Centre for Researching Education and Labour

Researching Education and the Labour Market

The Centre for Researching Education and Labour (REAL) is a research centre in the School of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand. The REAL Centre conducts research into areas of major theoretical and policy concern, focused on the complex relationships between education, knowledge, work, the economy, and society. Previously known as the Education Policy Unit (EPU), the REAL Centre was upgraded into a fully-fledged research centre in 2012.

The Centre aims to be a vibrant part of the Wits School of Education, as well as a national centre of excellence, conducting cutting edge research; offering teaching programmes which develop the professional capacity of practitioners and develop a cadre of researchers; and providing support to the college sector as part of its community service.

The REAL Centre provides an organizational base for bringing together researchers from different disciplines, building theoretical and systemic insights from consolidated empirical research, improving the quality of empirical research, developing insights across different research areas, and contributing to policy debates. Education systems and economies involve systems and institutions that have developed separately, and tend to be studied separately. The labour market is usually studied in sociology and economics, and policies are developed through industrial and trade policies and economic development. The acquisition of knowledge and skills is tackled separately in the education arena. Each is complex in its own right. In practice, the big policy questions do not fall neatly either into the categories of education or labour market and the economy related disciplines. But each affects one other, in complex ways. We aim to draw on existing and ongoing research in universities throughout the country and internationally, to develop new insights, generate new research questions, and contribute to new knowledge. At the same time, we will contribute to practical suggestions for policy developers.

Building on a proud history: The Wits EPU

The Wits EPU was founded in 1987 as one of four university-based units created to provide a scholarly context for the development of education policy post-apartheid. With the transition to democracy in 1994, the EPU’s objectives were extended to include:

  • providing policy support, research and analysis to the democratic movement and to national and provincial governments;
  • functioning as a rapid response mechanism for decision-makers and policy-makers in education;
  • producing high quality impact research;
  • ensuring training for black and female researchers; and
  • fulfilling a resource and dissemination function.

The EPU has a sterling history in researching and supporting the mass democratic movement and the new government and its attempts to improve the provision of education for its citizens. For some time the EPU has been the only remaining university-based education policy unit. Having recently taken on one of the most under-researched areas of education - the complex relationships between education and the labour market - it has now been upgraded to a full research centre.