University of Cape Town

  • (Re)negotiating power to enhance resilience to climate change

    Climate change and threats to food security pose grand challenges to our global society. Critical scholarship demonstrates the role that power plays in maintaining pervasive inequities and social differences that, in turn, determine who becomes resilient to climate threats and how, and who stays trapped in systemic vulnerabilities. These insights suggest that we have to explicitly address uneven power relations to enhance resilience and climate-resilient food systems, especially with, and for those members of society who remain marginalised and silenced. This is a daunting task.


    This project will provide a novel and inclusive methodology to reducing threats to humanities in rural and urban settings, building on scholarship on ‘negotiating resilience in place’. Rather than expecting people to ‘be resilient’, we will examine how power structures and social norms are understood, contested, and negotiated, and how they facilitate or hinder resilience building. We will then assess how these deliberative spaces can be leveraged in the everyday lives of disenfranchised individuals and groups so that resilience and wellbeing for all become tangible, accessible, and lasting. We will first conduct a collaborative workshop to design methodologies inspired by participatory performance to make visible the hidden intersections between gender, agency, and power. Subsequently, we will test these methodologies through fieldwork across two sites, allowing for a comparative analysis of how social actors practice resilience in daily routines. Finally, we will identify and trial measures for overcoming uneven power relations that undermine just participation and equitable outcomes.


    This project will offer crucial insights for climate change scholarship on resilience-in-the-making, larger grant proposals, and projects that support inclusive adaptive decisions among at-risk populations. Our team consists of inspiring scholars and practitioners committed to fighting for equity in climate change solutions and inclusive and robust research relationships between WUN member universities and other valued partners.  

  • Innovating the mathematics curriculum in times of change: towards local and global relevance

  • Memorials to people who have died and to those missing during migration: a global project

  • WUN Health Humanities initiative: towards the development of the patient-centred and compassionate Health Professional through education

    This program draws on experience from a unique team of scholars in the World Universities Network from the broad discipline of Health Humanities. The focus is to develop and validate an evaluation framework to report on the effect of health humanities teaching in undergraduate health professional education courses delivered through WUN universities.

    Health Humanities, which explores health and medicine from the perspectives of literature, narrative, history, philosophy, and the creative arts, are widely recognised to encourage humanistic healthcare practice.
    The aim of Health Humanities education is to help students and young professionals to develop empathy for others, to achieve better communication with patients and each other, to enhance critical thinking and improve observation skills and judgment under uncertainty. The Health Humanities can also assist in developing constructive and creative solutions to complex health problems. However, the quality of research into the effect of Health Humanities is highly variable, and evaluating such programs remains a challenge.

    This initiative will provide a basis for future global development of Health Humanities with WUN leading, by providing an integrated evaluation framework through a scoping review of existing literature and a validation process to test its efficacy. This will be followed by a multi-centre study across the WUN, applying the framework to audit health humanities curricula, in medical, nursing and allied health training.

    This program aims to substantiate the rationale for the inclusion of health humanities as core curricula in health professions education. It also offers course accrediting bodies an approach to standardise the description of health humanities, through an agreed educational philosophy, teaching strategies and core curricula. The outcomes of this program have potential to enhance the wellbeing of communities by enabling health professionals to possess the complex sets of skills required to address the different, emerging and persistent health issues of the 21st Century.

  • African Child and Youth Wellbeing in the Context of Migration and Displacement

    Internal and international migration are increasing, largely due to globalization and conflicts. High migration rates involving children and youth have been reported among African communities (Karagueuzian and Verdier-Chouchane 2014; UN 2013). For instance, as of December 31, 2016, Nigeria had 1,955,000 internally displaced persons (IDMC, 2018). Ghana has also established several refugee camps to respond to the needs of migrants fleeing wars in neighbouring countries. While there is an emerging literature describing the health challenges of African migrant children and youth in the Global North, there is a paucity of information regarding the health status of displaced children and youth in African countries, where displacement tends to exacerbate existing health challenges. This project will assemble a team to synthesize existing knowledge and increase the evidence on the health of migrant and displaced children and youths in Africa and the global diaspora. 

  • Ancient Soils and Modern Land Use - A Challenge for Critical Zone Science

    This research group intends to foster critical zone (CZ)—the zone that sustains most terrestrial life on earth—science in the southern hemisphere, which is currently addressed through large research programs only in the northern hemisphere (mainly US and EU). However, a wider perspective is necessary to fully address the functions and role of the CZ for global topics like food and water security or soil health. Thus, this project will establish a global network of sites called Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs).

