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About the programme

The WESAF Doctoral Programme aims to provide research training to equip Fellows (primarily academics already holding tenured positions) to complete interdisciplinary doctoral research on areas related to sustainability on the African continent. The blended Programme is designed to enable Fellows to complete primarily online masters followed by a primarily online doctorate. The Masters by Research and PhD Programmes will however combine in-person elements including sustainability schools (in person schools focussed on enhancing knowledge in the field of sustainability research) in South Africa and contact sessions in Edinburgh alongside workplace-based internships. Supervision will be jointly delivered online and jointly by academics from both UoE and Wits.

The Programme will recruit an initial cohort of 50 Fellows from faculties from African higher education institutions to complete sustainability focused doctoral studies. Following an initial online Masters by Research, to front-load the development of critical research skills and delivered full time, at least 30 of these Fellows will continue to complete PhDs either full-time or part-time. Through its cohort approach and emphasis on advanced research design and methods training, the Programme will produce a powerful cohort of African research specialists committed to addressing Africa’s sustainability challenges on its own terms.


The Universities of the Witwatersrand and Edinburgh share a long-standing and productive partnership. Bound by common values, the Institutions are committed to collaboratively producing the kinds of knowledge that will shape dignified, equitable and sustainable futures for people across the world. Under this overarching vision, WESAF aims to:

  • Equip universities to grapple with complex, continental challenges for sustainable development
  • Generate inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to sustainability in Africa
  • Incubate intersectoral, industry aligned African strategies for sustainability with global impact.
  • Strengthen regional research capacity networks through networking of partner institutions and partner universities.
  • Fellows will be qualified to drive advanced sustainability research in their countries of origin
  • Researchers from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups will be integrated into the African research community
  • Organizational, financial and human resource capacity of partner institutions will be strengthened.
  • The Programme will be mainly delivered online (with some in-person sustainability school elements delivered at the University of Witwatersrand and meetings in Edinburgh) to ensure the best possible access to quality supervision for all applicants;
  • It will provide advanced front-loaded methodological training in a context where virtually all doctoral degrees are focused on producing research outputs only;
  • It will include an appropriately scoped workplace internship aimed at harmonizing the developmental agendas of the world of work, government, higher education, society and the environment.