A new Centre for Sustainability Transitions has been created at Stellenbosch University. This centre builds on the former Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, but is now positioned at the level of a department within the EMS faculty. This means that it can now offer its own postgraduate programs, starting initially with a PhD program.

The CST is already recognized as a leading research hub, through its work on energy transitions, governance, resilience, social-ecological systems and ecosystem services, as well as urban transitions, complex adaptive systems, complexity economics, and African development challenges, amongst others. The institutional change and renaming now open the possibility for the CST to firmly establish itself as a leader in postgraduate training in the specific area of sustainability transitions, which is an important and rapidly developing field within sustainability-related studies. Given the critical sustainability challenges facing humanity, there is a huge need for training a new generation of leading thinkers and doers to support sustainability transitions in the region and globally.

The CST was established in 2015 as a Stellenbosch University flagship initiative aimed at bringing together complexity thinking, sustainability science and transdisciplinary research methodology to strategically position SU as a national and regional leader in the rapidly growing sustainability arena, and contribute to the internationalisation of SU’s presence and work. This has been highly successful, and the Centre has raised over R100 million since 2015, and grown from a small staff of 5 people to around 25 people today with an annual budget of over R15 million.

Research at the centre is largely conducted in collaborative inter- and transdisciplinary teams that draw in expertise from different disciplines as well as from policy, practice and local stakeholders,” explains Prof Mark Swilling, Co-Director of the Centre. “Much of the research is funded by external project grants, and students are part of the larger project teams which provides valuable opportunities for learning and research support.”

CST staff play lead roles in international research projects and science-policy advisory institutions at the cutting-edge of sustainability research globally. Over 200 publications have been published since 2015, with both co-directors recognized as international leaders in the field, and Prof Biggs recently recognized by Web of Science as being amongst the top 1% most cited researchers in the world and awarded an NRF A-rating.