Change the world

Nelson Mandela University has identified institutional focus areas around which the university plans its core business of teaching and learning, research and community involvement, and has already established clear strengths within these areas:

Health and wellness

Nelson Mandela University has built up a solid reputation in the Eastern Cape and beyond as a quality provider of public and primary healthcare education and training. This is enhanced through teaching, research and activities of engagement in fields such as:

  • Indigenous knowledge systems and traditional healing
  • Chronic disease management (with a focus on Diabetes Mellitus)
  • Pharmaco-epidemiology and cyclic diDipeptide research
  • Psychological and educational development and assessment
  • Wellness and health promotion
  • Sport science and management
  • Community and health development, including a focus on HIV/Aids and local governance

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Economic and business development

The development of sound financial services, entreperneurship and management and leadership - important areas for the national economy - are strengths of Nelson Mandela University. We offer an excellent range of study and research opportunities that adds up to an obvious choice for anyone wanting to join the respected and lucrative world of business and financial management. Our accounting graduates do extremely well in the professional qualifying examination set by the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants with results being well in excess of the national average.

Nelson Mandela University has established strengths in the following niche areas:

  • Accounting and financial services
  • Management and leadership development, including a focus on local governance
  • Business ethics
  • Marketing
  • SMME development and entrepreneurship
  • Economic development and tourism
  • Transport and logistics management

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Advanced manufacturing and materials, infrastructure and process development

South Africa must develop a competitive, sustainable, fast-growing economy that creates national prosperity. Nelson Mandela University has established links with major partners locally, nationally and internationally, including major manufacturers and suppliers in the automotive industry, power utilities, large companies in the field of ICT, major construction companies, and large consulting business to ensure opportunities for contract research and collaborative research.

Port Elizabeth and East London are perceived as the “Detroits of Africa”, the place where cars - and automotive careers - are made. Many of those careers are kick-started at our university with its diverse business and engineering links with the motor industry. Cutting-edge research in friction stir welding and rubber research in vulcanization chemistry, student exchange programmes with international universities and practical design projects, robotics and mechatronics in state-of-the-art laboratories make Nelson Mandela University the hands-on university of choice for mechanical and industrial engineers.

Niche areas:

  • Mechatronics and manufacturing technology for the automotive sector
  • Chemical, rubber, polymer technology
  • Infrastructure development
  • IT security, programming, software development and communications networking
  • Building, construction management and housing

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Engineering technology (including friction stir welding)

The establishment of Nelson Mandela University’s Friction Processing Research Institute (FPRI) and the Chair for Automotive Engineering enables the university to conduct and provide opportunity for interactive and collaboratiive research on an advanced level.

FPRI comprises three centres:

  1. the Manufacturing Technology Research Centre (MTRC)
  2. the Automotive Components Technology Station (ACTS)
  3. the Advanced Mechatronic Technology Centre

Each focuses on the modernisation of the local manufacturing industry with a strong emphasis on the automotive industry.

Nelson Mandela University has also established itself as a forerunner in research and development of friction stir processing (FSP) and laser materials processing (LMP), as well as in the development of intelligent maintenance systems and robotics and mechatronics for the manufacturing industry.

Niche areas:

  • Friction stir processing (FSP)
  • Laser materials procession (LMP)
  • Intelligent maintenance systems for industrial manufacturing
  • Robotic intelligent precision assembly with indoor GPS technology
  • Mechatronics

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Information and communication technology

Nelson Mandela University ouses several leading research projects in areas related to the broad fields of information and communication technology, computer science and information systems. These leading-edge projects are steered by units with outstanding research facilities, and offer exciting research opportunities in the fields of:

  • Computer science education
  • E-commerce
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Information visualisation
  • Intelligent user interfaces
  • Mobile computing
  • Information security management and governance
  • Health Informatics
  • Usability studies
  • Workflow technology

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Environmental and natural resource management

Various research centres and academic programmes at Nelson Mandela University, both in Port Elizabeth and George, specialise in environmental and natural resource management and are recognised as centres of excellence in South Africa and Africa in respect of biodiversity management, environmental education and training, marine, coastal and estuarine studies, and forestry.

Nelson Mandela University’s School of Natural Resource Management in George provides ample opportunity for research within a diverse ecological environment that includes semi-desert terrain, forest plantations, indigenous forest, unique fynbos and coastline.

Our Unit for Integrated Environmental & Coastal Management is dedicated to researching all aspects of the coastal zone environment. Using the knowledge and expertise it derives, the unit provides an environmental service for the benefit of all people living in the coastal zone of Africa and places special emphasis on long-term sustainability of the natural environment.

Niche areas:

  • Renewable energy
  • Biodiversity management and ecosystems
  • Marine, coastal and estuarine studies
  • Forestry and wood technology
  • Agriculture and game ranch management
  • Green chemistry

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Conservation ecology

Conservation is critical in a resource-hungry world. Nelson Mandela University knows this and, as such, places great emphasis on environmental education and conservation through various postgraduate research entities, such as the Centre for African Conservation Ecology. Its scientists have been lauded time and again for research that continues to reap sustainable rewards for both man and his environment.

