School of Built Environment & Development Studies

  • Prof. Ernest Nene Khalema

    Dean and Head of School

    Welcome Message from the Dean

    Welcome to the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (which we affectionately call “SOBEDS”) within the College of Humanities at UKZN. Thank you for visiting our school. Website. SOBEDS is an excellent choice to attain your education and prepare for a successful career. Our school is on a pristine and beautiful Howard College campus in Durban, surrounded by natural beauty (and yes, the ocean).

    We cannot wait to welcome you physically in our hallways and offices, but due to the COVID 19 pandemic, we will do our very best to virtually provide a welcoming space for your academic development. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in many ways. Most importantly, it has impacted how we relate and engage, but it has not diminished our resolve and commitment to providing quality education. Although the past two years were challenging, on many different levels, we transitioned effortlessly to virtual learning platforms. Our collective resolve to adjust to the online revolution has been unbelievable. Collectively we managed to keep going and credit is due to both students and staff for showing exceptional leadership in this regard.

    SOBEDS provides exciting educational opportunities for students from all backgrounds and locations. We offer diverse programs of study that prepare students for success in the real world to solve real problems. Our teaching and support staff are dedicated professionals who excel in connecting with students and providing an educational experience equal to that of any university. Our success as SoBEDS depends on you and we have prioritized our students and have demonstrated our commitment to them by encouraging them to excel in their studies. We have made a difference in our communities through our award-winning, record-setting, and robust collection of programs in the built environment and development clusters.

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    Welcome Message from the Dean

    Welcome to the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (which we affectionately call “SOBEDS”) within the College of Humanities at UKZN. Thank you for visiting our school. Website. SOBEDS is an excellent choice to attain your education and prepare for a successful career. Our school is on a pristine and beautiful Howard College campus in Durban, surrounded by natural beauty (and yes, the ocean). We cannot wait to welcome you physically in our hallways and offices, but due to the COVID 19 pandemic, we will do our very best to virtually provide a welcoming space for your academic development. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in many ways. Most importantly, it has impacted how we relate and engage, but it has not diminished our resolve and commitment to providing quality education. Although the past two years were challenging, on many different levels, we transitioned effortlessly to virtual learning platforms. Our collective resolve to adjust to the online revolution has been unbelievable. Collectively we managed to keep going and credit is due to both students and staff for showing exceptional leadership in this regard.

    SOBEDS provides exciting educational opportunities for students from all backgrounds and locations. We offer diverse programs of study that prepare students for success in the real world to solve real problems. Our teaching and support staff are dedicated professionals who excel in connecting with students and providing an educational experience equal to that of any university. Our success as SoBEDS depends on you and we have prioritized our students and have demonstrated our commitment to them by encouraging them to excel in their studies. We have made a difference in our communities through our award-winning, record-setting, and robust collection of programs in the built environment and development clusters. We offer high-quality and responsive curricula that explore connections across six unique disciplines (of Housing, Town and Regional Planning, Architecture, Development Studies, Population Studies, and Community Development), and provide exceptional learning opportunities in a variety of modalities (virtual, online, blended, face-to-face) for professional fields that encourage community engagement and provide practical employment readiness experience. Further, we have been working hard to create exciting partnerships that enhance learning through unique practicum and service-learning experiences. In SoBEDS, teaching, and learning, research, and community engagement is our priority. We have exceptional undergraduate degrees, honours degrees; postgraduate diplomas; and postgraduate programs with a unique curriculum designed to provide rich educational experiences in both development and built environment fields. We boast outstanding academic and professional staff (full time and contract) that are committed to ensuring students have relevant educational experiences to prepare them to meet professional requirements and excel in their chosen professions. Our programs emphasize the integration of theory and practice (work-integrated learning) and experiential learning is a key component of our offerings in the School. We take pride in our collaborative relationships with communities we engage with and organizations that provide placements for community-based learning, practicum, and to some extent, field education and inform program development through involvement on community advisory boards.

