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Postgraduate degrees in waste management now offered in South Africa

Publication Date: 
Friday, June 2, 2017

Globally, the waste sector is undergoing a paradigm shift from waste disposal to landfill, to waste as a resource, providing significant opportunities to recover valuable secondary resources.  Given the increasing complexity of waste and the growing waste management challenges facing South Africa, it is obvious that the waste sector is one where a degree will not go to waste.

Contact Person

Reyhana Mahomed

+12 841 3598

rmahomed@csir.co.za

Globally, the waste sector is undergoing a paradigm shift from waste disposal to landfill, to waste as a resource, providing significant opportunities to recover valuable secondary resources.  Given the increasing complexity of waste and the growing waste management challenges facing South Africa, it is obvious that the waste sector is one where a degree will not go to waste.

In its role as an implementation agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) Waste Research, Development and Innovation (RD&I) Roadmap, the CSIR has significantly contributed to the design of an honours and master’s degree, specialising in waste management offered at the North-West University (NWU) and a Master’s in Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. CSIR principal researcher, Prof. Linda Godfrey, and research group leader, Prof. Suzan Oelofse, lecture at the NWU, in addition to their current research responsibilities at the CSIR.

The development of these degrees stems from a series of workshops held in 2012 as part of the development of the Waste RD&I Roadmap. Through engagement with experts from the waste and skills development sectors, it was agreed that it is imperative to boost skills development to strengthen and innovate the South African waste sector.

“At the time, waste management was only offered as short modules in degrees such as engineering or environmental sciences.  These graduates often lacked sufficient specialised skills and practical knowledge in integrated waste management to be immediately functional in the waste industry,” says Godfrey, who also manages the DST Waste RD&I Roadmap.

“While the honours degree provides an excellent overview of integrated waste management, making these graduates sought after in business and government, it is hoped that this degree will find traction in the local government sphere,” says Godfrey, “especially given the changing legislative environment and the solid overview of waste legislation provided for in this degree.  It is also for this reason that the University has adapted the degree to be offered part-time from 2016, accommodating fulltime employees who wish to strengthen their skills in waste management.”

In 2015, South Africa saw its first class of specialist postgraduate students in waste management graduate with an honours degree. Currently, a total of 14 students are studying towards their first or second year of the honours degree and eight are on their way to completing their master’s degree. Godfrey says that the graduates would be able to enter the public and private waste sectors well versed and prepared to effectively contribute to addressing South Africa’s waste challenges.

"The strength of the two new postgraduate degrees at the NWU lies in the fact that the programme is presented by leading experts, from the public and private sectors, who bring real-life issues and solutions to the table," says Dr Claudine Roos of the NWU.  One of the students, who recently completed the honours degree in waste management, described the degree as "life changing and relevant to the real issues in the waste management sector". 

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