Tel +27 (0)31 260 4238
Fax +27 (0)31 260 4420

Physical Address
Room 317, 3rd Floor,
Medical School, 719 Umbilo Rd,
Congella, Durban

Postal Address
Division of Medicine,
Medical School,
Private Bag 7, Congella,
South Africa 4013

Core Syllabus in Clinical Medicine

It is widely recognised that the exponential growth in knowledge of medicine and medical science in the second half of the 20th century resulted in overloaded medical curricula which placed impossible demands on students in terms of the volume of material they were expected to master. This had a number of deleterious outcomes, among them:

  • An inability to distinguish common and vital conditions from rarer and less vital conditions
  • Information overload with inappropriate allocation of time to conditions which are the preserve of the specialist
  • Insecurity and despair on the part of students who felt themselves adrift on an infinite sea of potential material to be learnt.

For this reason it is now recognised as essential that students undergraduate medical programmes are based around a core curriculum which:

1. Contains no more material than can reasonably be expected to be mastered by students in the time available to them

2. Is built around conditions which are either common, or of such importance that the young practitioner must know something about them

3. Contains some element of stratification into the categories of more detail required/less detail required, and Must know/Nice to Know

4. Forms the basis of all assessments.

UKZN Core Syllabus in Medicine

In accordance with this, our Division of Medicine produced its own Core Syllabus in Medicine in the latter half of 2007.

1. With effect from 2008, ALL programme planning, teaching and assessment (including choice of questions for written examinations) will be firmly anchored within the core syllabus.

2. We subscribe however to the Faculty protocol that 60% of the assessment should consist of core, and 40% may range beyond this.

3. This core syllabus applies to Years 3, 4 and 5 (as well as the earlier years where appropriate).

4. No distinction in core material is made between the years, other than that more senior students are expected to have a wider, deeper and more confident grasp of the material than their more junior colleagues, and will be marked accordingly in assessments.

5. Some indication has been given however of material which may reasonably be held over until later in the programme, i.e. final year.

6. Skills, such as the ability to read ECG's or interpret blood tests, are rated equally with knowledge.

Outcome-based Education

For more about OBE, consult:

In our context, we read OBE to mean that the chief principle of our teaching and assessing is that students should demonstrate the ability to be competent doctors (at the level of interns) when they; graduate from our programme in Medicine. In other words, they:

1. Can recognise common presentations and formulate reasonable management plans in their patients

2. Can use laboratory and other ancillary investigations to assist in the formulation of problem lists

3. Can apply commonly-required diagnostic and therapeutic techniques in their patients

4. Have mastered "soft" skills such as communication, report writing and presentation

5. Show behaviours consistent with a compassionate, disciplined, ethical and professional doctor.

It is primarily these outcomes which are assessed: the use of knowledge, and not knowledge for its own sake.

The Syllabus

Click here for the core syllabus (PDF).

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