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Areas of Interest

Research Units

The "commercial law" classification includes a broad range of interest areas in Law. At the Department we have specialists in company law, tax, labour, insolvency, securities, telecommunications, and e-law to name just a few.

In the Faculty's Research Units specialists are able to focus in on socially engaged and responsive research into matters directly impacting society, the fiscus, the environment, and the corporate sector, amongst other areas. These units are the Tax Institute for Fiscal Research, Institute of Development and Labour Law, the Shipping Law Unit, Centre for Comparative Law in Africa and the Intellectual Property Law and Policy Research Unit.

Tax Unit for Fiscal Research

With the South African fiscus more dependant than ever on a strong tax framework and dispensation, and with recent high-profile efforts to stabilise South Africa's Revenue Service and tax collection capabilities, the Tax Unit for Fiscal Research is more important than ever.  The Unit serves as an interdisciplinary group that is focused not only on South African tax law but also, importantly, International Tax law. 

Drawing on global knowledge and research networks in developing fiscal knowledge for the benefit of developing countries, the Unit's works has a particular focus on countries on the African continent, including South Africa.  

Home for many postgraduate students doing their LLM in Tax Law or International Tax Law, the unit also plays an important role in skilling up and retaining African expertise within Africa. Academic staff working with the Unit teach a range of tax courses across the Faculties of Law and Commerce, as well as organising and participating in conferences, seminars and public discussions on tax, and tax law.  In addition, the Unit undertakes research projects and consultancies for government bodies and private entities . 

With its feet firmly in Law and Commerce at UCT, the Unit has a comprehensive cooperation agreement with the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD), and works closely with them with regard to teaching, research, knowledge development & sharing, and publication.

Founded in 2015, the Unit's vision is to be Africa’s leading academic research institute in fiscal matters.

The Institute of Development and Labour Law

The Institute was established at the beginning of 1996 through the merger of the Labour Law Unit (established in 1987) and the Institute of Development Law (established in 1992). It is situated in the Faculty of Law. The objectives of the Institute are to promote research into the law relating to development and labour in Southern Africa, foster links and provide a reference point for scholarship and policy. It convenes conferences, seminars and workshops. It is also produces, either independently or as part of joint projects, several publications, including the Industrial Law Journal and the Southern African Development and Labour Monographs. The Institute also runs postgraduate diplomas in Employment Law and Dispute Resolution as part of the School of Advanced Legal Studies programme.

The Shipping Law Unit

With South Africa positioned as it is to serve some of the world's busiest shipping routes, and with global maritime trade continously growing, the Shipping Law Unit provides space for teaching and research in Admiralty law and practice and in all private law aspects of the law relating to the sea and ships, and serves as an information & advice centre to the shipping industry, also monitoring developments in maritime law and policy in South Africa and abroad.

For more information contact Associate Professor Graham Bradfield.    

Centre for Comparative Law in Africa

The Centre for Comparative Law in Africa (CCLA) was established in 2011 to promote the study of comparative law and draw on the strengths of comparative methodology to research into the multifaceted field of law in Africa. The Centre presents an opportunity to develop a discipline that lends itself to optimal application in the pluralistic legal frameworks within which life is lived in Africa. In its mission to contribute to the development of comparative law in Africa, the strategy of the CCLA is to establish the field at UCT, build capacity in it across the continent through academic programmes, apply comparative law expertise in consultancies and disseminate new knowledge in comparative law in Africa through conferences, publications and professional networks. Its location within the Department of Commercial Law recognises the centrality of comparative law to ongoing efforts at economic integration on the African continent. The CCLA offers an LLM and a postgraduate diploma specialising in Comparative Law and conducts research on a variety of themes that apply the comparative methodology. The CCLA also provides support for Africa-focused doctoral research and undertakes capacity-building programmes in various issues of law in development in Africa that require comparative methods.

Intellectual Property Law and Policy Research Unit

The debate on intellectual property law and global issues increasingly necessitates policy research and analysis which is relevant to addressing the needs of developing and emerging economies. South Africa has an important part to play in defining the manner in which these ever-developing challenges are identified, analysed, understood and addressed. This area of law is expanding rapidly, particularly with the growth of digital technologies and considerations that need to be accommodated in terms of IP.  The IP Unit believes that it is critical that developing countries participate in the evolution of the Intellectual Property policy and law systems not only in their own countries, but also globally. This would serve to ensure that any changes take full account of the needs of emerging economies and serve to benefit these economies.

The UCT's IP Unit engages in research and teaching primarily in the area of new and emerging technologies in the fields of biotechnology, information science and technology, medical science and agriculture, and specialises in patent law, copyright law, and access & benefit-sharing issues.

Set up in 2007 as a centre for policy research and teaching in intellectual property law, the Unit is directly involved in local and global discussions on copyright, South Africa's Copyright Act and recent Amendment Bill, and intellectual property.