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South African Planning Education Research Project (SAPER)

15 August 2017

SAPER is a 30 months’ project conjointly funded by the ESRC and the NRF, in partnership with the RTPI, SACPLAN and CAP. It is looking at the appropriateness, usefulness and impact of the current planning curriculum in South African Higher  Education.

The team includes researchers from:

  • The University of Birmingham
    Dr Lauren Andres - UK Principal Investigator
    Dr Phil Jones
    Dr Mike Beazley
    Dr Lorena Melgaço

  • Birmingham City University
    Dr David Adams

  • University of the Free State in Bloemfuntein
    Dr Ruth Massey - SA Principal investigator
    Stuart Denoon-Stevens
    Prof. Verna Nel, Mischka Jacobus and Rouvé Bingle

Clive Harridge, CAPs Secretary-General is a member of the Project Advisory Board.

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). Calls for decolonising the curriculum in theory and practice is resonating in current debates while being a very sensitive issue. Now, urban planning in the country faces key challenges including: dealing with the heritage of apartheid and very diverse and segregated cities; a severe shortage of urban planners in the public sector and few opportunities in the private sector; different planning systems operating simultaneously; intense political and economic issues; and of course a vital role for the planning accreditation body SACPLAN.

There is therefore a real need to investigate the social and economic value of planning education in South Africa and its challenges which SAPER aims to do; it is also crucial to assess the current needs of South African planning practitioners (skills and training) and the relevancy of the urban planning HE curriculum. Beyond this, it is apparent that, the UK Higher Education needs to reflect upon their practice, particularly when teaching BME and international students, and hence try to maximise knowledge transfer opportunities. Each student’s national background is different. However, lessons can be learnt from the differences and similarities identified out of those distinct contexts, both in the UK and in other African and Commonwealth countries, and avenues for ideas-sharing can be developed.

For more information, please contact Lauren Andres, visit the project’s website  or follow us on various social media means.

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