Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies includes relationships between people and the environment. This programme discusses practical methods for understanding and addressing contemporary environmental problems, using case studies from South Africa and beyond.


Bachelor of Science in the field of Environmental Studies

This major provides students with a cross-cutting and interdisciplinary science and social science education, focusing in particular on the historical and contemporary issues facing southern Africa today, including climate and environmental change, resource management (including heritage resources), environmental justice and sustainability.

This major pathway is designed to be integrated and multidisciplinary, to encourage students to develop skills that can be applied to national-scale issues of development, transformation and employability in South Africa.

Career Opportunities

  • Environmental management
  • Environmental planning
  • Conservation
  • Heritage management
  • Environmental services auditing
  • Risk assessment
  • Sustainability, recycling and waste management
  • Pollution monitoring and management
  • Environmental remediation
  • Community health and wellbeing
  • Development planning
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Environmental communication and outreach



Auxiliary Mathematics OR Mathematics I (major): Algebra, Calculus


Any three courses. Recommended courses:

  • Geography
  • Introductory Life Sciences
  • Archaeology

Environmental Studies II is made up of two compulsory semester-long courses. To complete Environmental Studies II, you must register for and pass both courses. Any two other Level II majors depending on other course sets may be combined with this.

Year 2 (C timetable slot)

  • Semester 1 - GAES2000A People and the Environment in Africa (24)
  • Semester 2 - GAES2001A Nature, Climate and Society (24)

GAES2000A People and the Environment in Africa (Dr Jerome Reynard, Prof. Sarah Wurz, Dr Mary Evans)

This course describes the deep time history of people in Africa and their interactions with, uses of, and impact on their environments. Social and cultural responses to climate change and resource availability are explored specifically. This encourages sensitivity and understanding for the long term context of environmental change, a perspective vital in developing a sense of responsible interaction with the environment. Themes examined in the course include human evolution, exploration, colonization and settlement history in Africa, up to the present. This course draws from interdisciplinary ideas in Archaeology, Geography, Geology, Anthropology, History, Cultural Studies and Politics.

GAES2001A Nature, Climate and Society (Prof. Jasper Knight)

This course describes how people make use of environmental resources, the values attributed to the physical environment and its varied resources by society and in different contexts, environmental management and environmental governance properties, and societal responses to climate change, using contemporary examples focusing on South Africa.


Four block-long courses from the offerings available in Environmental Studies III. Any other Level III major depending on other course sets may be followed.

Year 3 (E timetable slot)

  • Block 1 - GAES3000A: Theory and Practice in Sustainability Science and Sustainable Development (18)
  • Block 2 - GAES3005A: Contemporary environmental issues in southern Africa (18)
  • Block 3 - GAES3002A: Communicating Environmental Issues (18). GAES3004A: Heritage Resources Management (18)
  • Block 4 - GAES3003A: Human Biometeorology (18). GAES3001A: Political Ecology and Environmental Justice (18)

To be eligible to register for Environmental Studies III, you must have passed both courses in Environmental Studies II.

GAES3000A: Theory and Practice in Sustainability Science and Sustainable Development (Prof. Mulala Simatele)

This course considers the theoretical background and practical skills in issues of Sustainability Science and Sustainable Development by integrating theoretical knowledge and application of real-world sustainability issues. The course covers a range of contemporary society and industry-relevant ecological and environmental issues associated with sustainable development, such as the workings and dynamics of biogeochemical (or the natural environment) systems and the role of human activities as a land surface agent.

GAES3005A: Contemporary Environmental Issues in Southern Africa (Dr Simone Dahms-Verster)

This course provides an integrated overview of up-to-date information and contemporary debates on a range of overarching environmental issues affecting the natural and human worlds in southern Africa. These issues include agriculture and rural development, food security, water security and sanitation, river basin management and pollution, transport, health, ecosystem services, air quality, waste generation and management, coastal and marine resource management, urban development and poverty; environmental migration and natural resource conflict management.

GAES3002A: Communicating Environmental Issues (Prof. Amanda Esterhuysen)

This course introduces students to environmental communication issues. Using discourse and framing theory, the course unpacks the ways in which the communication of issues in the natural and social sciences have been used to direct public and political behaviour, to perpetuate social discrimination and dissent, and in some cases create a mistrust of science and scientists. The course will critically examine how the public encounter environmental issues through different media forms (newspapers, art, film, radio, social media) in formal, informal and lived spaces and contexts. It develops students’ social awareness and skills to foster effective communication of contemporary environmental issues.

GAES3004A: Heritage Resources Management (Dr Catherine Namono)

This course introduces contemporary issues in heritage resources management, drawing on the interconnections of natural and cultural heritage management and conservation issues and is set in a southern African context. It considers the history and practice of heritage resources management and conservation in South Africa; an overview and critique of natural and cultural heritage management legislative frameworks; the principles of identifying and evaluating cultural and natural heritage resources and their varied uses; case studies of the processes and practices of heritage resource management; and consideration of the intellectual and practical challenges in achieving sustainable heritage management.

GAES3003A: Human Biometeorology (Prof. Jennifer Fitchett)

This course introduces students to the discipline of Human Biometeorology, exploring the role of climate in human communities. The course begins with a brief overview of the scientific discipline of Biometeorology and specifically, Human Biometeorology, its development and separation from field of Applied Climatology, and its key subdisciplines. It thereafter considers the subdisciplines of Human Biometeorology in detail, including thermal comfort and stress in the contemporary and as evidenced from the archaeological record, tourism climatology and the role of tourism in driving global change, and climate epidemiology, the study of the spread of climate-sensitive disease.

GAES3001A: Political Ecology and Environmental Justice (Ms Sarita Pillay)

This course introduces students to current debates in the fields of political ecology and environmental justice. It begins with an exploration of the differences between political and apolitical ecology and how these relate to questions of environmental justice. It then considers how different approaches within political ecology and environmental justice critically investigate environmental issues.

Entry Requirements

APS 42+

English Home Language OR First Additional Language Level 5

Mathematics Level 5


Applicants with 40-41 points may be wait-listed, subject to place availability.

National Benchmark Test

All Faculty of Science applicants must write the National Benchmark Tests (NBT) before being considered for admission. There are two tests. The Academic and Quantitative Literacy Test and the Mathematics Test. Your test results are used in addition to your Grade 12 results to identify students who may need additional support during their studies. 

University Application Process

  • The Student Enrolment Centre at Wits handles all student applications.
  • Please click here for an overview of the application process. 
  • Check the admission requirements for your degree. Check if any additional selection requirements apply. 
  • Submit your application, required documentation and application fee before the closing date.
  • Once you have applied, an admissions consultant will be assigned to your application.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • If you are an international applicant and/or have a foreign qualification, please click here.

Compliance with the minimum requirements does not guarantee a place at the University. The University has a specific number of places for first year undergraduates, approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

University Fees and Funding

Click here to see the current average tuition fees for the first year of study. The Fees website also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal. 

The Financial aid office provides information on student funding and scholarships. University-funded Scholarships include Vice-Chancellor's Scholarships, University Entrance Scholarships, Equality Scholarships, Sports Scholarships and National Olympiad winner awards. For information about NSFAS funding, please visit the NSFAS websiteExternal bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.

Wits Plus applicants: terms of payment are in accordance with University regulations, and students are not eligible for University bursaries/NSFAS or residential accommodation.