Nich areas:

  • Conservation biology
  • Animal-plant interactions
  • Resource ecology
  • Predator-prey interactions
  • Transformation and restoration ecology
  • Biodiversity

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Marine and estuary studies

Neson Mandela University’s Unit for Integrated Environmental & Coastal Management in Port Elizabeth places special emphasis on long-term sustainability of the natural environments like the Swartkops River Estuary, the Coega deepwater harbour development, the coastline and the Greater Addo Elephant Park.

Niche areas:

  • Coastal zone mangement and planning
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Aquatic and terrestial conservation planning
  • Natural resource management
  • Water quality and aquatic pollution assessment
  • Environmental education and training
  • Geographical Information Systems
  • Research diving unit

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Optic fibres, nano-technology and electron microscopy

Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Physics has an outstanding reputation for its research outputs in the areas of optical fibre characterisation, electron microscopy, photopholtaics, semiconductor materials and nanostructures, and material characterisation. Research units house various state-of-the-art facilities, including the MOVPE (Metalorganic Vapour Phase Epitaxial) reactor, analytical transmission electron and scanning electron microscopes, and the only nano-intendor hardness tester in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela University also holds the South African Research Chair in Nanophotonics, focusing on the development of opto-electronic materials and structures on nanometer scale.

The Optical Fibre Research Unit was established in the Department of Physics in 2001 and forms part of the Telkom-sponsored Centre of Excellence. The main goal of this research unit is to study the optical characteristics of optical fibres and cables, with emphasis on the assessment of polarisation mode dispersion (PMD). The optical fibre research work at Nelson Mandela University is also supported by the African Laser Centre, which includes a two-year collaborative project with Tunisia.

Our Electron Microscopy Unit offers advanced electron microscopy facilities for physics and materials research. Important information in the field of materials science (microelectronics, ceramics, geology, metallurgy, polymer chemistry and materials used in nuclear energy reactors) can be obtained via this unit.

Niche areas:

  • Optical fibre characterisation
  • Electron microscopy
  • Photopholtaics, semiconductor materials and nanostructures
  • Material characterisation

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Alternative and renewable energy sources

Just over 40 years ago nuclear energy was an exotic, futuristic technology. Today, it’s our future. Regional electricity demand in South Africa is already exceeding supply capacity. And so the race is on to harness clean-air, greenhouse gas-free electricity. Nelson Mandela University is playing a critical role to this end and was awarded an R8.4 million contract by the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) Company to perform key specification checks and research on the fuel pebbles for a pilot reactor to be built at Koeberg near Cape Town.

The Centre for Energy Research at Nelson Mandela University is focused on meeting Africa’s renewable energy requirements. A state-of-the art solar simulator, which meets international calibration standards, was installed in the centre in 2007. Solar energy in the form of photovoltaics (solar cells) and solar water heating, energy management and control in the field of automotive energy, wind energy, energy efficiency, energy economics, and energy materials are all researched at the centre in a multi-disciplinary approach. Experts in science, engineering, the built environment, information technology, economic sciences, conservation ecology and manufacturing technology all involve themselves in integrated research.

Our photovoltaic (PV) research activities cover a wide range of topics, including PV materials and defect studies, solar cell and PV module characterisation and systems evaluation.

Niche areas:

  • Photovoltaics, semiconductor materials and nanostructures
  • Material characterisation
  • Systems evaluation
  • Renewable energy systems

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Chemical technology

Nelson Mandela University has established a proud reputation for its research and graduates in industrial and academic circles alike. Research opportunities exist in the major fields of biochemistry and microbiology, pharmaceutical chemistry, organic, inorganic, analytical, and physical and polymer chemistry. The School for Biomolecular & Chemical Sciences houses various centres that provide research opportunities, product and process development, support services, training and consulting activities to the chemical industry.

According to Statistics South Africa, Diabetes Mellitus was the sixth leading cause of natural death in South Africa in 2007. The Biochemistry Department conducted groundbreaking research into the treatment of Diabetes 1, using traditional South African plants.

Nelson Mandela University’s Cyclic Dipeptide Research Unit (CPRU) fosters collaboration between the biological sciences and pharmaceutical chemistry to allow a broader scope of research. Collaborators from different South African institutions and industry focus research towards the structure and biological activity of cyclic Dipeptides, a fascinating family of molecules that can function as antibiotics, toxins, ion-transport, regulators, protein-building inhibitors, enzyme inhibitors and immunosuppressants. A wide range of research focus areas is offered, including the development of synthetic diDipeptides and in vitroscreening for tumour inhibition.

Nelson Mandela University has the only facility in South Africa for postgraduate studies in textile and clothing science. The fibre and textile competence area of the Materials Science and Manufacturing Operating Unit of the CSIR forms the backbone of this department.

