Professor Betty Mubangizi
Welcome to the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS). It’s my pleasure to be leading a School that has had many accomplishments and to be working with a highly capable team of Academic Leaders and staff members. Our School is uniquely positioned to foster research, scholarship and community engagement through the creative and intellectual drive of our staff and students.
The School of BEDS is home to the disciplines of Architecture, Housing and Planning all of which comprise the Built Environment cluster. It is also home to the disciplines of Community Development, Population Studies and Development Studies. The synergistic and interrelated nature of these disciplines enhances our School’s ability to provide the critical mass that responds to the challenges of underdevelopment in our communities, country, region and continent at large.
We are acutely aware that the multiplicity of socio-economic problems confronting society requires new and innovative approaches to development, policy formulation and implementation. The academic discourse of our programmes explores constructs of the built environment, society and the indisputable relationship between the two. The programmes we offer interrogate some of the long-held views on the relationship between the construction of physical infrastructure and the people who make use of it, live in it, within it and around it. We attempt to understand how elements of the built environment need to come together in a manner that drives sustainable growth of cities, towns and rural settings.
To this end, in the discipline of Community Development, we develop analytical skills for understanding the contexts of development programs as well as practical skills for the formulation, resourcing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of community development projects. Graduates from the Community Development discipline acquire expertise to design and lead creative, effective and culturally-sensitive processes of responding to the twin challenge of poverty and disempowerment.
The discipline of Development Studies provides insights into the processes involved in overcoming poverty and creating healthy, wealthy and sustainable societies. Our Development Studies graduates obtain high quality academic training in using contemporary theory to understand the processes, policy and practice of sustainable development.
In Population Studies our graduates develop awareness of human populations in relation to their size, composition and geographical distribution; the changes which occur in these over time; the factors associated with these changes and their inter-relationship with the natural, institutional and built environment. Population studies are important in development planning. Graduates of Population Studies are able to systematically identify population-related factors and strategies so as to allow development planners address pertinent issues in various sectors of the economy.
Town and Regional Planning focuses on improving the living, leisure and working environments and conditions of people. Town and regional planners do so by estimating future needs of settlements including housing, business, industrial sites, public facilities and open spaces so as to meet the needs of growing populations of our towns and cities. Such ever increasing populations lead to rapid urbanization. Studying Housing enables our graduates to play an important role in the development of affordable housing as well as effective and efficient infrastructure while conserving historical and natural environments.
Finally, the study of Architecture encompasses planning, designing and constructing form, space and the built environment to reflect functional, technical, social, environmental and aesthetic considerations. The guiding principles of firmitas, utilitas, venustas advocated by the Roman architect Vitruvius in the early 1st century AD remain relevant today and, in part, inform our approach to teaching Architecture. Vitruvius’s principles are particularly relevant in present day South Africa which is awash with examples of the disjuncture between the physical and the social environments and where the principles of durability, utility and beauty have often been in discordance.
The built environment which is made up of designed spaces and the activities of people in their pursuit of sustainable development of communities and populations are inter-related and inseparable. The School is probably one of the few schools in the country to incorporate all these distinct but interrelated disciplines. We are thus appropriately placed to, not only, understand the interrelationship between the built and social environment but also, through high quality research and community engagement, generate knowledge that is beneficial to the community, context specific and forward looking in nature.
In addition, the School of the Built Environment and Development Studies is home to two National Research Foundation (NRF) Research Chairs – these are; the Chair of Applied Poverty Reduction and Assessment and the Chair in Economic Development. Further, the School is also home for the Centre for Civil Society. In combination, these help to enhance the teaching, research and community engagement experience of academics in the School.
I look forward to welcoming you to the School of the Built Environment and Development Studies