  • Challenges of Access and Equity: The Higher Education Curriculum Answers Back

    This project examines the complex operations of higher education (HE) curricula—in particular, its ability to provide a solution to the global challenge of increasing access to and equity in HE. While much of the current HE effort focuses on undergraduate curriculum renewal, this research interrogates two under-explored curriculum domains: doctoral education and the professional learning of academics. It investigates how these two domains are not only put to work in the service of access and equity, but have also become shaped by their demands.

  • Changing Coasts, Climate Change and Other Drivers

    Coastal areas are (1) the most densely populated areas on earth, (2) the economic powerhouses of the global economy, and (3) the focus for continued growth through the 21st century with substantial development expected. As a result, coasts are changing, including land cover, hydrological and sediment fluxes, and relative loss of elevation.

  • Characterising the Transient Radio Sky with SKA Precursors

    The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will mark a revolution in radio astronomy; through its large collecting area and novel design, it will excel in sensitivity and open a new window onto the universe. South Africa and Australia are shortlisted to host the SKA and both countries are currently constructing SKA technology demonstrators, MeerKAT (South Africa) and ASKAP (Australia). These are world-class radio telescopes in their own right. Independently, Europe has constructed LOFAR, an SKA demonstrator at low radio frequencies.

  • China‚Äôs Growth Transition: Challenges and Global Adjustments

    China’s transition will require a combination of reforms to sustain growth and manage inequality. It will similarly require engaging the rest of the world in terms of economic and political cooperation. What are these specific challenges, and what policy options exist to secure a stable economic and political future in the region?

  • Climate Change: Understanding Systemic Shocks in Integrated Infrastructures

    We define ‘infrastructure’ as encompassing both the ‘hard’ infrastructures (e.g. energy, water, transport, waste, Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and green infrastructure) and the ‘soft’ social structures they are governed by and serve (e.g. communities, organisations, institutions, their decision-making processes and economic systems). In the broadest sense, integrated infrastructure systems might cater for physical resource demands alongside the increasing appetite for ICTs, whilst simultaneously addressing the decarbonisation and financial austerity agendas. Why consider integrated infrastructure now?

  • Climate Resilient African Landscapes

    Understanding the social and environmental impacts of climate change and other drivers of change in Africa requires systemic and longitudinal place-based research. 

  • Communicating Good Health and Wellbeing: Promotion, Advocacy and Resilience

  • Community of Learning for African PhD Fellows (COLA)

    The Community of Learning for Africa (COLA) is a platform that supports and stimulates research. COLA is developed to assist specifically young African PhD fellows in order to increase the quality of their research publications and support them to collaborate with other researchers and disseminate research outcomes in internationally used outlets. COLA builds a network of African PhD fellows, their supervisors and international researchers, working in the fields of Governance, Public Policy, Innovation, Technology and Economic Development. 

  • Dementia Prevalence and Impact in Low Income Areas in South Africa

    This project examines the nutritional status of older, low-income South Africans in relation to depression and dementia prevalence. Southern Africa has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world for both men (53 years) and women (54 years). This decline in longevity in SA is not only a result of communicable diseases (e.g. AIDS), but also a range of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Due to the adoption of aspects of the Western diet—including high sugar and fat content—NCDs are on the rise, with cardiovascular disease accounting for 17% of all deaths in SA in 2000 (Bradshaw, 2003).

  • Developing and Researching the Economics and Mathematics of Selection (DREAMS): Global Perspectives

    The DREAMS network brings together international experts and researchers in order to extend and develop new approaches to understanding the selection of individuals into the professions, with medical selection as the main motivating example. 

  • Early Life Opportunities for the Prevention of Non-communicable Disease in Developing Countries

    Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), particularly cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and obstructive lung disease, cause 35 million deaths each year, which account for 60% of all deaths globally. Eighty percent of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries. NCDs are rapidly increasing—WHO estimates a 17% increase over the next decade globally, with a 27% increase in Africa, 25% in the Eastern Mediterranean and the highest number of deaths in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia.

  • Economics

    This theme takes a broad approach to Economics, encompassing both macro and micro dimensions. 

