The Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU)‚ located within the School of Economics‚ aims to inform economic and social policy-making by producing academically rigorous research into various labour market challenges‚ their causes in areas such as education and regulation‚ and their consequences as manifest in poverty and inequality. 
Through the application of economic and statistical techniques, our goal is to produce academically rigorous policy analysis.

The three core objectives of the unit are:
• Fostering high-quality ‚ policy-relevant research within the DPRU‚
• Training a new generation of research economists within the DPRU‚
• Disseminating knowledge to decision-makers in government‚ the private sector and civil society.

The Unit publishes a successful Working Paper series as well as a Policy Brief series‚ Labour Market Fact Sheets and various other publications. These are all freely available on the DPRU website.


The Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) is a collaborative association of academic researchers specialising in environmental and natural resource issues. Members of EPRU include seven senior researchers and several junior researchers (mostly PhD and master's students) based in the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town. The unit is the South African branch of an international network, the Environment for Development Initiative (EfD). It was established in 2007 to promote sustainable development and poverty reduction in Southern Africa through policy-relevant research. During this time, EPRU has built extensive experience in research related to issues of sustainable development, behavioural change/green nudging, utilities research and ecosystems management, and is now focusing its areas of specialisation around the themes of:

  • Climate Change, Energy, Water and Waste
  • Land, living resources and community wellbeing
  • Ecosystems Management and Nature Based Solutions

EPRU strives to become a centre of excellence in environmental and resource economics in Southern Africa from which decision makers will seek well-researched advice.


Policy Research in International Services and Manufacturing (PRISM) is a research and policy unit located in the School of Economics. PRISM conducts research and policy work on a wide range of issues, including firm performance, globalisation, global value chains, industrialisation and the green economy.  A feature of PRISM's work is its applied focus, responding to economic policy questions issues in South Africa, the rest of Africa and beyond. The unit serves as a research home for academics and postgraduate students within the School of Economics, as well as self-funded researchers. The unit strives to produce high-quality research with policy relevance.


The Research Unit in Behavioural Economics and Neuroeconomics (RUBEN) is a group of researchers who use the methodology of experimental economics, both in the lab and the field, to examine the role that preferences, beliefs, and constraints play in economic decision-making. The vision that accompanied the establishment and accreditation of RUBEN was to set up a formal structure in the School of Economics (SoE) at UCT that would establish an anchor in Africa around which to concentrate research leadership, training, and technical resources in the use of economic experiments, and the application of principles of behavioural economics in policy design and implementation, for the benefit of researchers throughout the continent.

RUBEN is currently one of two centres for behavioural and experimental economics research on the African continent. The research programme of RUBEN is varied, including work on risk, uncertainty, discounting behaviour, social preferences, subjective beliefs, public goods provision, and the use of behavioural interventions to enhance policy implementation. The common strand in this research is the use of experimental and behavioural economic techniques, together with microeconomic theory, to better understand these issues. RUBEN’s associates are highly-rated researchers who have advanced the use of behavioural and experimental economics in South Africa and the continent at large and continue to make important academic contributions in leading international publications.

RUBEN has hosted a series of academic conferences and workshops which have brought renowned international researchers to UCT to discuss cutting-edge developments in behavioural and experimental economics. This has been possible through RUBEN’s link with the Center for the Economic Analysis of Risk (CEAR) at Georgia State University.


The Research Unit on the Economics of Excisable Products (REEP) was officially accredited as a research unit in 2019 but has a history that dates back to the 1990s. The aim of the unit is to support policymakers in South Africa and beyond in implementing effective policies to improve public health, especially in the area of tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages. 

The focus of the unit is on using fiscal means (specifically excise taxation) to discourage the use of these products. The unit has strong links with the World Health Organisation and other IGOs. The unit consists of about eight researchers and is directed by Corné van Walbeek. Closely associated with REEP is the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Knowledge Hub on Tobacco Taxation. 


The Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) was established in 1975 in the Research Division of the School of Economics at the University of Cape Town. SALDRU carries out applied empirical research and capacity building with an emphasis on poverty and inequality, labour markets, human capital and social policy. The unit strives for academic excellence and policy relevance.

SALDRU has always implemented a range of innovative surveys in South Africa. Building on these large data-gathering projects, SALDRU conducts a range of training and capacity-building activities in the use of survey data to analyse social well-being.

openSALDRU is SALDRU’s publications repository. It catalogues all of SALDRU’s research, including more than 250 working papers, conference proceedings, policy briefs, metadata and links for journal articles.


The Water and Production Economics unit in the School of Economics addresses one of modern societies’ critical challenges: the competing use of water resources to promote increased production.  Water is becoming a scarce resource in areas where demand exceeds supply. Often, water scarcity is exacerbated by bad water quality, which generates a lot of negative economic impact and health-related problems. For emerging and developing countries, these challenges are associated with the need to increase their production capacity to promote sustainable development. This requires innovative approaches that create conducive environments that encourage greater and more sustainable economic opportunities. WPE strives to address these challenges.

WPE serves as a platform that supports research, capacity building, and policy outreach in the field of water and production economics. We initiate and develop research and capacity-building activities in the field to address challenging economic, social, and environmental questions that impact human lives and technological progress. WPE leverages many years of expertise in the field of water economics through the involvement of academics and students. A strong focus is given to capacity building to nurture the next generation of scientists.