Our institute was founded in 1995 (initially called 'Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies') as a specialist unit in the School of Government, in the Economic and Management Sciences Faculty, at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town. The main purpose of the Programme was to undertake policy-oriented research to support the newly elected government in implementing its land reform policies.
Within a short time, it developed a strong international reputation for doing high quality in-depth research on matters related to these policies: the politics of human rights and access to land; the institutions of land governance, tenure and natural resource management; farm workers’ living and working conditions; and so on.
On 20 January 2009, it underwent a name change, officially becoming an Institute of the University, as the University took strides to redefine itself as a research-based institution, setting out an Institutional Operating Plan that emphasised the importance of socially relevant research, and identifying PLAAS as an important component of its strategy.
PLAAS continues to do cutting edge research, to teach and to publish in many international journals on a wide variety of topics. It is a hub of expertise, cutting-edge work and intellectual excitement. As an academic platform in which Southern researchers and academics can engage, intellectually and practically, with the pressing issues of our time, we have created a value-based organisation, strongly committed to collegiality and trust, in which it is possible for staff to do high quality, vibrant work in the service of equitable policy and social justice.