  • Exploring the role of Helminths in the Global Allergy Epidemic

    Parasites and allergies, parents and children, female and male—in studies led by WUN researchers from the Universities of Bergen, Cape Town, and Southampton, these pairings have been found to interact in some unexpected and as yet unexplained ways. With support from a WUN Sustainability Grant, the group is continuing work to understand how exposure to helminths affects susceptibility to allergies. Their interdisciplinary work blends public health, pulmonary health, immunology, ecology, and epigenetics.

  • Gendering Migration: Women and Girls Experiences of Gender-based discrimination, abuse and violence across migratory stages

  • Global Africa Group

    The WUN Global Africa Group brings together expertise and resources from across Africa and members from the Worldwide Universities Network to facilitate a two-way understanding of Africa. 

  • Global China Group

    The WUN Global China Group (GCG) brings together the significant expertise and resources in contemporary China studies from across the Worldwide Universities Network in a two-way understanding of and engagement with China. The main focus of the GCG is understanding China's social and economic development.

  • Global Initiative Promoting Meaningful Engagement of People with Advanced Dementia Ageing in Supported Living Environments

    Ageing of the world population brought about recognition of active ageing as a right within health and social policy. However, addressing quality of life of older adults for whom care institutions are their last home (by choice or because they have no other option) remains challenging. Residential care settings often claim provision of person-centred care and meaningful engagement with little evidence or deep understanding. Vulnerable older persons living in residential care, especially those with advanced dementia and from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, would score very low on indicators of active ageing and are prone to loneliness, helplessness and boredom. Pressure on care staff due to statutory regulations contrasted by demands of person-centred care often result in physical care practices only, rather than facilitating all opportunities for meaningful engagement of residents.

  • Global Patterns of Climate Adaption in Kelps

    Kelps are large habitat-forming seaweeds that are critical to ecosystem services derived from temperate coasts. Global climate change is a threat to kelp beds because kelps are sensitive to elevated temperature, reduced nutrient concentrations and shifts in herbivore abundances—all documented consequences of climate driven warming, changes to oceanographic circulation and upwelling, and range extensions. Minimising the socio-economic costs of human adaptation to potential impacts of declining kelp beds (e.g. severely compromised fisheries resources as seen in south-eastern Australia) requires knowledge of the ability of kelps to maintain physiological performance and ecological function in different climates (i.e. their capacity for biological adaptation).

  • Global Regionalisms, Governance and Higher Education

    Policies related to the reform of higher education systems worldwide are increasingly being driven by ambitions to facilitate and strengthen knowledge economies and societies. Two aspects of this broad development agenda are the emergence of supra-national, regional-scale higher education visions, policies, programs (which generate distinctive mobility patterns), and new forms of experimental inter-regional relationship building.

  • Global Social Initiative on Ageing

    In all world regions, proportions of older adults are increasing. Yet, they are often invisible in the face of global challenges such as climate change, economic recessions and transnational migration. The Global Social Initiative on Ageing is addressing the impact of these trends in three main areas: Families, Liveability and Care.

  • Health Literacy and Health Education Mobility for Musicians: a global approach

  • Health Literacy Network

    The World Health Organisation reports that non-communicable diseases, primarily cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are a leading cause of mortality worldwide. Of the 57 million deaths that occurred globally in 2008, 36 million (63%) were attributable to non-communicable diseases (WHO Global status report on non-communicable diseases 2010). At the same time, health literacy is increasingly recognised as a key determinant of health with growing evidence that lower health literacy is independently associated with higher rates of morbidity and mortality, poorer health knowledge, greater medication errors and higher hospitalization rates (US Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality 2011).

  • Healthy Polis - Developing Urban Lifecourse Approaches in response to Climate Change

    There are two paradigms within the climate change and urban health research agendas which form the focus of this project – Future Cities and Healthy Cities.  Future Cities tends to be populated by architects and planners using a set of qualitative approaches whereas Healthy Cities seeks to promote healthy lifestyles for an urban population increasingly under pressure from measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

  • Ideas and Universities

    In a bid to inform the debate about the future of universities and understand exactly what it means to be a world-class university in a competitive twenty-first century, the WUN Ideas and Universities project brings together leading higher education scholars from across Australia, Canada, China, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.

  • Immune Responses Underlying COPD Pathology

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) describes a largely untreatable and common set of lung pathologies affecting more than 80 million people, predominantly in low and middle income countries. The World Health Organization estimates that, by 2030, COPDs will be the third largest cause of deaths worldwide. Underlying many COPD pathologies are clinical associations with a loss of control of host immunity. This can be a result of a number of inputs. Our infectious history appears to be extremely important in initiating or preventing the lung remodeling that drives COPDs.

