Phase 2. Curriculum Review and Redesign within a Revitalised SARUA Climate Change Network (2021-2023)

In 2011, the DVC Working Group that was established to lead the SARUA Climate Change and Capacity Development Programme defined the programme’s vision in the following manner: To significantly enhance the climate adaptive capacity and resilience of the SADC region through the development of a collaborative network of higher education institutions capable of pooling resources, maximising the value of its intellectual capital and attracting significant investment into the region. As the SARUA Programme on Climate Change enters into a new phase, this statement reflects the continuing relevance of SARUA’s collaborative curriculum network for climate change.

1  Objectives of the SARUA Climate Change Project

The current phase of SARUA’s Programme on Climate Change forms part of a broader SADC progamme on Climate Change. The SADC Programme is funded by the European Union within the framework of the Intra-ACP Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Programme, and and is administered by the SADC Secretariat. The overall objective of the GCCA+ Programme is to increase the capabilities of SADC Member States (MS) to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, in support of the achievement of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), Africa Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and to have their voice better heard in the international climate change negotiations.

SARUA is one of four SADC Regional Organisations that has received funding through the GCCA+ Programme according to an approved project workplan. SADC’s contribution to the GCCA+ Programme

In 2020, the SADC granted funding to SARUA is to enhance the capacity of the region’s universities to support member states to implement climate change and mitigation strategies, to engage in climate change negotiations and conduct climate change policy analysis. In the approved grant proposal SARUA highlights the critical shortage of appropriate postgraduate courses capable of producing professionals with the knowledge and competencies to work transformatively on climate change and sustainable development in the SADC. Without an adequate feeder system providing the necessary knowledge to future policy makers and climate negotiators, SADC member states do not have much impact in international policy circles and the region’s global position will not be improved. SARUA aims to address this by unlocking the potential of an existing, regionally responsive, Master’s-level curriculum, developed by a team of experts from a range of universities and designed for use in the SADC. In addition, SARUA will develop short courses aimed specifically at supporting the capacity of SADC member states to engage with climate change policy and negotiations.

Specifically, SARUA is responsible for enhancing the regional universities’ capacity to:

  •  Implement climate change and mitigation strategies;
  •  Engage in climate change negotiations; and
  •  Conduct climate change policy analysis.

To achieve these objectives, Phase 2 of SARUA’s Programme on Climate Change focuses on two outcomes:

  • Outcome 1: To revitalize climate change capacity through a comprehensive review of the current SARUA Master’s curriculum and mentoring and support provided to network members and universities engaged in curriculum delivery and short courses; and
  • Outcome 2: To develop a digital ecosystem in support of communities of practice through piloted curricula and short course development and capacity building workshops across the network.
2  Project Phases

The project will progress through the following phases:

  • A baseline and curriculum review of the current SARUA Master’s curriculum, in order to improve the capacity of universities in the SADC region to contribute to policy and education through innovative curricula and online learning programmes.
  • Redesign of the SARUA Climate Change curriculum by the various design groups.
  • One regional capacity development workshop held on curriculum innovation, knowledge co-production and climate change action. This workshop will develop the capacity of SADC universities to present the curriculum.
  • Dedicated mentoring and support provided to SARUA climate change network members and universities engaged in curriculum delivery and short courses.
3  Value of the Project

Through the contribution of the SARUA climate change peer network, SARUA intends to provide SADC universities with access to innovative, high-quality curriculum materials that contribute further to transformative education on this critical theme in the region.

Innovative and Contextually Relevant Curriculum Materials

The project intends to provide curriculum materials that are innovative and contextually relevant to the higher education sector in the SADC. The following characteristics define the curriculum redesign process:

  • Its inter- and trans-disciplinarity recognising the complexity of climate change in the southern African context and the widening of the knowledge competencies.
  • Its use of a systems approach linking social and ecological systems, including politics, economics and earth sciences.
  • It will develop disciplinary and applied competency in recognition of career pathways to achieve either i) policy and/or practice in government, business or civil society, or ii) further higher education and research (both pure and applied).
  • Its regional and national relevance and responsiveness through the alignment of the needs and contexts as expressed by the SARUA Climate Change Counts mapping study (2012 -2014).
  • Its innovation by exposing students and short course participants to innovative thinking and problem-solving methods to problem solving, so that they may foster a culture of innovation.
  • Its responsiveness to regional planning and development goals, and its relevance to different contextual and organisational realities within the SADC.
  • Its ability to widen participation with a focus on social justice to ensure gender representation and the development of emerging researchers.


