Link to programme information on department website:

In alignment with the University’s mission to provide “a transformative student experience, networked and collaborative teaching and learning, purposeful partnership and inclusive networks”, the PhD in Sustainable Development first and foremost seeks to develop powerful African knowers who can address pressing socio-technical and social-ecological challenges at scales from local to global. Our programme takes seriously the structural challenges faced by future African academic leaders (particularly within the context of Stellenbosch University and its unique transformational challenges), whilst:

  • Training PhD students to be competitive for a job in industry or trained to be competitive for applying to academic jobs; both locally and internationally.
  • Offering a globally ground-breaking Sustainable Development programme in an African context.
  • Offering international experience and exposure, in both the Global North and South.
  • Capacitating powerful knowers and leaders that can navigate global societal challenges in the Anthropocene; powerful leaders from the Global South, drawing on their full African identities.

We offer a 4 year full-time research-intensive programme, embedded in both theory and practice, to capacitate students towards leadership in addressing sustainability challenges, with purposeful transformative student development. The programme will comprise four key elements:

  1. Thesis by publication, supported by trans/interdisciplinary training, deep supervision, and mentorship.
  2. Coursework as a supportive element.
  3. Support for professional development.
  4. Networks at multiple scales.

The CST is a vibrant, creative, and energetic community in a mesh of hubs, projects and generous learning spaces rooted in South Africa. We grow our reach through interconnectedness of resources and communities. We respect and revere the depth and breadth of knowledge engagement and its production, giving the requisite time and space for thinking, reflection, and debate to build understanding and question and disrupt accepted norms. llenges, with purposeful transformative student development. The programme will comprise four key elements:

Our honouring of diverse people, relationships, and a sense of the interconnectedness and complexity of the world, along with the real joy of collaboration and learning drives our critical, engaged scholarship as a powerhouse of rigorous intellectual thinking and teaching, resulting in being a globally recognised school of thought, creating influence and meaningful impact that creates the change we want to see in the world as we inspire the spark in our students and address challenges beyond academics, for justice, social and ecological transformation.

Eligibility criteria:

Our PhD programme accepts students from a wide diversity of Masters degrees – requisite training is often determined by the particular project a student applies to. We also accept qualifications or experience deemed equivalent (by faculty) to a Masters degree.

Important Dates [for application in 2024]:

Applications open: Rolling Basis

Applications close: 30 October 2024

Programme start date: 26 January 2024

Application process:

Applicatants are first requested to approach a prospective supervisor at the CST, providing:

  1. Your most recent CV
  2. A motivational letter for why you want to do your PhD and your personal connection to the topic
  3. A 2-3 page concept note outlining your initial ideas
  4. Sample of writing (e.g. chapter of Masters, or published paper)
  5. Plan for funding: are you self-funded, interested in applying for a specific funding call, NRF funding? Note this relates to both your student fees and your living expenses. Institutional and statutory funding options are listed on the SU Postgraduate Office’s website. Alternatively, candidates can apply for one of the full-time doctoral scholarships offered by the Graduate School of Economic and Management Sciences.

Once a supervisor has been secured, you can apply to the University on the SUNstudent application https://student.sun.ac.za/ to be formally considered for admission to a doctoral programme. Once a profile has been created on SUNstudent, log in and follow the prompts to apply to the relevant PhD programme. The following documents are compulsory submissions as part of the application:

  • Comprehensive CV.
  • Evidence of written academic work.
  • Letter of motivation.
  • Preliminary Research proposal (Please consult the research themes below before writing your concept note. Once you have selected a research theme, please consult the guidelines to the basic layout of a research concept note.)
  • Summary of master’s research.
  • Certified copies of academic certificates.
  • Certified copies of academic transcripts.
Research themes:

Our main research themes are:

  • Knowledge co-production
  • Social-Ecological Resilience
  • Transformative Futures Thinking
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Financial and Resource
  • Political Economy

All themes are based within the following domains: water, food, energy, climate, urban, conservation, coastal & marine
within one or more the following approaches: complex adaptive systems, human-nature interconnectedness, socio-technical transitions, social-ecological transformations.

Any other information?

Please note that, in addition to submitting a proposal to Faculty by the end of year one, PhD students at the CST will be expected to pass two non-credit bearing, 800-level, in-person modules. In 2024 the contact time for these modules will run:

  • Sustainable Development 871: Introducing Sustainability Foundation Concepts (5 – 9 February 2024)
  • Research Methodology 871: Exploring Research Design and Methods (8 April – 12 April 2024) ​