School of Built Environment & Development Studies

March 18, 2021 • Melissa Mungroo

Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies is on The Planner’s Women of Influence 2021 List announced on International Women’s Day. Magidimisha-Chipungu was among those selected from 270 nominations world-wide for the list in The Planner which is the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute in the United Kingdom.

February 4, 2021 • Melissa Mungroo

Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies has been awarded the prestigious UKZN Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award in recognition of her outstanding achievements and the international reputation she has earned in her discipline. ‘I am very excited about the award.  I would not have made it without the conducive environment UKZN

November 26, 2020 • Melissa Mungroo

Academic in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies Ms Nompumelele Nzimande will serve as the Chair of the Census 2021 National Advisory Committee (NAC). ‘I am a member of the SA Statistics Council, which is responsible for the production and use of official statistics in the country. I chair the council’s Population and

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Ernest Nene-Khalema

Prof. Ernest Nene-Khalema

Dean and Head of School

Welcome Message from the Dean

Happy New Year! It is my hope that you have welcomed the New Year with grace. May you and your families emerge from 2020 and embrace 2021 with optimism. Welcome back!! 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 there were challenges in 2020, we transitioned effortlessly to virtual learning platforms to assist our students navigate the curriculum.  Your resolve to adjust to the online revolution has been incredible and I thank you for that. Collectively we managed to save the academic year of 2020 and credit is due to both students and staff for showing exceptional leadership in this regard.

As you are aware, our success as the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (SoBEDS) depends on you and as a school, we have prioritised our students and have demonstrated our commitment to them by inspiring 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. 

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Welcome Message from the Dean

Happy New Year! It is my hope that you have welcomed the New Year with grace. May you and your families emerge from 2020 and embrace 2021 with optimism. Welcome back!! 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 there were challenges in 2020, we transitioned effortlessly to virtual learning platforms to assist our students navigate the curriculum.  Your resolve to adjust to the online revolution has been incredible and I thank you for that. Collectively we managed to save the academic year of 2020 and credit is due to both students and staff for showing exceptional leadership in this regard.

As you are aware, our success as the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (SoBEDS) depends on you and as a school, we have prioritised our students and have demonstrated our commitment to them by inspiring 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 the SoBEDS, teaching and learning is our priority. We have exceptional undergraduate degrees, honours degrees; postgraduate diplomas; and postgraduate programs with 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 hope in 2021 we can collectively focus on getting our academic program going in 2021 amidst the challenges we shall face. I am confident that our diverse group of professionals both in the academic and professional service sector can assist in ensuring that we succeed in this endeavor. 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, awards, etc), which is a testament of 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 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 to our students and staff contributes 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 programmes, 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 the only school in the university with three 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 programmes (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 November 2020, our Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku tasked School Deans to embark on a much-needed process of renewal through what he frames: Project Renewal. The aim of Project Renewal is to “review the performance of academic provision, including academic offerings, with the aim of creating “better structured programmes/curricula” that prepare students for the world of work.  Project Renewal, therefore affords us an opportunity to think about a school we want and deserve for future generations. I invite you to fully participate in this process and help shape the direction our School and university might want take as we deal with numerous challenges ahead.  Information will be shared on a later date about how you can be involved. I wish you all the best in 2021 and I encourage you to make the most of the rich resources available in the School, including each other. Stay up-to-date with what’s new and exciting in our collective space. Together we can co-create an unmatched educational experience.