  • Impacts of Future Climate and Land Use Changes on Public Health and Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia

    This project evaluates how the land cover will evolve over the next few decades in response to climate change and socioeconomic trends, and explores its implications for public health and food security in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

  • In-Herit: The Role of Heritage in Ontological Security during Migration and Displacement

    The In-Herit Project, led by Elizabeth Brabec, Landcape Architecture and Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts Amherst,  explores the emerging role of heritage in improving ontological security and mitigating the trauma of displacement in the context of a global network of heritage researchers. We explore how cultural heritage contributes to a sense of collective identity and place-making, improving ontological security and how it can play an important role in mitigating the traumatic impacts of displacement and rapid environmental change.

  • Indian Ocean Archaeology Network

    The Indian Ocean Archaeology Network (IOAN) allows archaeologists working on and around the Indian Ocean to develop links between existing projects, networks, researchers and postgraduate students to create a framework for collaboration. The network will share information and resources via a web-based collaborative knowledge space developed to support a broad regional perspective on the history of Indian Ocean societies and their interactions and exchanges from a unique archaeological perspective.

  • Indigenous Research Network

    Of the seven billion people in the world today, approximately six billion are from the global South, largely Indigenous and living in poverty (Mignolo 2012). There is no doubt that this group of people will largely determine world futures, particularly given the changing nature of world environments, economics and politics. This rapidly changing world order requires a new order of global engagement around scholarship.

  • inVIVO Planetary Health (formerly in-FLAME - International Inflammation Network)

    Modern environmental and lifestyle changes are associated with an unprecedented rise in chronic inflammatory noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) The most common NCD's include allergic conditions, asthma and chronic lung disease, autoimmune disorders (type 1 diabetes, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, thyroiditis, rheumatoid disease) obesity, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, cancer and neurodegenerative conditions.

  • Migration, Development and Global Transformations (MDGT)

    The Migration, Development and Global Transformations (MDGT) programme brings together WUN migration researchers and data experts for two workshops in 2016, in a research incubation activity supported by ongoing research and policy collaboration between the University of Bristol and the International Organization for Migration's Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, a key partner in the programme.

  • Multilingualism and Mobility in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres

    It is frequently claimed that linguistic and cultural diversity present challenges in contemporary societies. This diversity also presents opportunities, including ways that multilingualism can function as a bridge for intercultural encounters and intergenerational relations. Projects by network members highlight some of the benefits of linguistic and cultural diversity, and thus have potential to productively shape education and migration policies.


  • New insights into the transmission of Angiostrongylus lungworms by gastropods under climate change: a comparative approach

    To forge new interdisciplinary relationships to underpin a novel research programme on the emergence of selected nematode infections under climate change.

  • Non-market valuation of loss and damage under climate change


    This project addresses the epistemological and methodological challenges of non-market valuation of loss and damage under climate change. Loss and damage (L&D) is a complex and contested topic within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism on L&D (WIM) has been formed to consider the various angles to L&D and appropriate methodologies to assess what may count as damage and what as irreversible loss. Non-market valuation is tricky because prominent monetary approaches to judging damage to and permanent loss of, for example, lives, health, sense of belonging, and cultural heritage have inevitable biases and are potentially in conflict with what people value, why, and how. Our goal is to develop a more holistic lens and identify what stakeholders in different geographical, cultural and socio-economic contexts value and what they are likely to experience as loss, in the past, present, and future, to ensure more ethically responsible L&D valuation.

  • Ocean Eddies in a Changing Climate: Understanding the Impact on Coastal Climates and Worldwide Fisheries Production

    Climate change will markedly alter the Earth’s ocean current systems and their productivity, leading to changes in fisheries productivity and localised climatic change for coastal communities.This is significant because fisheries worldwide are valued at US$80 billion a year, provide nearly three billion people with 15% of their animal protein needs, and support incomes for nearly 8% of the world’s population. Ocean eddy systems (meanderings of ocean currents) are especially important in generating nutrient-rich upwellings or retaining nutrients which can drive productivity in ocean ecosystems.

  • Open WUN

    This RDF project will develop research partnerships focused on open scholarship, with a particular emphasis on digital cultural heritage. It will fund a week long workshop in Japan drawing together experts from across the open scholarship spectrum (open data, open tools, open publication and open education) to develop new research funding applications, scoping of open scholarship within WUN, and production of a pilot demonstrating the research potential for integrating open scholarship activities within the WUN community.

