University of KwaZulu-Natal


University of Kwazulu Natal
Durban EPIC
Case Type
Program Stories
School Size
Greater than 40,000
Focus Areas
Environment Sustainability

Durban EPIC

Following the African regional EPIC-N training in November 2017, the City of Durban and the University of KwaZulu-Natal began implementing the Durban EPIC pilot project within the Durban Research Action Partnership. The Durban EPIC pilot project connects Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department (EPCPD) from eThekwini Municipality (city of Durban) and related departments from the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN).

In January 2019, DRAP implemented a full EPIC pilot programme across multiple city line functions and academic disciplines, within the City-funded Global Environmental Change research programme. At the moment the School of Built Environment and Development Studies with the following disciplines: Housing, Planning, Community Development, Development Studies and Population Studies, as well as the School of Engineering are involved in the programme. The pilot included an internship component for students within eThekwini Municipality.

The Durban EPIC pilot programme was implemented through the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS), within the Palmiet Catchment Rehabilitation Project (PCRP).

The PCRP is led by a Community of Innovators, including academic staff and emerging researchers at BEDS, staff of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection and other departments (EPCPD) of eThekwini Municipality, Palmiet-based civil society groups and community leaders of the Quarry Road West Informal Settlement (QRWIS). The PCRP established a list of research questions, mostly focused on challenges within the QRWIS, and often related to climate change, which BEDS post-graduate MSc students focused on in one month action internships within EPCPD.

The Durban EPIC pilot is a part of the EPIC Africa network which was established by city/ academic partners who attended the November 2017 training. In the Durban EPIC, the partnering departments at the University of KwaZulu Natal, offer a taught EPIC A module which aims to acquaint students with contemporary issues through an internship-based model. It grants students the opportunity to engage in practical work which complements the theory-oriented modules. The student’s research projects are co-developed by student and municipal officials to ensure that research outputs feed into the work of the municipality. Students are expected to write policy briefs which are submitted to the municipal and used by relevant departments. The themes on which the projects are focused, are identified by municipality as important for the work of the city, the research outputs then feed directly to municipality.

Fun Facts about the Durban EPIC

The focus of EPIC Durban is not only to promote interdisciplinary approach, but also to build capacity for young professionals and students, and this aligns well with the national focus on capacity building. During the first semester of the 2019 academic year, EPIC Durban trained seven students and three young researchers from UKZN. The EPIC program plans to have continuous engagements with student researchers to mitigate the challenges impacting the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expected EPIC pilot outputs

  • Summary report which will be based on the student’s project, this report will unpack results from the students’ work and how those outputs can be used by municipality. This report will be compiled by EPIC Durban coordinators and Climate Protection Scientist from eThekwini Municipality
  • Policy briefs from students
  • Poster presentations for selected good projects from the students
  • 5- to 10-minute video clip which will focus on the pilot,

In the upcoming year, the Durban EPIC hopes to:

  • Extend the ‘hub’ of municipal officials, academics and post-graduate students that are committed to and will support the development of the Durban EPIC as it evolves.
  • Engage other university departments and municipality officials about the Durban EPIC with a possibility of working with them in future projects. EPIC is about employing an interdisciplinary approach.

Public or Private Institution | Public
Number of students at institution | 46,539

Year Program Established | 2018
Country | South Africa

Highlight Articles/Videos

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City Partners

2018 | EThekwini Municipality • Population: 3,442,361
2021 | EThekwini Municipality • Population: 3,176,000

Contact Details

Smiso Bhengu
Climate Protection Scientist – EThekwini Municipality

Dr. Catherine Sutherland
Senior Lecturer – University of KwaZulu Natal

Snothile Mkhize
EPIC A Coordinator – University of KwaZulu Natal

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