As part of the GCCA+ Programme, SARUA’s current climate change project intends “To promote regional, interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration in climate change curriculum innovation”. As Outcome 2 of the project, SARUA will design and implement a digital collaboration and communication ecosystem. This digital eco-system wil also contain a digital repository of climate change materials, which the SARUA climate change network will curate. In this way, SARUA will ensure that its climate change network can continue to work the design and development of curriculum materials, updating and creating new resources as necessary. Within this collaborative network, SARUA will support its member universities who wish to enter into partnerships for joint curriculum development and the offering of joint programmes in climate change, jointly offering the qualification within the SARUA Membership. The following is included in the project approval document: “To promote regional, interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration in climate change curriculum innovation”.

4  Governance and Management Structures for the SARUA Climate Change Programme

The GCCA+ project reports to the SADC and is managed by the SARUA Executive. SARUA has created, or will create, the following structures to govern and manage the project.

4.1 Climate Change Steering Group (CCSG)

The role of the CCSG is to ensure that the Programme for Climate Change delivers quality work as required by the contracted project work plan and budget.


Dr Anthony Phiri (Zimbabwe), Prof Irja Nalego Kandiwapa Indongo (Namibia), Prof Prem Jain (Zambia), Dr Nico Elema (South Africa), Mr Sioni Iikela (Namibia), Prof Kingsley Kwabena Ayisi (South Africa), Ms Juliet Gwenzi (Zimbabwe) and Dr Mimbolwa Imasiku (Zambia).

Members rotate chairing meetings.

Observer status: Prof Martin Oosthuizen (CEO SARUA), Prof René Pellissier (SARUA programme manager).

The Curriculum Review Team (CRT)

The CRT consists of regional climate change experts who coordinate the process for the review and re-design of the curriculum materials. The CRT coordinates the process for the analysis of the curriculum content and instructional materials which were developed in Phase 1 of the SARUA Climate Change Programme by SADC climate change experts, and, subsequently, the work of the Curriculum Design Groups on the redesign of the curriculum materials with an appropriate curriculum framework. The initial responsibility of the CRT was to develop a Concept Plan including the governance and management structures and the data collection plan.

Members: Prof René Pellissier (SARUA programme manager; South Africa), Dr Nomazile Chicho (SARUA Climate Change curriculum coordinator; Botswana), Dr Marinda Avenant (SARUA Climate Change curriculum advisor; South Africa), Mike Hamilton (Climate change digital stream lead; South Africa).

4.2 Curriculum Design Groups (CDGs) (see call for participation)

The CDGs consists of climate change experts in the SADC who will develop the module content and coursework materials within their fields of expertise.

4.3 Curriculum Peer Review Group (PRG) (call for participation closed)

The role of the PRG is to review the proposed module content, as developed by the CDGs, and provide feedback on key aspects of the SARUA curriculum design to the CRT. The PRG is a valuable mechanism to ensure regional relevance in the curriculum through the feedback from multiple disciplinary and non-academic perspectives across the continent as we develop the curriculum content. Participation is voluntary.

5 Climate change and sustainable development curriculum process followed

To re-energize the SARUA climate change peer network, the Curriculum Review Team reviewed the curriculum that was developed during the first phase of the climate change project, through a process of analysis, design and implementation. During the analysis phase, data was collected to identify weaknesses and strengths of the existing curriculum and to provide information about trends and needs to inform possible adaptations to the curriculum. The following data collection methods were used:

  • Desktop analysis of similar programmes nationally, regionally and internationally.
  • Trends analysis in the field of climate change and sustainable development.
  • Structured surveys to universities (staff and students), industries and curriculum designers about the content and context of climate change actions.
  • Structured survey to the SARUA network on the forms and implementations of collaborative tools in the digital ecosystems.
  • Interviews with experts in the field of climate change.

On the basis of the data collection process, the CRT consolidated these outcomes into a working document that provides a conceptual framework for the thematic components of the curriculum, which led to the development of a preliminary framework for the redesign of the Master’s curriculum in Climate Change and Sustainable Development. The CDGs will now engage with the preliminary curriculum framework, and following this

consultative process, will then develop curriculum resourcers for the various modular components of the curriculum. It is important to note that this curriculum framework is not prescriptive, and that higher education institutions in the SADC should adapt the curriculum materials as they see fit.

