Urban Sustainability

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Johannesburg, South Africa


June-July (Final Dates TBC)



Application Deadline



City Planning, Transport, informal and formal economy, Infrastructure planning, Urban governance, Environment, Employment, Spatial Divides, Housing and Health

This program delves into the complexity and urban planning and development challenges facing Johannesburg, Africa’s world city and one of the fastest growing metropolis in that continent. It focuses on topics such as urban renewal; suburban development; infrastructure provision in townships and squatter settlements; public transport systems; environmental rehabilitation; waste management; community development initiatives; informal economy, small and medium enterprise creation.

The study program takes place in the Johannesburg-Pretoria metropolitan region. You will learn from the leading urban planning experts, academics, city officials, urban community organisations and their people about making the city equitable and effective for its diverse populations and sprawling neighbourhoods. You will:

  • Trace the city’s history from its mining origins to South Africa’s economic engine
  • Visit different old and new suburbs, spatial organization of the city under apartheid
  • Visit Pretoria and see the urban expansion between the city and Johannesburg
  • Compare housing, transport and commerce across different suburbs of the city-region
  • Talk to city planners about what makes Joburg as a ‘world class African city’: big business, finance and real estate influence on urban planning
  • Discuss housing and urban redevelopment issues: visit gentrification areas and new suburban housing estates
  • Urban health infrastructure: visit public and private health service centres
  • Talk with small enterprise development agencies about the challenges faced by informal economy in Joburg
  • Listen to human rights organisations and migrant support centres about violence against poor immigrants
  • Listen to transport planners about the points of conflict in providing public transport and managing private cars in the city
  • Talk to water agency officials about water supply, distribution, quality, and demand management
  • See how old mining sites are being rehabilitated in the city-region
  • Find out how urban waste is being collected, recycled and disposed across different parts of the city
  • Hear from electricity company officials about the challenges of meeting energy demands for urban and industrial users.

During the last two days of the field trip, you’ll discuss what you have observed and learned from observing different parts of the metropolitan region and talking to local communities, academics and stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities for sustainable urban development in the Johannesburg metropolitan region.

You’ll work with others in your group to think through these issues and present back to these people some concepts for actionable programs or projects for urban sustainability in the Johannesburg metropolitan region. Based on their comments and advice, you will rework your ideas into group research and project proposals after you return from the field.

Your final work will be published by RESEED as an edited book and presented back to the community-based organisations, local representatives, government agency officials, NGOs, and academics.

Program costs cover:
All local transfers, entry fees, accommodation, meals and printing off of research book,

Program costs do not cover:
Your university tuition fees, travel insurance, flights and/or travel before or after the trip.

Places available on trip:
20 positions

Postgraduate Students, 3rd year undergraduate students.

Free Time:


This program consists of a three-week intensive-learning field trip with some pre-departure information sessions, seminars and preparation and post-fieldtrip assessments. It is designed to develop and expand your capabilities to understand the concepts of regional development and sustainability and translate these into policies and actionable projects.

All instruction and discussion will be conducted in English.

Study credit
To undertake this program for study credit, you will need to apply through an accrediting university. Please call us or send an enquiry form to ask for more details about this process.

The subjects are each worth 25 credit points. This represents one quarter (25%) of your full-time study load for a year. So, for example, if you are at a university where the academic year comprises two semesters of full-time study, this program would be equivalent to half the study credit points that you would be required to undertake during one semester.

Time commitment
Your total time commitment to the program is 340 hours. You’ll attend pre-departure information seminars and spend some time going over reading materials in preparation for your fieldtrip. During the days in the field, you’ll be spending between 5 to 8 contact hours each day with your academic coordinators (about 120 hours). In addition, you’ll keep a journal, do group work and individual research during your time in the field and afterwards to finish your assessments.
When we say intensive field learning, we really mean it! 

What you will gain from the program

  • Knowledge of different social dimensions and biophysical resource problems associated with sustainability
  • Familiarity with social, economic and environmental transformation occurring in the national and regional context of the study location
  • Practical skills and field-based experience for empirical research and policy formulation for creating sustainable communities and environments
  • Ability to do effective group-work
  • Ability to collaborate with local community organisations to identify problems and develop realistic solutions through mutual learning
  • Ability to individually design and develop proposals for actionable projects or further research to resolve problems identified conjointly with local communities
  • Capacity to pursue professional careers in urban planning and design, regional and international development, environmental science consulting and management, community-based conservation and sustainable enterprise creation. 

Types of Assessments
You will be required to complete different types of assessment tasks during and after the field component of the program.

Before you go into the field, you’ll be offered four or five topics that can be compared across Australia and South Africa. You’ll form a small team and choose one of these topics to research in the Australian context and put together a simple poster in electronic form. During the field trip, your team will make a short presentation of the poster to South African colleagues and program fellows. 

While you are in the field, you’ll be keeping a journal of your thoughts and reflections of the activities and discussions for each day. You’ll submit a shorter version of these daily accounts and reflections after you return from the fieldtrip.

You’ll be doing a lot of group work on the last two days of the field trip, figuring out what you saw, how to map out what you learned from different viewpoints, analyse these and identify issues that can be the focus of an actionable project. You will present these to your fellow field trip members, South African colleagues and community stakeholders, and receive feedback from them. This will be assessed by the coordinators with input from their South African counterparts 

After the field trip is over, you’ll work with the team that you’ve formed from the field workshop and develop a project proposal based on your field-based learning and desktop research. You’ll each be responsible for doing a section of the required work and for putting it together as a whole project document. You’ll be assessed on your individual contributions and also as a group for the quality, coherence and feasibility of the whole project.

Here’s a summary of all your assessment tasks.

Type of Assessment (Including Extent/Duration) Timing of Assessment Assessment %
1. A group poster presentation – 10 minutes During the fieldtrip 10%
2. A group oral presentation on the
last day of the fieldtrip – 20 minutes
During the fieldtrip 20%
3. A daily field journal – 3000 words After the fieldtrip, (usually 3-4 weeks later).

4. A post-fieldtrip project proposal
of 5000 words
After the fieldtrip, (usually a month after
you’ve submitted your field journal)



How you’ll receive your grades
After the program coordinators have assessed all your work, they will submit the grades and marks to the accrediting university. The University will check and process the grades and include these in your study records towards your degree.