The appropriateness, usefulness and impact of the current planning curriculum in South African Higher Education
Start Date: 1 February 2017
Duration: 30 Months
Funders; ESRC and NRF
UK Team: Dr. Lauren Andres (PI), Dr. David Adams, Dr. Mike Beazley, Dr. Phil Jones
SA Team: Dr. Ruth Massey (PI), Mr Stuart Denoon-Stevens, Prof. Verna Nel
Partners: Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN), Commonwealth Association of Planners
For many years South Africa has modelled its urban planning practices on Western systems, reinforced by the education and training provided to urban planning students in Higher Education institutions. Concerns have been raised about the relevance and applicability of these methods when planning African cities (Watson, 2003, 2009). The UN-Habitat’s Global Report on Human Settlements: Planning Sustainable Cities (2009) emphasizes the role of urban planning in addressing urban dysfunctions and it stresses the relevance of urban planning education in Africa. Chartered organisations like the South African Council for Planners (SACPLAN) in South Africa and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) in the United Kingdom (UK) are clearly positioning planning education as a way to raise the awareness of graduates and practitioners about core urban challenges. Urban planners in South Africa are playing a meaningful role in the development and transformation of the country, although a number of crucial changes need to be made to ensure that planning and planners can help address sustainability challenges (Oranje, 2014).
This project is part of ESRC-NRF Newton call for collaborative research on Higher Education in South Africa. While some literature exists on the South African urban and regional planning curriculum and pedagogy (Watson, 2013; Duminy, Watson & Odendaal, 2013; Duminy, Odendaal & Watson, 2014; Watson, 2014; Smit, de Lannoy, Dover, Lambert, Levitt & Watson, 2014; Oranje, 2014) there is yet to be a full scale study that explores the appropriateness, usefulness and impact of the contemporary Higher Education urban planning curriculum and its associated teaching methods. The proposed research also aims to reflect more widely on the implications of the South African study for UK planning education; this is especially important given the recent increase in students from the Global South registering for planning-related courses in the UK. This research draws upon the hypothesis that an increased focus on the Global South in teaching and training will create more socially-inclusive outcomes. Developing a critical and reflective understanding of post-colonial planning education in South Africa and Africa more widely is crucial to establishing how important the discipline is in structuring local and regional economic development, addressing community welfare and thinking about adequate tools and policy to address and alleviate poverty.
This research is positioned at the crossover of urban planning and geography and has been developed in the close partnership with the two planning accreditation bodies, SACPLAN in SA and RTPI in the UK.
The project’s addresses five key objectives:
O1: To investigate the social and economic value of planning education in SA particularly questions of equity and diversity in HE destination choices, graduation rates and employability outcomes.
O2: To deconstruct how the development and delivery of the urban planning undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum addresses issues raised by a changing post-colonial context in SA.
O3: Drawing on O2, to assess to what extent issues raised by a changing colonial context is considered and addressed in the UK undergraduate and postgraduate planning curriculum. By doing so and reflecting on lessons from O1, the research will explore the implications for urban planning lecturers in the UK when working with students from Africa and the wider Global South.
O4: To create a platform for ideas-sharing between SA academics, professionals and students across the world in order to connect and inform curriculum shaping, teaching methods and wider HE strategies for planning education (especially via SACPLAN)
O5: To develop a set of evidence-based resources for HE planning strategies that can address the Global South challenge in SA and across the wider continent.
The project includes two advisory groups, on in the UK and one in South Africa.
UK members include:
- Dr Riette Oosthuizen, Partner in Planning at HTA Design LLP
- Prof. Cliff Hague, Emeritus Professor of Planning and Spatial Development at Heriot-Watt University and freelance researcher and author
- Paul Watson, Independent planning consultant and former strategic director for regeneration and development at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
- Clive Harridge, secretary-general of the Commonwealth Associaiton of Planners
- Dr. Lucy Natarajan, research associate at UCL
- Jacob Bonehill, Senior Development Planning Officer at Birmingham City Council
- Andrew Close, Head of Careers, Education and Professional Development at the RTPI
- Dr Johanna Waters, Associate Professor in Human Geography at the University of Oxford
- Patricia Noxolo, Lecturer in cultural geography at the University of Birmingham