The Foundation for Professional Development (FPD) was formed during an era of social and political transformation in South Africa, with the vision of building a better society. Since its inception in 1997, it has helped revolutionise healthcare provision in Southern Africa and beyond through developing people, strengthening systems and providing innovative solutions.

Dr Gustaaf Wolvaardt, FPD’s Managing Director, explains that the private higher education institution was set up with the mission to “catalyse social change”, initially with a focus on improving management in the healthcare system. “Our big achievement is professionalising healthcare management,” he says. “We’ve made great strides in that over the years and trained up thousands of managers.”



FPD is based in Pretoria, South Africa, but works in countries across Africa. It offers a range of formal qualifications and short courses in management and professional development for health and education professionals, conducts research and strengthens health and educational systems.

Its priority is the public health system and it has played an important role in expanding the response to HIV/AIDS, as well as often neglected issues such as gender-based violence. Every year, FPD trains around 50,000 students, and 95 per cent of these study through scholarships.

“The big barrier to education in Africa is money,” says Dr Wolvaardt, “although geography and service disruption are also big obstacles to training healthcare professionals.” FPD tries to break down all three, taking training programmes to the students and, through distance and online education, keeping contact hours to a minimum to reduce the time needed off work.

Crucially, FPD programmes are of the highest possible calibre. As a social entrepreneurial organisation, operating as a business and funded by donors and corporate sponsors, FPD focuses on keeping overheads low. “But we’ve never scrimped on quality,” says Dr Wolvaardt. “We are delivering First World quality to students who don’t have access to the First World.”

FPD prides itself on being a private higher education institution that not only teaches, but is also actively involved in research and community engagement. By striving tirelessly in all three areas, it continues to play a central role in bringing about social change in South Africa, and throughout the continent.