  • OPERA - Optimal Pregnancy Environment Risk Assessment

    OPERA is an international, interdisciplinary program of women’s health researchers, care providers, foundations and international agencies dedicated to discovering and disseminating inexpensive and accessible tools to diagnose those women at risk for preterm birth (PTB) or other adverse pregnancy outcome as early as possible in pregnancy and to promoting effective interventions to mitigate these risks. OPERA’s initial efforts focus on risk diagnosis in populations of vulnerable women in any jurisdiction. OPERA receives support from WUN and the March of Dimes (MOD) and is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Researching diversity, inclusion and student success: Towards a global campus climate framework

    Through our project we will explore whether and how higher education institutions develop learning environments that prepare students to succeed in a diverse and global world as well as how changing student demographics and growing diversity shape and compel higher education to more effectively educate these students.

  • Resilience in Youth and Service Providers

    The term “resilience” is used to mean positive adaptation to significant adversity in the context of a particular population or culture. This theme is being developed in relation to both groups who aim to understand how resilience compares in young people from different cultures, and the factors that contribute to their resilience, as well as to explain why and how formal and informal service providers adjust positively to occupational adversity across time. Both groups are engaged in investigating the biological, social-ecological and psychological resources associated with resilience in different settings. The overall aim is to use the emerging understandings to enhance support systems and design appropriate interventions.

    The WUN Resilience Working Group was initiated in 2014 by Prof Steve Reid who is based at the Primary Health Care Directorate, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town and is currently made up of 16 members.

  • Resilient Peace: Exploring resilient peacebuilding actors, cultures and policy transfer in West Africa

  • A study of the role of governing boards in African higher education institutions

    This research program investigates the governance practices of African Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) by focusing on the structures and processes at the apex of HEIs, and their effectiveness and/or contribution towards a range of outcomes. 

  • Sustainability and Electricity Access in Developing Countries

  • Transcultural Understanding of Designing with Climate Change: A Joint Design Research Studio Approach

  • Transformative Justice Network

    Led by the Centre for Global Development at the University of Leeds and the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, this network brings together an international team of scholars interested in various aspects of transformative justice after mass violence and the role of non-governmental actors. Over the past 20 years, there has been a remarkable proliferation of ‘transitional justice’ mechanisms (primarily criminal tribunals and truth commissions) that have promised accountability for perpetrators and redress for victims. Most of these have focused on the level of the state and on state-related institutions in countries of the Global South, often supported by intergovernmental organisations. Yet the performance and impact of such mechanisms has been ambiguous at best and disappointing at times.

  • Understanding Globalisation - Margins and Peripheries

    Globalisation, migration and their socio-cultural consequences are experienced across the urban and rural divide, in both the global north and south. Yet research into globalisation and migration remains, to date, largely limited to urban metropoles, primarily in the so-called ‘developed world’. This interdisciplinary project seeks to fill this gap by building a better understanding of the complex processes of globalisation in rural and peri-urban areas, with a particular focus on developments in the global south, including international migration of the Chinese diaspora.

  • Understanding Non-communicable/Communicable Disease Syndemics in Transitional Societies

    Globalisation has resulted in a change in lifestyle and an overlapping high prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Transitional societies are undergoing epidemiological and demographic shifts and heading towards a situation where disease patterns are rapidly changing.

  • Web Observatory Project

    This project addresses the growing problem of enabling the sharing of research datasets within and between universities and research labs to support interdisciplinary, inter-institutional research. 

  • Widening Participation: 'First in the Family' Students Succeeding in Universities

    This project is about pioneers: people who are first in their family to enrol in university (FIFU). While there is considerable research into factors affecting participation and achievement in university education, less documented are the factors that influence the success of FIFU.  Based on limited literature, we know that FIFU are at risk of failure and of dropping out, especially in their first year of study, and that negotiating cultural obstacles involves a gain and loss of FIFU students’ identities and a redefining of themselves.

  • World-class Universities, Publication and Research Assessment: Rethinking the Mission of Higher Education in the Global Age

     This project documents trends in academic publication over the past 20 years, during the period when national funding systems began to adopt common schemes to assess research productivity in publically-financed universities. This documentation will help to understand how scholars in professional schools and in disciplinary departments focusing on local knowledge have been incentivized - and disincentivized - to conduct certain types of research.