6 Preliminary design of the southern African Curriculum in Climate Change and Sustainable Development

The principles that guide Phase 2 of the SARUA Programme on Climate Change are similar to those that applied to Phase 1.

6.1 Qualification rationale (summary)

There is an increased demand for capacity to undertake research on climate change and development that addresses African needs, and to translate this research for use in policy, decision-making, strategy and implementation that ensures that sustainable development is not undermined by climate change. Developing this capacity in Africa is crucial for designing and undertaking development initiatives that are context-appropriate, socially inclusive, low-carbon and resilient in the face of changing climatic conditions. However, research and training around climate change and sustainable development is not sufficient. It is necessary to locate research and training within a broader societal and policy context to produce knowledge and foster learning that is useful to responding to or adapting to climate change. Climate and development research and training thus needs to be practice- or policy-relevant, and academics need to work with non-academic communities to co-produce knowledge that is relevant. This qualification is well-timed in the direct address of Sustainable Development Goals 3, 6, 7, 11 and 13 (GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being; GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy; GOAL 13: Climate Action; GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities), though not restricted to these only. Therefore, it is critical for academics, researchers, climate action ambassadors, climate lobbyist, farmers, business cadre and the whole community in general to understand how climate is changing, implications, mitigations and eventually adaptation measures to reduce the impacts and act towards rectification of the impacts resulting from anthropogenic activities.

6.2 Curriculum purpose (summary)

The purpose of the curriculum is two-fold. Firstly, it focuses on building knowledge of climate change and sustainable development from academic and applied perspectives, and in-depth understanding of climate change issues in specific domains critical to development in Africa. The second priority is to develop the skills and values needed to generate, use and apply relevant knowledge. Such skills and values include the ability to engage inclusively with non-academic communities from different sectors relating to climate change and sustainable development in Africa; to interpret climate change information and data; to generate creative and appropriate solutions for climate-related challenges; to operate effectively in multi-disciplinary environments; to integrate knowledge and concepts from different disciplines into an integrated understanding; and to appreciate and consider the complexity of dealing with the variability and uncertainty associated with projected climate changes.

6.3 Curriculum Themes

The following table provides an outline of the proposed curriculum themes and topics.



Foundations of Climate Change Science


  • Global Climate Systems and Dynamics
  • Physical Science of Climate Change
  • Impacts and Indicators for Climate Change
  • Mitigation, adaptation, Resilience
  • International Agreements on climate indicators.

Communication for Climate Change Practitioners



  • Science Communication
  • Communicating the Climate Change Message
  • Climate Change Information and Data Management
  • Public Participatory Approaches & Actions

Risks, Resilience and Justice



  • Climate Vulnerability, Assessment, and Vulnerability Mapping
  • Climate Risk Reduction (Strategies & Behaviours)
  • Climate Justice
  • Project Monitoring & Evaluation

Climate Economics and Entrepreneurship


  • Climate Change Economy and Finance
  • Climate Entrepreneurship
  • Climate Change as an Economic opportunity for Communities
  • Climate Change Economy: Oversight and Environmental Audits


Climate Policies and Governance

  • Climate Governance
  • National and International Treaties on Climate Change
  • Global Frameworks on Climate Change
  • Global Best Practices on Climate Change


Biosphere Stewardship



  • Natural Resource Management (including ecosystems, water
    resources, rangelands, etc.)
  • Nature-based Climate Change Solutions
  • Climate Smart Initiatives (smart agriculture)


Geographic Information Systems Applications in Climate Change



  • Geographic Information Systems Application in Climate Change
  • Remote Sensing Application in Climate Change
  • Climate Change Modelling
  • Environmental Audits


Climate Change and the Urban Environment


  • Climate Change & Urban Planning for Inclusive Built
  • Designing for Resilience & Green Infrastructure (Sustainable
    Building Codes)


Integrated Project (Practical Climate Solutions and


Integrated Project (Choose 1)

  • Responsible Leadership (innovation, leadership)
  • Climate resilient development
    (Green energy/ alternative energy sources, etc.)(Agricultural
    solutions, etc.)


Research Methods


  • Research Process
  • Research Design and Methods (Quantitative & Qualitative)
  • Data Analysis and Management Techniques

Writing up and Publishing





Published On: 12 May 2022Categories: Climate Change
Categories: Climate Change