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(Including the AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU), the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU), Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA), the Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) and the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU).)

Director:Assoc Prof. Corné van Walbeek

School Profile

The School of Economics is located in two faculties, namely, the Faculty of Commerce (which is also its administrative home) and the Faculty of Humanities. The School currently has more than 3000 undergraduate students. In 2009 the School had 150 registered Honours students (70 in Economics and 80 in Financial Management and Portfolio Management), 56 registered Master’s students, and 48 registered PhD students. Since 2003 the School has a collaborative PhD programme. This four-year programme consists of 18 months of core and applied coursework, followed by a standard dissertation. Between 2003 and 2009 this programme has attracted 44 students, nearly all from African countries. In 2009 the School graduated 8 PhD students, of which 3 were from the collaborative programme. In the following two years we expect that the trickle of PhD graduates will increase to a steady state of between five and seven graduates per year. Depending on the availability of funding, it is possible that the PhD programme will increase in years to come.

Two members of the School have been awarded SARCHi Chairs from the NRF. Prof. Murray Leibbrandt had been awarded a five-year chair starting in January 2008, while Prof. Haroon Bhorat was awarded a five-year chair in 2009, starting in January 2010.

Current research activity, with an emphasis on policy related research, is spread across a number of fields, including: development economics; international economics; international finance; financial theory; growth theory and empirics; labour economics; poverty and inequality; health economics; education; environmental economics; and political economy.

The School of Economics contains a number of research units. These are the Aids and Society Research Unit (ASRU), the Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU), Economic Research Southern Africa (ERSA), the Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) and the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU).

Aids and Society Research Unit (ASRU)

ASRU is a research unit in the Commerce Faculty headed by Prof. Nattrass (School of Economics). ASRU is part of the interdisciplinary and interfaculty Centre for Social Science Research.


ASRU supports quantitative and qualitative social science research on AIDS. South Africa is a key focus area, but since 2008, ASRU has been developing strong research interests in comparative and cross-country analysis of AIDS policy, and of treatment and prevention in the hyper-epidemic countries of Southern Africa. This has been in partnership with the Health Economics and Research Division (HEARD) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

2009 was a very productive year. ASRU, in partnership with the Social Surveys Unit of the CSSR and HEARD, successfully completed the fifth wave of the Cape Area Panel Survey (which included an HIV test) of young adults in Cape Town. ASRU researchers and students contributed questions on HIV-related beliefs, sexual behaviour, circumcision and attitudes to treatment. This rich socio-economic and attitudinal data set will provide the basis for many student dissertations and publications over the next few years.

Other collaborative projects included a grant from Yale University to foster joint research between students and UCT and Yale on global citizenship, and a grant from UNAIDS to assist with research on AIDS leadership.

ASRU also engages in ‘outreach’ where relevant. This includes contributing policy-relevant research to AIDS organisations, working with AIDS activists, developing educational materials and promoting AIDS awareness through assisting with ‘body map’ exhibitions.

Development Policy Research Unit

The Development Policy Research Unit is a University-recognised research unit located within the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town. The DPRU specialises in socio-economic research with a core focus on the areas of labour markets, poverty and inequality. Through the application of economic and statistical techniques, the DPRU’s aim is to produce academically credible and rigorous policy analysis.

The three core objectives of the Unit are:

· To foster high quality, policy relevant research within the DPRU;

· To train a new generation of research economists within the Unit; and

· To disseminate knowledge to decision- and policy-makers in government, the private sector and civil society.

The DPRU publishes a successful Working Paper series and a Policy Brief series, both of which are freely available on the website. DPRU staff members undertake limited teaching and graduate supervision. The Unit has hosted seven Conferences in the past nine years, which aim to bring together the country’s leading researchers and policy-makers. A number of these conferences have been jointly hosted with Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), which has contributed towards a broadening of the scope. In 2010, we will be hosting a Conference again.

Much of the DPRU’s work derives from government departments at national and provincial level, while the Unit also receives funding from international and multilateral agencies. In particular, the DPRU has completed numerous research projects at the national level for National Treasury, the Presidency, and the Departments of Labour, Social Development, Education and Trade and Industry, as well as for various departments in the Western Cape Provincial Government.

