Home > Undergraduate studies > International & local electives
Clinical elective placements for international & local non-UCT students

International & local electives

International & local electives

The Faculty offers clinical elective training programmes to international and South African undergraduate students studying our health sciences degree at other institutions.   Students who are accepted to join our elective programmes undergo the same clinical training and exposure to clinical work that our own undergraduate students undergo during their final or penultimate clinical years of training.

Only students in their final or semi-final year of study at other institutions may be considered for placement in a variety of disciplines, for elective periods ranging from 2 weeks to 4 months.

Applications should be submitted at least a year in advance of the proposed visit. The reason for this is that most disciplines are fully booked up to a year in advance, and that the process of registering applicants with the Health Professions Council in Pretoria (which must be done before students arrive) takes at least six months.

Training takes place at our teaching hospitals (Groote Schuur Hospital, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital) and associated hospitals (New Somerset Hospital and Victoria Hospital).

Who is eligible to be considered for an elective placement?

We accept visiting students from other health sciences faculties who are in their second last year or final (clinical) year of study only.

All applicants must have a good command of the English language as all teaching and instruction is conducted in English.

Disciplines in which elective placements are available

All visiting elective students may apply for a placement in the following departments and hospitals under the auspices of the University of Cape Town:

Groote Schuur Hospital - Observatory, Cape Town
Medicine (including sub-specialities) Dermatology
Clinical Haematology Neurology
Gastroenterology (Medical or Surgical) Paediatrics (Neonatology Unit)
Psychiatry Oncology
Obstetrics and Gynaecology Radiology
Radiation Family Medicine
Public Health Cardio-thoracic Surgery
Surgery Neurosurgery
Ophthalmology Otorhinolaryngology
Orthopaedic Surgery Plastic Surgery
Infectious diseases/HIV Medicine Forensic Medicine
(Medical) Emergency or Trauma1  

1Emergency Unit: This is where patients come with emergency illnesses and injuries, some of which may be life-threatening. Examples might include sudden severe stomach pains, shortness of breath, or severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea.

1Trauma Unit: can handle all of the same types of illnesses and injuries that are seen in an Emergency Unit, plus provide multi-disciplinary, comprehensive emergency medical services to patients who have traumatic injuries. Examples of traumatic injuries include those sustained in automobile accidents, gunshot wounds etc.

Red Cross Children's Hospital Rondebosch, Cape Town
Paediatrics Paediatric Surgery
Paediatric Trauma Paediatric Neurology
Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgery  


Somerset Hospital Green Point, Cape Town
Medicine Paediatrics
Obstetrics and Gynaecology Surgery


Victoria Hospital Plumstead, Cape Town
General Surgery Trauma
Placements in one discipline only

The full elective placement has to be spent in the department to which you have been allocated.  It is not possible for you to spend your elective clerkship in more than one discipline (e.g. two placements of two months each).

Requests from students who have already taken up a place to change to another discipline or department or hospital or to extend the elective period will not be considered. Students may also not contact departments while they are here to change their allocated places or the nature or period of their elective. 

Elective students who do not abide by these rules may have their elective placement cancelled without further notice and a letter to report this or any other transgression will be sent to the student's home university.

Registration with the University

Registration with this University is required for the duration of the elective period at Groote Schuur or Red Cross Children’s Hospital and associated hospitals.  Students must, on arrival in Cape Town, report to the Elective Officer at the Faculty Office, Faculty of Health Sciences, Anzio Road, Observatory, between 08h30 and 12h30, in order to be registered.  Students who have not paid their full fee in advance will not be registered and may not start their elective clerkship until this has been done. Students who are placed at Victoria and New Somerset hospital must report at those hospitals after registration at the Faculty of Health Sciences.

  1. Clinical elective rotation fees

    Once you have been informed that we can accommodate you in one of our departments, you can secure the booking by sending us, before your arrival, the completed forms and the fees. This will be detailed in a Provisional Booking email. The registration fees for an international student applying for an elective clerkship through the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Cape Town are currently under review.Please note that the Faculty reserves the right to increase the fees on an annual basis.
  2. HPCSA registration fees

    All students completing a Clinical Elective must be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). The Faculty's Elective Office will make application on students’ behalf to the HPCSA. However, fees must be paid direct into the HPCSA bank account and proof of payment must be sent to the Faculty Office (via email).

