The IFHREC has been set up to have members originating from all disciplines, with diverse backgrounds (discipline, research methodology, level of experience etc.) to allow for consideration of applications in a manner that respects the breadth and complexity of research and its associated integrity.

Value Statement

The IFHREC will uphold the below values, with emphasis on clause 3. 

  1. To provide guidance on appropriate procedures for the review and approval of health research originating outside of the Faculty of Health Sciences, which requires approval from a committee registered with the National Health Research Ethics Committee (NHREC). 
  2. To provide guidance on appropriate procedures for the review and approval of research that is not adequately accommodated by faculty Research Ethics Committees (RECs). 
  3. To support and promote research integrity at UCT, within a context of recognising disciplinary variations; and premised on an awareness that principles related to research integrity, including definition of possible harms to research participants, must be considered with sensitivity to relevant social, historical, and epistemic contestation. 


The broad ethical principles, as outlined in the Department of Health, 2015, are:

  • beneficence and non-maleficence 
  • distributive justice (equity) 
  • respect for persons (dignity and autonomy) 


The key ethical norms and standards (Emanuel, Wendler, Killen, & Grady, 2004):

  • Relevance and value
  • Scientific integrity 
  • Role-player or stakeholder engagement 
  • Fair selection of participants 
  • Fair balance of risks and benefits 
  • Informed consent 
  • Ongoing respect for participants, including privacy and confidentiality 
  • Researcher competence and expertise


Applications can be escalated to the IFHREC directly from a Faculty REC as per Faculty Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), or if the Faculty identifies it to be of high ethical complexity and/or risk, and thus more suitable for review by an inter-disciplinary REC. 

Researchers may submit directly to IFHREC only if one or more of the following apply: 

  1. An external funder or collaborator requires ethics approval from an externally registered REC. 
  2. Collaborating lead investigators are in different UCT faculties (except the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), where projects involving FHS personnel must be submitted to the FHS Health Research Ethics Committee (HREC)), and where the project does not clearly fall under the ambit of any of the individual faculties they represent; and/or where the project employs a mixed methods approach and would therefore benefit from review by a multi-disciplinary ethics committee. 
  3. The investigator is from another institution and wishes to conduct research at UCT involving staff and/or students. 
  4. The project involves health research (and is thus subject to the legal requirement of obtaining ethics approval from an NHREC registered and audited REC), and where no member of the research group is based in the FHS. 
decision tree

Application process

The IFHREC will make use of a pre-screening questionnaire (PSQ) to determine if full review by the IFHREC is required.

IFHREC will review the submission to determine if it will remain under the jurisdiction of the IFHREC, or whether it should be reviewed by a specific Faculty REC. Should the protocol remain with the IFHREC, then the relevant IFHREC processes will follow. For more information about this process, please refer to the IFHREC Standard Operating Procedures.

Requirements of the National Department of Health (DoH)

“The National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC) is a statutory body established under the National Health Act No 61 of 2003. The Act mandates the Minister of Health to establish the Council and it sets out NHREC’s functions, which in short involves giving direction on ethical issues relating to health and to develop guidelines for the conduct of research involving humans.” (National Department of Health, 2023).

“Section 73 of the National Health Act (NHA) requires every institution, health agency and health establishment at which health research is conducted, to establish or have access to an REC, which is registered with the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC).” (Department of Health, 2015).