    We continually refine our programs to keep them relevant and seek out opportunities to expand our offerings to reach students coming from historically underserved backgrounds. Through our exceptional teaching and learning teams and champions, research centers, researchers, knowledge hubs, and community engagement strategies we stay connected to industry, communities of practice, alumni, and the community so they can help guide our decisions and map the course for our future.

    As Dean and Head of School, I am confident that 2022 will be an exceptional year of success. I am confident that our diverse group of professionals both in the academic and professional service sector will assist in ensuring that we achieve our collective goals. We will continue to be inclusive in the work we do, and we will continue to be inspired by an anti-oppressive transformative praxis that respects diversity and promotes inclusion. Our team of award-winning academics, professional staff, and administrators foster a culture of respect, innovation, collaboration, and commitment to excellence. In recent times, we have seen a significant increase in throughputs and students exiting the system to enter the world of work. We have also witnessed our staff in the academic sector being recognized by their peers in many ways (i.e., academic promotions, international and national awards, etc.), which is a testament to the culture of excellence we have collectively co-created. This is also due to intentional strategies led by academic leaders in the disciplines, our SARCHI chairs, research leaders, and driven by the Dean’s office to provide targeted mentorship programs to postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and emerging permanent academics with financial/in-kind research/teaching opportunities to support their career progression. This ensures that knowledge, resources, and ideas are shared, and duplication minimized. This is a very important aspect of our work as our investments in our students and staff contribute to our scholarly teaching with, and for, students.

    Our mission is to prepare outstanding students who are emerging in their fields to lead locally and globally through the collaborative teaching practices of our outstanding teaching teams, selective mentorship programs, inspired learning through community engagement opportunities, and by advancing knowledge through focused and impactful scholarship and research in the areas of informality, inclusivity, and social cohesion. One of the mandates as outlined on our School Strategic Plans (2018-2023) and Discipline-specific Transformation Plans (2018-2023) is to provide support to academic staff in increasing third-stream income, involvement, and productivity in scholarly teaching, and facilitating intentional scholarship and research. This also increases student participation in research opportunities led by active researchers within the school. Our researchers and scholars have different support needs and we have developed a variety of strategies needed to facilitate the development of research and scholarship skills, successful grant applications, and the dissemination and translation of scholarly work in peer-reviewed publications and meetings. In recent years, we have significantly increased our school’s production units (PUs) and third-stream income with academics leading and co-leading research and we boast about being one of a few schools in the university with two DST/NRF SARCHI Chairs. We have also continuously provided endowment-based and research-specific bursaries and scholarships to our students to assist them through their educational journeys. We prepare graduates to access dynamic careers through our innovative programs. To date, we have developed five new Honours programs (i.e., Development Studies, Population Studies, Town and Regional Planning, Architecture, and Housing) to address access gaps and pathways to employment. We are passionate about providing learning experiences that help them become leaders, mentors, and connected alumni.

    In 2021 we engaged in an exciting Project Renewal process envisaged by our Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku. The aim of Project Renewal was to “review the performance of academic provision, including academic offerings, with the aim of creating “better-structured programs/curricula” that prepare students for the world of work. Project Renewal, therefore, afforded us an opportunity to reflect on a school we want and deserve for future generations. In 2022 we will continue the visioning, the discussions, and begin prioritizing what is important to us to shape the direction we would like to take. A crucial part of our renewal strategy is nurturing relationships with our students, alumni, employers, friends in the community, and other important external and international stakeholders. We not only want to keep you informed about what’s going on in SOBEDS, but we need your ideas and support of what we can improve on.

    It’s truly a privilege and a pleasure for me to be leading SOBEDS. I’m energized and excited about the possibilities of what our school has to offer and what we can accomplish together. I am also equally encouraged about what we have accomplished thus far and the many opportunities that await us in training our students, developing our staff, and serving the community. Stay up to date with what’s new and exciting in our collective space. Together we can co-create an unmatched educational experience. Thank you for your interest and support.

    Prof Ernest Nene Khalema, Ph.D. (Dean & Head of School)