PhD in Sustainable Development

Programme description

Inter-departmental and -faculty offering

The Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST) offers opportunities to prospective students who wish to do research on the finding of sustainable solutions to complex social-ecological systems problems that cannot necessarily be studied from a particular, mono-disciplinary perspective. The current local-global challenges and crises experienced around the issues of poverty, environmental degradation, urbanisation, water, waste, energy, food, soil, conflict and violence, resilience, equity and justice are typical problems/themes that lend themselves to research in this regard. Studies may be completed in EMS, or in cooperation with departments in the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, AgriSciences, Engineering, Law, Medicine and Health Sciences, Science and Theology.

Programme outcomes

Students completing this doctoral programme will be equipped with a profound new understanding of the complex nature of the problems facing the African continent and the world at large, and will also have developed the cross-disciplinary thinking skills necessary to participate in multi-disciplinary teams intent on finding long-term, systemic solutions.


The doctoral qualification of the faculty in which a student is registered, is conferred.

Specific admission requirements

Admission, registration and supervision

As opportunities become available for students, these will be communicated on the CST website. The potential candidate will liaise with an allocated supervisor to prepare a doctoral research proposal. The proposal will be presented to a PhD admissions committee with cross-faculty representation to evaluate the research proposal. The usual criteria and processes of admission, registration and appointment of doctoral supervisor(s) of the faculty where the student is to be registered will apply.

Programme structure

Dissertation, core modules and learning model

This programme entails a dissertation constituting all the credits for the degree. Short courses presented by international and local experts, in the areas of sustainability, transdisciplinary epistemology, methodology and methods, social-ecological systems, resilience and complexity theory will be offered from time to time to support student development. These modules are not credit bearing. Students are encouraged to attend the CST postgraduate seminar series, affording them with the opportunity to present and discuss their work-in-progress with fellow students and academics.


This is a full-time three-year programme.  Students will, as far as practically possible, be co-located at the CST research commons so as to ensure maximum transdisciplinary synergy with fellow students and supervisors. Students will be allowed additional time to complete their dissertations where needed.

Funding and bursaries

Students admitted to this programme will be eligible to apply for bursaries made available by CST supervisory staff, the University and other funding institutions. More details are available on the CST website.

Assessment and examination

The usual examination procedures of the University and the faculty in which a student is registered apply.

As opportunities become available for students, these will be communicated on this website. Please visit our funding opportunities page regularly to view available positions.