Nelson Mandela University’s Institute for Chemical Technology and the Downstream Chemical Technology Station (InnoVenton / DCTS) provides chemical research and development expertise, technology transfer and professional teaching service to industry. InnoVenton operates from a multi-purpose, state-of-the-art kilo-lab facility to provide semi-technical production, scale-up, and economic evaluations of production processes for industry. The lab allows for the scale up of small scale laboratory developed chemical processes to kilogram quantities and is the only facility of its kind in South Africa at a higher education institution.

Nelson Mandela University is the only institution accredited with both Mersita and The South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) to offer learnerships in rubber technology. State-of-the-art equipment such as the rheometer is used in all related postgraduate research.

Niche areas:

  • Biochemistry and microbilogy
  • Pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Green chemistry
  • Industrial catalysis
  • Industrial electrochemistry
  • Organometallic chemistry

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Architecture and the built environment


The reputation of Nelson Mandela University’s architectural graduates speaks for itself in buildings designed by them around the globe. The School of Architecture’s progressive view and support of information and computation technology set its graduates apart from others in the design and building and construction industries. For over 36 years the School has been successful in maintaining the professional accreditation of its degrees through seven accreditation inspections.

Niche areas:

  • Architectural design
  • Architectural technology
  • Architectural conservation
  • Architectural computer usage
  • Interior design

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The built environment:

Nelson Mandela University’s School of the Built Environment offers various study and research opportunities in fields related to building, quantity surveying and construction management. Nelson Mandela University’s quantity surveying qualifications are accredited by both the South African Council for the Quantity Surveying Profession and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in Britain. Our Construction qualifications are also accredited by both the Chartered Institute of Building in Southern Africa and the Chartered Institute of Buildling in the UK.

Niche areas:

  • Project management
  • Facilities management
  • Construction management
  • Construction health and safety
  • Property economics
  • Valuation

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Art and design

South Africa’s diverse and dynamic arts and culture heritage is one of its richest and most important resources, with the capacity to generate significant economic and social benefits. Nelson Mandela University, which houses the oldest art school in the country, dating back to 1881, contributes significantly to creative and cultural industries. Graduates of our School of Music, Art and Design are at the forefront of creative innovation, particular in art and design, crafts, media and communication, and music technology.

Niche areas:

  • Applied Design
  • Studio Arts
  • Music

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Culture, communication and language

The School of Language, Media and Culture offers ample opportunities for research in fields varying from Applied Linguistics and Literature to Public Relations and Communication Studies and from Journalism to Philosophy. Research expertise exists especially in the fields of applied philosophy and comparative literature studies with emphasis on the coordination of a five-year NRF project entitled Identity and Marginality in South African Literature.

Nelson Mandela University also contributes significantly to cultural and political harmonisation in the country by means of focused study and research opportunities in crucial areas such as conflict transformation and management, group dynamics, cultural diversity management and leadership development.

Niche areas:

  • Dynamics of cross-cultural relations
  • Identity and Marginality
  • Transculturality / transculturalism
  • Conflict and peace studies
  • Comparative and socio-historical literature studies
  • Applied linguistics

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Leadership, governance and democracy

Nelson Mandela University offers a wide range of study and research opportunities, as well as consultancy services, pertaining to leadership development, conflict resolution and management, group dynamics and political philosophy and dynamics. Nelson Mandela University is currently the only university offering master’s programmes in Group Dynamics and Conflict Transformation and Management.

The Nelson Mandela University Business School houses a Unit for Professional Ethics which provides training and consultancy services in the practice of ethics in the business environment and in corporate governance. This unit fosters an understanding of values in our transitional society and makes an active contribution to sustain a culture of integrity in public life.

The unit is also actively involved in national and international organisations such as the Business Ethics Network of Africa (BEN-Africa) represented in 24 African countries, and the International Society for Business Ethics and Economics (ISBEE).

Niche areas:

  • Dynamics of cross-cultural relations
  • Identity and marginality
  • Transculturality / transculturalism
  • Conflict and peace studies
  • Social ethics

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Educational development

The mission of our Faculty of Education and its Centre for Research Technology and Innovation (CERTI) is to offer quality teacher education and to generate meaningful research that is applicable to both South African and international contexts.

Our Faculty of Education also boasts the country’s first Action Research Unit providing opportunity to staff and postgraduate students to undertake hands-on research offering active solutions to challenges that impact on education.

Nelson Mandela University serves its varied communities via innovative projects and technologies. These engagement projects, with signigicant research components, address specific needs in the educational environment with a strong focus on science and mathematics education, special needs education, educational management, HIV/Aids education and curriculum studies.

Our Off-Campus Unit also coordinates a range of programmes to teachers – especially for upgrading purposes – and services at various delivery sites throughout the country.

Niche areas:

  • Science and mathematics education
  • Special needs education
  • Educational management
  • HIV/Aids education
  • Curriculum studies

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Visit our academic faculties’ websites for more information on each department’s research areas and fields of expertise.

Contact Information
Nomakwezi Mzilikazi
Dr Kwezi Mzilikazi
Position: Director: Research Management
Department: Research & Engagement
Room: Main building, 13-12, South Campus
Location: South Campus
Phone: 0415044535
Qualifications: PhD: Zoology