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Diploma in Sustainable Development attracts record student numbers
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 26/02/2024

The School of Public Leadership’s efforts to spread the ethos of sustainability through its Diploma in Sustainable Development is starting to bear fruit with the programme this year drawing the biggest student intake since its inception in 2018.

The 2024 cohort of 44 students is almost double the number of the first cohort of 23 students who piloted the programme seven years ago.

Dr Ruenda Loots, lecturer and programme leader, said the record influx of students can be attributed to a number of factors.

“The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 revealed that the fields of machine learning and sustainability are showing the most growth in terms of job creation. And we are seeing an increase in jobs that require an aspect of sustainability reporting and an ability to demonstrate systems thinking and innovation. It (sustainability) is the one thing we need to navigate ourselves; it is not something AI is going to solve for us."

“We see more and more students seeking out our programme because they understand the importance of sustainability and because they see that is what the world is asking for. These young people have so much passion and compassion and exhibit a deep urgency to affect positive change. Our programme definitely appeals to these change agents.”

“The Diploma in Sustainable Development is also an interdisciplinary programme that appeals to a wide range of students with different interests. Students also tend to do well in our programme because of our experiential teaching approach where much of the learning is very practical.”

She added: “We just really try to be incredibly authentic in our approach to the programme. We let our students tell their story about the diploma – what it is they do and why they think it is important – and let that be the testimonial that helps other students decide whether this is the right thing for them.”

  • Refentse Rababalela

    Refentse Rababalela said he chose the programme because of its commitment to making a positive impact on the natural world.

  • “I’ve always had a love for our natural world and I believe in living a life that respects it and preserves its resources for future generations. Getting the opportunity to learn all the techniques and methods to manage resources sustainably, and knowing that one person can make a huge difference and inspire others to do the right thing, really excites me.”

  • Sarah Neumann

    Sarah Neumann said she found out about the programme after coming across a pamphlet on the desk of her high school’s receptionist in Grade 10.

  • “I was immediately hooked. I saw a programme that allowed for creativity, entrepreneurial thinking, collaboration and practical learning all in one. After struggling to find a programme that would incorporate my desire for further education with my passions, the Diploma in Sustainable Development did just this. I saw a space where my own values and passions could be nurtured and grown through practical skill learning and conversation and in an environment that was less conventional in their approach to education.”

    “As someone who is not 100% sure where life's path may take me, I know that whatever I end up doing, I can use these skills to lead me to make practical, educated decisions on important topics. This programme creates leaders unafraid to take risks and push the boundaries of conventional thinking to create a positive environmental and social change. In today's changing climate, I think these are some of the most valuable skills one can ever obtain.”

The three-year Diploma in Sustainable Development provides students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills in sustainable design methodologies, ecological intelligence and systems thinking, facilitation and leadership, small business management, social entrepreneurship, strategic communication and presentation skills and sustainability reporting.