    Please note: The HPCSA increases the registration fee annually -usually from 1 April. The updated fee with be communicated to the student.
  3. Departmental fees (for non-medical electives)

    For electives other than clinical (medical) electives (e.g. Nursing, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Biomedical Engineering, Human Biology or Sports Medicine), an additional departmental fee may be payable.

All fees may be paid in the form of an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).


Students must make their own arrangements for accommodation. There is no accommodation available in the University residences.

Study visas

All non - South African students are required to obtain study permits if the elective period exceeds 90 days, before they enter South Africa. As soon as we have received a student's completed forms and HPCSA payment, we will send the student a letter confirming the elective placement. The student must then apply to the nearest South African Consulate-General or Embassy for a study visa. When applying for your study permit/visa the following is normally required: You will most likely require two passport-size photographs, a letter from this Faculty of Health Sciences confirming your elective placement and indicating that you have been registered with the Health Professions Council, a guarantee that you are able to cover your repatriation fee to your country of origin, provision of proof of comprehensive medical insurance / health coverage and a letter from your own University confirming that you are visiting South Africa for an elective placement.

If the duration of your stay is 90 days or less, you need not apply for a study permit; you will be issued with a visitor's visa however you must contact the nearest South African Consulate/Embassy in this regard.

Insurance cover

Once registered with the University, students will have professional indemnity cover (but please note that the excess is very high) and will have limited personal insurance cover. It would be advisable for you to take out additional insurance in your own country before your visit.

Apart from the above scheme, the University provides no other cover for bodily injury, illness or death of students and no cover for personal possessions, including motor vehicles, even where a student may be involved in compulsory academic activity. Students must arrange their own personal insurance cover.

Professional conduct and dress code

Undergraduate students are expected to act in accordance with the ethical norms laid down by the Health Professions Council of South Africa.  Students who are found guilty of unprofessional conduct will have their registration terminated and a letter will be written to their home university to report their transgression/s.

Professional conduct includes an appropriate dress code, particularly when students are in contact with patients.   Students must be neat and presentable; excessive casual or suggestive clothing is not acceptable. Students who come for clinical elective placements must wear a white coat at all times while on duty, and must bring such white coat with them.

Students are supplied with an identification card upon arrival, which must be worn at all times while on duty.

Students may be denied access to a particular clinical area if, in the view of the manager of the area, they are not suitably dressed.

Students must  also  bring their own white coats and stethoscopes.   Theatre gowns and gloves will be supplied by the hospital.

Research ethics requirements for elective students doing a research project

If a student, as part of an elective placement, wishes to conduct a research project involving human participants or their personal medical records, they need ethics approval.  Also, it must be established in advance whether an appropriate supervisor can be identified for such a student in advance of the student’s visit. The research project must be feasible and at the student’s level of expertise.

[Note: The research proposal must undergo two separate review processes.  First, the relevant departmental research committee will review the scientific and scholarly merit of the proposal.  Second, the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) in the Faculty of Health Sciences will review ethical aspects of the application.  A student’s local supervisor at his/her home university should assist with these applications.  Even if the student’s proposal has ethical approval in his/her home institution, it still needs UCT research ethics approval.

If you are joining a study that already has research ethics approval, your local supervisor still needs to obtain HREC approval to include you in the existing research.

You also need to ask your local supervisor if you must obtain additional administrative approval or authorisation from medical superintendents or managers to conduct your research, including accessing personal medical records, in specific settings such as hospitals, community-based health centres and non-governmental organisations.

It is advisable to obtain ethics approval six months in advance of a research elective visit.  Before submitting your proposal to the HREC, you need to make sure it complies with the ethical principles laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki and  the  Research  Ethics  Guidelines of  the  South  African  (SA) Department of Health, 2004. Your research must also comply with SA law, for instance the requirements for informed consent and special considerations when undertaking research among minors (<18 years of age).

For more information about how to apply for research ethics approval contact Mrs Lamees Emjedi, the Administrative Officer in the HREC. Her email address is