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Award details

Oppenheimer Impact Scholar project on Adaptation to Coastal Hazards in Southern Africa (funded training post)

About the award

We are recruiting an ‘Oppenheimer Impact Scholar’, a 2-2.5 year training post that combines a full scholarship to undertake a 12-month MSc in Global Sustainability Solutions at the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus in the UK, followed by a research associate post based at the University of Cape Town (UCT) for a further 12-18 months. This project on adaptation to improve resilience to the coastal hazards associated with sea levels rise (SLR) and storm surges in southern Africa, aiming to help planners incorporate information and decision-making tools addressing coastal hazards into their decision-making processes. The project is part of the Oppenheimer Programme in African Landscape Systems (OPALS, jointly funded by the University of Exeter and Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation).

OPALS seeks to (i) Support a strong, credible, and connected voice for African communities, land managers and researchers in the global climate and ecological crisis (ii) Co-produce science-based solutions to understand, mitigate and adapt to environmental change, growing sustainable and resilient socio-environmental systems in Africa. (iii) Support leadership in environmentally sustainable management across Africa.

The post will commence in September 2023. The award will cover international tuition fees for the MSc programme and a tax-free stipend of £17,668 for one year, followed by a salary of 18,000 ZAR per month while employed as a research associate. Additional funds are available to support the impact delivery of this project. The placement with UCT could potentially be extended by a further six months, if mutually agreed by all parties.


Dr Ricardo Safra De Campos, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Exeter
Dr Andrew Cunliffe, Oppenheimer Senior Research Fellow, University of Exeter
Dr Gina Ziervogel, Associate Professor, University of Cape Town
Tamaryn Morris, Senior Scientist, Marine Coordinator, South African Weather Service
Dr Tom Powell, Oppenheimer Impact Fellow University of Exeter

The challenge

The coastline of southern Africa is particularly vulnerable to relative SLR and worsening storm surges under global climate change. Given a business-as-usual scenario and 1.5°C global warming by the 2030s, SLR in southern Africa is likely to exceed 50 cm by the 2070s. Without mitigation, warming to 4°C by 2100 will likely result in over a metre of SLR in this region. The eastern coastline of southern Africa is also near to a concentration of tropical cyclone activity in the Western Indian Ocean. Tropical cyclones are a major natural disaster risk in the region and have killed ca. 700 people and affected > 3 million people between 1950 and 2010. Coastal cities such as Maputo and Durban are particularly vulnerable due to their geomorphology, proximity to tropical storms and storm surge conditions, and high rates of population growth and urbanization. Major impacts include coastal flooding, loss of dry land (including agricultural land), salinity intrusion threatening supplies of drinking water, and forced migration, in additional to the large economic costs caused by flood damage to coastal infrastructure.

The project

The Scholar will receive training to undertake a project that improves the accessibility and value of scientific information and predictions to policy-makers and planning practitioners in coastal settings, to support sustainable development and adaptation to rising sea levels and increasing storm surges. During the MSc programme, the Scholar’s dissertation project will focus on costal hazards and adaptation to mitigate risks in southern Africa. During the second phase, the Scholar will primarily focus on their adaptation project and continue to engage closely with academics from the University of Exeter on a weekly basis. After an initial orientation with SAWS, the initial six-month phase of the placement will entail developing a model of coastal hazards in part of Mozambique with Deflt3D and time with the University of Cape Town. The trainee will then transfer to Durban, Republic of South Africa, for a period of six to twelve months, to work closely with stakeholders in the region, including the eThekwini municipality in Durban and others at province and district levels in Mozambique, to help planners incorporate information and decision-making tools addressing coastal hazards into their decision-making processes.

The successful applicant should be passionate about promoting ‘futures literacy’ in society. They will be a member of a large team of 20 scholars through the wider programme of foundational and applied research activity, working with Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation and other partners across the Continent. They will be supported to engage with the broader OPALS activity, such as events at Exeter, presenting their findings at research conferences, contributing to reports on project activity, and ensuring that all outputs (data, models, publications etc.) are ultimately made available open access for wider benefit.

Entry requirements

Candidates must hold citizenship of an African Nation, and preference will be given to Mozambican nationals.

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained qualifications equivalent to a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, in an appropriate area of science or technology, and have applied for a place on MSc Global Sustainability Solutions. The candidate should have a foundation in coastal engineering, coastal management, sustainable development, risk management, physical geography, environmental science, or a related subject. They should have basic numeracy and programming skills to enable them to undertake basic quantitative analysis of environmental data. They should have an understanding of adaptation to mitigate coastal hazards, a willingness to conduct fieldwork in remote locations, and a passion to inform adaptive management options to have a positive impact in society. Please refer to the person specification for additional information on the selection criteria.

If English is not your first language, you will need to meet our English language requirements. For details about the specific English language requirements for our Postgraduate programmes, please see here: There may be scope to support a precessional English course to help achieve these requirements.

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.

Letter of application in English (2-page max. outlining your academic interests, prior research experience, and motivation to undertake this project).
Letter of application in Portuguese (2-page max. outlining your academic interests, prior research experience, and motivation to undertake this project).
CV (4-pages max, please do not include photographs, ethnicity, date of birth, marital status, or religion etc as under UK law these protected characteristics will not be considered and please refer to person specification for the areas of assessment)
Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (if you are still studying this should be an interim transcript).
• Names and contact details of two referees familiar with your academic/professional work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country, you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

Please apply using the online application form.

Please note that you will be required to provide your student number as part of the application process, which will be provided to you when you submit an application for MSc Global Sustainability Solutions.

The closing date for applications is midnight GMT on 3rd of April 2023.  Interviews will be held virtually in April or May 2023.

If you have general enquiries about the application process, please visit or phone +44 (0) 1392 661000. Project-specific queries should be directed to Dr Ricardo Safra De Campos ( and/or Dr Andrew Cunliffe (


Application deadline:3rd April 2023
Number of awards:1
Value:training post: tuition fee; stipend; paid internship and allowances
Duration of award:Variable
Contact: +44 (0) 1392 661000