Strategic Research Areas

One of the critical objectives to attain the aim of promoting research for impact at Stellenbosch University is the establishment of interdisciplinary research focus areas. The University is refocusing its thinking and strategic planning on ways to hone the strengths of the institution to becoming a leading 21st-century university, by simultaneously addressing some of the pressing needs of South Africa, as well as delivering on the challenges brought by, inter alia, the expanding knowledge economy and the effects of globalisation.

With due cognisance of the challenges of relevance and impact, and in the light of the developmental needs of our region, Stellenbosch University has identified five strategic research areas (SRAs) that will drive its institutional research agenda:

  • The Natural Environment
  • Health and Human Security
  • Social Justice and Development
  • Human Creativity and Social Innovation
  • Systems and Technologies for the Future

Our approach in developing these five strategic research areas is based on three principles. First, the five SRAs represent inclusive overarching areas of research expertise, for the strengthening and development of specific inter- and transdisciplinary research focus areas. Stellenbosch University has a significant number of broad interdisciplinary research programmes, with expertise and capacity that have developed over a number of decades. The five chosen SRAs take due cognisance of our existing capacities and particular geographical advantages, and serve as overarching “umbrella” themes.

Second, the diversity of our research portfolio. We value the diversity of our research expertise and unique strengths. Stellenbosch University has unique expertise and critical mass to undertake cutting-edge research and train significant numbers of postgraduate students. We wish to retain these unique strengths. Our strategic research plan provides for the recognition of strong individual research efforts at the University that contribute to internationally acknowledged research outputs. In each of the chosen SRAs, the strength of the research efforts at Stellenbosch University lies in its diversity.

Third, basic and fundamental disciplines and research. Stellenbosch University has over the past decades developed particular competitive strengths in the basic and fundamental disciplines and research. Continued emphasis on, and support for, the fundamental disciplines and basic research at the University is part of our strategic research plan. The continuous focus on fundamental and disciplinary research acknowledge their critical role in addressing some – perhaps as yet unknown – future societal challenges. Large collaborative cross-faculty research programmes can and should of course also include researchers working in the basic disciplines where appropriate, and this will be facilitated and promoted.