Welcome to Stellenbosch University

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Centre for sustainabIlity transitions

The Centre for Sustainability Transitions (CST) is a flagship research, teaching and training centre situated within the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at Stellenbosch University. It brings together research on the complex dynamics of sustainability transitions and transformations which is achieved through education and training, research, and engagements and which focuses on five key research themes - knowledge co-production, social-ecological resilience, transformative futures thinking, finance and resource flows, and political economy and development - that informs pressing national, continental, and global sustainability development challenges.

The CST is a vibrant hub for leading scientists and students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and fosters collaborations and partnerships with a variety of local and international universities. Our teaching and learning approach emphasises knowledge co-production, enabling the CST to bridge the gap between science, policy, and practice. By promoting collaboration, we foster an integrated and impactful approach to research and sustainable development. ​

The CST offers three postgraduate training programmes: Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Sustainable Development (NQF level 8), Master of Philosophy in Sustainable Development (NQF level 9) and PhD in Sustainable Development (NQF level 10).


The Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Sustainable Development is an honours-level qualification and comprises eight taught modules that can be completed over one or two years. The programme is presented at venues on Stellenbosch University main campus and external venues in and around Stellenbosch and Cape Town.

The programme is aimed at working professionals, activists and practitioners, and recent graduates who want to strengthen their engagement with current sustainability thinking, research and practice. The PGDip provides the entry point into the CST's wider research and postgraduate training environment. Students who graduate from the PGDip, and are eager to continue their academic research training, can apply for the MPhil in Sustainable Development and thereafter the PhD in Sustainable Development. 

Programme overview and audience​

The PGDip will deepen your understanding and knowledge of sustainable development ambitions and challenges during this time of global transition. The programme offers collaborative learning and advanced reflection, and personal and professional development opportunities in the emerging fields of sustainability transitions and transformations. 

Sustainability transitions and transformations is an evolving field of scholarly inquiry and practice. It is directly applicable to students who are working professionals, practitioners, and activists across diverse sectors of society. The content and approach to teaching, learning and assessment in this programme is tailored to making sustainability studies relevant to a global audience while being rooted in an African context, enriching and applicable to a diverse student cohort who are interested in understanding and making change where they are.  

Many students encounter sustainability concerns in their communities or at their places of work which prompt them to apply to our programme in the hope of making a greater impact and advancing professionally. Our teaching, learning and assessment approach nurtures students' resourcefulness, self-awareness and creativity, and cultivates an enlivened sense of how positionality, power, justice, and equity inform how, where and with whom they act. Our curriculum promotes inner growth and transformation in addition to delving deeply and broadly into social-ecological change.


The programme consists of eight modules reflecting the core research areas of the CST, and which speak to the heart of our global polycrisis in the ways students approach challenges and solutions. Modules provide a global perspective on sustainability transitions and transformations while delving into the dynamics and trends across biodiversity and climate change, just energy transitions, water and food nexus, and sustainable urbanisms. The programme also emphasises complexity literacy, governance and institutional change, and leadership and ethics to support just and sustainable futures. 

Case studies, field trips and immersive experiences allow students an opportunity to connect with local initiatives experimenting with sustainability challenges. The teaching, learning and assessment approach facilitates rigorous theoretical engagement to internationally relevant bodies of knowledge alongside considered application of knowledge to a diverse range of contexts.


The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Sustainable Development offers an intensive educational experience designed to equip students with the necessary tools and perspectives to tackle the intricate challenges of global sustainability. This course focuses on the dynamics of change within social, environmental, and economic systems, providing students with knowledge on how sustainability transitions and transformations can manage and influence effectively. In a period marked by unprecedented global complexities, our programme facilitates a unique opportunity for aspiring scholars to transcend disciplinary boundaries and engage in meaningful research. Students explore innovative strategies and frameworks that drive sustainable change, preparing them to lead initiatives that make a real impact on a local, regional, and global scales.

Programme overview and audience​

The MPhil programme is tailored for students from various academic backgrounds who share an interest in sustainability transitions and transformations. Students will develop an interdisciplinary perspective on how to study and tackle sustainability challenges, and acquire academic and practical proficiencies, along with ethical insights, enabling them to comprehend, investigate, and propose solutions to complex sustainability issues at local, regional, national, and global scales. Students engage in rigorous coursework and pursue career-building opportunities through embedded research projects, putting them in an ideal position to foster a career in the field of sustainable development.


The programme combines rigorous coursework, focused research on real-world problems and opportunities to collaborate with distinguished scholars and policymakers. This educational approach aims to cultivate leaders with a deep understanding of sustainability challenges, strong analytical skills, and the creativity required to develop innovative solutions. Graduates emerge as ethical global citizens, proficient in systems thinking, prepared to tackle complex issues, and skilled in communicating effectively with diverse audiences. This prepares them to contribute meaningfully to sustainability efforts across the globe, fostering positive change and innovative practices.

The MPhil is structured over two years and incorporates a research thesis (90 credits) and three compulsory coursework modules (30 credits each). This extensive curriculum immerses students in the fundamental concepts and practical approaches to sustainability transitions, preparing them with the necessary skills to tackle urgent global challenges effectively.


The PhD in Sustainable in Development is a four-year full-time research-intensive programme, embedded in theory and practice, to capacitate students towards leadership in addressing sustainability challenges, with purposeful transformative student development. Aligning 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 seeks to develop powerful African thinkers 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 whilst: 

  • training PhD students to be competitive for a job in industry or trained to be competitive for applying to academic jobs locally and internationally;
  • offering a globally ground-breaking sustainable development programme in an African context;
  • offering international experience and exposure in the global North and South;
  • capacitating powerful thinkers and leaders that can navigate global societal challenges in the Anthropocene and developing leaders from the global South, drawing on their full African identities.

The PhD in Sustainable Development comprises four key elements:​

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

For an overview of these programmes, review the relevant section in the faculty Yearbook. Application procedures and dates are advertised on the CST website in April every year and can be found here.​


Application Process