes

Learners qualifying with a Masters Degree are able to continue with postgraduate education in and will be able to register for a PhD. They will also be eligible to pursue a career in teaching at a junior level in a university. 

In addition, the Masters graduate will:

1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the research topic that has been undertaken in the field of Bioinformatics.

2. Display the competence necessary to apply specialist knowledge and advanced research techniques to solve problems and answer questions.

3. Demonstrate the necessary communication skills, both orally and in the written form when presenting the research.


Critical Cross-Field Outcomes:

  • Use science and technology effectively and critically, with due care for the environment and health of others, and with due consideration of cultural differences.
  • Appreciate the need to publish the results of research.
  • Work effectively with other members of a team or group.
  • Organise and manage themselves and their time effectively.
  • Understand that since science is constantly evolving, there is a need for life-long learning. 

Language of Instruction:English
Accredited by: Council on Higher Education (South Africa)