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African Studies & Public Health (MA/MPH)

There is a growing appreciation that promoting health in Africa will require close collaboration between international affairs and world area specialists and public health professionals. In order to achieve significant progress in global health, new forms of international cooperation must be developed. Increased global mobility and trade have also increased the potential transfer of health-related risks such as infectious and food borne diseases. Health related issues such as the marketing and trade of harmful goods or the pricing of pharmaceuticals set new challenges for international agreements, sovereignty and global accountability. Increasingly, health is seen as an issue of foreign relations, international law, trade negotiations and security. Many health problems can no longer be contained through action of individual nation states and call for a redefinition of national interest. Prime examples are found in the extreme health inequalities between developed and developing nations and the destabilizing spread of HIV/AIDS are a case in point.

Consequently, the African Studies (AFST) graduate program within the Council on African Studies and the Yale MacMillan Center and the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences jointly with the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) offer a joint degree program for students who plan careers in which public health issues in Africa promise to be significant. The joint degree combines the AFST two-year Master of Arts degree (MA) with the YSPH two-year Master of Public Health degree (MPH). The joint degree program normally requires three years of full-time study, and the MA and the MPH are awarded simultaneously at the conclusion of the three-year period.

A joint degree is more than simply a list of courses taken in both programs. It is an integrated educational program which is designed to achieve a combination of the two programs in a way that is complementary to both while protecting the integrity of each separate degree program.


The standard pattern of joint degree candidates is to spend the first year almost exclusively in one program and the second year almost exclusively in the other. In the third year students register for one semester in each program, though they may take courses in the other program provided at the end of the year they meet the necessary core and distribution course requirements for the degree in each program. For the YSPH/AFST joint degree, the strong preference is for students to spend the first year in the AFST program.

The two programs have made accommodations in order to make possible the completion of the joint courses of study in three years within the normal course requirements on a three-semester per program basis. Joint degree candidates must fulfill all of the requirements of both programs in which they are enrolled. Barring unusual circumstances, joint degree students must fulfill the course and language requirements of the AFST MA program and complete all requirements of both programs before receiving either degree. All courses must be allocated to one degree or the other and not be double counted in both.

Course planning for joint degree candidates should be carried out in consultation with the appropriate educational officers at the AFST Program and the Yale School of Public Health, and must satisfy the following general requirements:

The Public Health component

Joint degree candidates must complete all of the core MPH courses as described in the School of Public Health Bulletin. All MPH students must complete the following core courses:

  • EPH 100a – Professional Skills Series (no credit)
  • EPH 505a - Biostatistics in Public Health
  • EPH 507a - Social Justice and Health Equity
  • EPH 508a - Foundations of Epidemiology and Public Health
  • EPH 510a - Health Policy and Health Care Systems
  • EPH 513b - Major Health Threats: Determinants and Solutions

Students must also complete all departmental requirements, an internship/ public health practice experience and the thesis/ capstone course. Students in any of the YSPH academic departments are eligible for the joint degree program.

The following exceptions to the standard YSPH curriculum apply to joint degree students:

The total number of YSPH course units required for the joint degree is reduced from 20 to 15. The MPH thesis counts as two course units. (If a student obtains an exemption for a required course, an elective must be substituted; an exemption does not reduce the total number of required course units below 15.) The YSPH Committee on Academic Progress reviews each student’s progress toward the YSPH component of the joint degree.

The African Studies component:

The African Studies component includes a core, a language requirement, a four-course concentration, and a thesis. For joint degree students the total number of required courses is reduced from 16 to 12, a normal course load over three semesters.
The core requirement consists of two graduate level courses: "African and the Disciplines" (AFST 764b) and "Research Methods in African Studies" (AFST 501a). Beyond these core courses, each student must identify a coherent set of courses and demonstrate their academic integrity as a proposed concentration for approval by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Each student must complete four courses in a concentration chosen from the following list:

  • Arts and Literature
  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Environmental and Development Studies
  • History
  • Languages and Linguistics
  • Political Science
  • Religion
  • Sociology

As a condition for graduation, students are required to demonstrate proficiency in an African language. This requirement may be met by completion of four courses in an African language. A student who is able to demonstrate advanced proficiency in an African language may have the language requirement waived.

Students must take two semesters of "Directed Reading and Research" (AFST 900 a/b) during which they will complete the required thesis. The Master's thesis is based on research on a topic approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. A faculty member with expertise or specialized competence in the chosen topic advises work on the thesis.

The Graduate School permits up to two credit courses from YSPH to be counted against the AFST distribution, core course or concentration requirements. Joint degree students, however, must take at least twelve graduate level courses in Arts and Sciences Departments or in Professional Schools other than YSPH. Further, under no circumstances will a student be allowed an AFST concentration in a YSPH functional area.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Joint degree candidates will owe three terms of full-time tuition to YSPH and three terms of full-time tuition to the AFST Program (MacMillan Center/Graduate School). Tuition is paid to the school where the student is in residence. Students requesting financial aid during a particular semester must make arrangements with the school charging tuition during that semester. Tuition, fees, and financial aid policies may differ between the two schools. Each school according to its own policy will judge financial aid applications. Students should consult the financial aid officers in each school for a description of their respective policies.