Sustainable Development



Research for Sustainability

One of Stellenbosch University’s main objectives as outlined in Vision 2040 and the Strategic Framework 2019-2024 is to become Africa’s leading research-intensive university, focussing on research for impact. The University is committed to promoting and conducting research that will benefit the local and global population and drive meaningful change.

Centres of Excellence

In 2004, the Department of Science and Innovation and the National Research Foundation started establishing Centres of Excellence (CoEs). CoEs are institutions that concentrate research excellence and capacity in one place. There are five key performance areas within a CoE: research/knowledge production; education and training; information brokerage; networking and service rendering. Stellenbosch University is currently home to 7 Centres of Excellence.

SARChI chairs

Stellenbosch University is also home to 38 SARChI chairs. The South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) was designed to improve research innovation and capacity at public universities in South Africa. The initiative aims to attract and retain researchers of high standards who also contribute to producing high quality postgraduate and postdoctoral students.

SU is also home to many other excellent research and innovation institutes that focus on research for sustainability, health, equality, and many others.

The School for Climate Studies (SCS) was launched in 2021 and hopes to expand on Stellenbosch University’s history of excellent research regarding climate change. The SCS has five principal areas of research:

  • The Natural Environment
  • Planetary Health and Human Security
  • Social Justice and Development
  • Systems and Technologies for the Future
  • Human Creativity and Social Innovation

The SCS has partnered with various internal and external entities with the aim of promoting an interdisciplinary approach to climate change action and adaptation. The SCS has already assembled a team of researchers and postgraduate students to conduct research into their respective fields.

The Centre for Sustainability Transitions conducts collaborative and interdisciplinary research that fall into six principal research groups:

  • Governance
  • Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  • Social-Ecological Resilience
  • Decoupling & Resource Flows
  • Complexity & Systems Modelling
  • Transdisciplinarity

Each research group is headed by an experienced researcher that is passionate about their field of study and the promotion of sustainability. The groups work on multiple projects on food-, water-, energy-, and urban systems.

Aligning  the five Strategic Research Areas & the SDGs


  • Stellenbosch University hosted the Southern African Sustainable Energy Conference (SASDE) in November 2021. Various renewable energy sources were covered in a total of 64 presentations.
  • From 12 to 14 October 2021, the Stellenbosch University Library hosted its 16th Symposium. Attendees could attend the symposium at Lanzerac Wine Estate in Stellenbosch or join virtually. Several speakers from across South Africa and around the world attended the symposium. Topics covered during the symposium included changes in research and data in the virtual world and changes in library practice after the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Several staff members from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science were on the organising committee for the 16th annual International Conference on Clinical Ethics and Consultation (ICCEC), which was partially funded by Stellenbosch University. The conference ran from November 30th to December 3rd at Asara Wine Estate in Stellenbosch and two Stellenbosch University professors presented during that time.
  • From 10 – 12 November 2021 Stellenbosch University hosted the 2nd Postdoctoral Research Conference of Southern Africa, titled Beyond the Pandemic: Research Now and in the Future”. The conference covered postdoctoral research spanning several fields, including water research, food security, human health, and many others.
  • Stellenbosch University’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference was help from the 8th until the 10th of November 2021. The theme for 2021 was “(Your) Assessment Matters“. The virtual event covered topics regarding assessment as a tool for increasing student success and evaluative judgement.
  • The Stellenbosch University Law Clinic hosted the 2021 SULC Legal Ethics/Ethics in Law Conference on 29 and 30 November 2021. This was a worldwide virtual event that highlighted legal ethics education and ethical responses needed after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Innovations for sustainability

The Sustainable Innovation Stellenbosch Network is a Stellenbosch University research project that connects local businesses with each other to drive innovation for sustainability. The project had monthly meetings between participants up until June 2021. The project also aimed to create connections between businesses, government, and universities.