Recent project undertaken by the DPRU include:

· Monitoring the impact of the economic downturn on the SA labour market

· Enhancing access to information: An analysis of collective bargaining and sectoral determination wage data

· Profiling the Youth in South Africa

· Unemployment in SA: Labour market trends and the absorption of the unemployed in the economy

· Labour market dynamics in the Western Cape

· Improving commissioner and mediation information for handling disputes

In 2005, the Unit was awarded a two-year grant by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to implement its South African initiative, the Employment Promotion Programme (EPP). The EPP is aimed at providing an enabling policy environment in South Africa for the expansion of aggregate employment. Its specific purpose is to remove systematic constraints to employment growth in order to achieve a reduction of the percentage of people unemployed in South Africa from 30 percent in 2003 to 15 percent in 2014, in line with the target set by the South African government’s Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (Asgisa).

Economic Research Southern Africa

Economic Research Southern Africa is a research programme which is being funded by the National Treasury of South Africa and is hosted at the University of Cape Town in the School of Economics.

The primary objectives of this research programme are:

· to provide for the management of a research programme focused on growth, employment and broadening participation in the South African economy.

· to create a network of economic researchers based in South African universities and to deepen economic research capacity in Southern Africa.

· To expand and broaden economic research capacity in Southern Africa, train and mentor young economists and create a supportive network to link Southern African economic researchers.

· To draw a broad and representative range of South African economists into a programme of policy-oriented research, and to encourage independent and expert economic research.

ERSA has successfully met the above mentioned objectives since its inception in 2005 and to date has published 189 Working and Policy papers in all areas of the discipline.

A number of research, training and networking workshops have been organised, funded and hosting by ERSA. These workshops have been held in Gauteng, Cape and UKZN and have had strong representation from HDI’s.

ERSA has identified a need for recognition in student performance in the economics discipline and has introduced monetary prize awards to the best economics students in South African across all universities, the motivation being to encourage students to continue with studies in economics.

Further new initiatives have been the funding of postgraduate scholarships for Master’s or doctoral study of Economics, and a skills development programme to introduce new researchers and academics in historically disadvantaged institutions to the fundamental analytical techniques of economics.

Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU)

The Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) is a research group which seeks to enhance environmental policy-making in South Africa through rigorous policy research and extension in order to attain sustainable development and poverty reduction. EPRU is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) through the Environment for Development (EfD) initiative managed by the Environmental Economics Unit (EEU) at Goteborg University. The EfD consists of 6 Environmental Economics Units in developing countries (4 of which are in Africa), as well as the EEU in Gothenburg and Resources for the Future in Washington, US. This provides us with a rich network of highly skilled academics trained in environmental economics to draw on.

Operationally, EPRU has been hosted by one of the existing research units in the School of Economics, namely the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) as a project on the Environment and Poverty during 2007/8, but in 2009 EPRU received accreditation from the University Research Committee and now functions as an independent unit within the university.

The existing focus of EPRU’s research projects are in the following areas:

· biodiversity and ecosystems management,

· responses to climate risk,

· distributional consequences of climate policy,

· poverty, service delivery and local environmental quality,

· community based resource management,

· fisheries,

· behavioural aspects of natural resource management including risk preferences and cooperative behavior.

The human resource component of EPRU currently consist of 6 Research fellows, 2 junior research fellows, one postdoctoral student and an administrator in a part time capacity. A number of PhD, Master’s and Honours students are also being funded and supervised by EPRU.

EPRU’s research fellows are actively involved in the School of Economics teaching program and also in the broader university. Courses taught by the EPRU are listed below:

· Third Year Natural Resource Economics (UCT) - 35

· Honours Environmental Economics (UCT) - 25

· Master’s Natural Resource Economics (UCT) - 10

· Master’s Environmental Economics (AERC JFE) - 27

· Honours/Master’s Social Impact Analysis (UCT) - 12

· Natural Resource Economics, Master’s in Conservation Biology (UCT) - 12

Various government agencies such as DWAF, DEAT and SANBI has been closely involved in the research EPRU does and have therefore been closely linked in the final stages of the projects when research was concluded and results presented/disseminated. Increasingly the Unit’s research is being channelled into research outputs accessible to policy makers – such as the ERSA and RFF working paper series.

South Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU)

The Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) carries out research in applied empirical microeconomics with an emphasis on labour markets, human capital, poverty, inequality and social policy. We strive for academic excellence and policy relevance. SALDRU was founded in 1975 and, in the apartheid years, conducted a number of important surveys revealing the negative impacts of apartheid on the population. In the post-apartheid period, SALDRU has continued to gather data and conduct research directed at informing and assessing anti-poverty policy. Recent survey projects include the ongoing Cape Area Panel Study, the Financial Diaries Project, the Public Work Research Project and the Quality of Life Survey. In 2006 the Presidency awarded SALDRU the tender to set up and conduct the base wave of South Africa's first national panel study of well-being, the National Income Dynamics study. In 2009, SALDRU won the tender for the second wave of NIDS.

Currently SALDRU's research team include a director, a senior research officer, a postdoctoral fellow, a survey manager, 2 temporary researchers, 10 research associates from within Economics, 4 honorary research associates and 19 research affiliates. These include a number of active international research collaborators. The NIDS survey office is run by the survey manager and contains 7 dedicated staff and, during fieldwork, up to 30 temporary staff members. SALDRU is governed by an executive committee.

Aside from the National Income Dynamics Study current research work falls into the following research themes:

· Family Support Structures in an Era of Rapid Social Change (funded by the National Institutes of Child Health and Development).

· The Data Quality Project is a collaboration with DataFirst (funded by the Mellon Foundation).

· Fertility and Intergenerational Transfers (funded by the Hewlett Foundation and Population Reference Bureau under a grant to SALDRU as a global team of research excellence in population, reproductive health and economic development).

· Post-apartheid Poverty, Employment, Education, Health and Migration dynamics (funded in 2009 by the NRF Research Chair in Poverty and Inequality Research, the OECD and the Centre of Higher Education Transformation).

· Public Works and Social Protection (funded by the Ford Foundation and the British ESRC).

Since 1999 SALDRU has run the annual UCT Summer Programme in Social Science Research Using Survey Data. Currently this programme trains about 100 Southern African researchers per year. It was funded by the Mellon Foundation for the first decade and is now supported by the Kresge Foundation. In addition, SALDRU runs Winter Workshops in the analysis of panel data and in programme evaluation.

Policy Research on International Services and Manufacturing (PRISM)

PRISM was launched to fill a gap in the School of Economics research portfolio. By providing an interface between economics and other relevant disciplines it provides a lens to focus research and policy work on industrialising countries around the following issues:

· Globalisation and the changing distribution of industrialisation,

· The impact of global value chains on growth and markets,

· China and other Asian drivers’ impact on industrialisation in Sub-Saharan Africa,

· Industrial policy in this new environment,

· Innovation and upgrading in developing countries,

· International competitiveness of firms and sectors,

· Clusters and learning networks,

· Trade and its impact on manufacturing and services,

· The distributional gains of industrial growth,

PRISM operates as a broad and eclectic research network bringing together research staff and post graduate students in the School of Economics around the focal point of their intellectual interests. It is meant to encourage them to share ideas, work-in-progress, and interact on common issues. PRISM will allow staff and students to interact around common themes, share ideas about work-in-progress, be a vehicle to publish working papers, encourage journal article publication, and team up to secure research contracts.

Recognising the important role that the availability of good data plays in stimulating research and sound policy work, PRISM attempts to play a catalytic function in this respect. It seeks to create access to available sectoral, trade (quantitative and qualitative) data as well as other published relevant information to facilitate research.

Whilst the intended geographical spread of work is designed to be broad, the research and policy focus is intended to remain grounded in the African continent. The objective is to create a critical mass, a space to incorporate like-minded researchers, as well as interactive links with other institutions to provide a focal point for researchers, institutions and consulting groups in other parts of the world to network with. In this way it will put PRISM firmly on the map as the centre of excellence in Southern Africa for research and policy work on international services and manufacturing. 

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