Project: “Unlocking the Locked”: moving to more engaged, inclusive, and generative approaches to climate change adaptation in South Africa.

The Universities of the Witwatersrand, Fort Hare, Kwa Zulu Natal and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries are calling for all interested post graduate students to apply for either a PhD position (1 position) for the next three years or a MA and/or MSc position (2 positions) in the broad field of climate change adaptation.

Training in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, and civil engineering will be an advantage.

South Africa is well known to be at risk to changes in climatic conditions and is already facing major socio-economic and environmental challenges associated to these changes. How we respond and adapt to these challenges at both the national and local level will depend on the development of inclusive and comprehensive strategies and policies reflecting the aspirations and ambitions of the South African community. Thus, this NRF funded project is about multi-level engaged governance for change in the climate change arena and specifically on adaptation. There is a gap, we argue, in the governance, mainstreaming and implementation of climate change adaptation in South Africa. This gap is characterized by institutional challenges with constrained capabilities to effectively lead and implement policies in the face of extreme climate variability and economic deterioration. Thus, the broad aim of this project is to investigate the role that state and non-state institutions and actors- operating at different scales (national to municipal) – play in either enabling or hindering (‘locking’ or ‘unlocking’) the development and implementation of comprehensive policies and strategies for climate change adaptation. The study will apply an innovative set of methodological approaches that draw from the tradition of co-designed, Mode-2 knowledge generation, combining Transdisciplinary approaches, Cultural Theory, Applied Systems Thinking Approaches, Participatory Climate Risk Management frameworks and Rapid Risk and Institutional Appraisal methods. The ultimate outcome is the establishment of pathways facilitating effective governance, strengthening of institutions and more transformative and transgressive approaches to climate change adaptation in South Africa. It is envisaged that this study will facilitate a myriad of processes in the co-design of new approaches aimed at promoting increased stakeholder engagement and development of South African-developed, locally relevant, innovative partnership models for the implementation of climate change governance and implementation. 2

This is an exciting opportunity for students to work on a popular emerging research niche in a multidisciplinary approach within a diverse team. Successful applicants will be part of a large multidisciplinary group and will receive a bursary that is inclusive of tuition fees and living stipend, renewable for the duration of their studies dependent on progress.


  • For the PhD position, applicants must have an MSc/MA in the fields of Science, Humanities/Social Sciences, or civil engineering.
  • For the MSc/MA position applicants must have a BA/BSc Honours degree in the fields of Science, Humanities/Social Sciences, or civil engineering.

Application documents: a cover letter, CV, copies of the degree certificate, transcripts, and a proposal concept. Applicants to please indicate the position that they are applying for in the cover letter, as well as the title of their Honours/Masters dissertation in previous studies.

Interested applicants to submit their applications to: Ms Heidi Robertson on by the 28th February 2021. No applications will be accepted after this date.

For enquiries contact: Prof Mulala Danny Simatele for studies at the University of Wits, Dr Leocadia Zhou at the University of Fort Hare and Prof Dillip Kmar Das at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Female applicants are encouraged to apply.

SELECTION PROCESS: Only eligible and complete applications will be considered by the selection committee.