UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Alumni Spotlight: Justin van Wyk

Meet Justin van Wyk, Prosperity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship graduate (2021-22). He has a startup focusing on AI and is working within Wealth Management.

Justin van Wyk head shot

What is your background and why did you choose to study the Prosperity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship MSc at the Institute for Global Prosperity?

I spent my career in Wealth Management, however I applied for the MSc PIE as I was involved with Urban Farming and Entrepreneurship Projects in Johannesburg. I noticed that wanted to learn about more about alternative entrepreneurial model as I noticed that the traditional models didn’t work as well within the vulnerable communities I was working with. 

What did you enjoy the most about studying with the IGP?

I loved the people the course attracted, and from whom I learned an immense amount from. The diverse backgrounds (age, professions culture etc) allowed me to learn so much more than I thought. It allowed me to challenge my own ideas and understandings of how I believed the world function. 

Which topics, extracurriculars, or electives did you find most interesting and why?

My favourite module was the Urban Futures Module. It really challenged and stretched my understanding of how the urban environment has been constructed and how it has and still affects its usage and by whom it is used by. It was fascinating to understand and learn about pivotal urban planning is to the how cities are used and by whom they are used by. The course was very interactive and had many fields trips which added value to the learning experience. 

Can you tell us about your experience around the Chevening Scholarship Scheme and how it has helped you? 

I had the most amazing year. After over 10 years of working, Chevening allowed me to pursue and area of studies that is not available in my home country. The many events that Chevening hosts allows you to truly immerse yourself in the Chevenig and UK culture whilst opening up a massive network to learn and grow from. 

What does prosperity mean to you?

It means living a fulfilled life. 

Can you tell us about your experience outside study, such as living in London or travelling in the UK, and how it has shaped or inspired you?

I travelled around the UK, from Margate to Plymouth I learned a great deal about the various regions history and cultures. I made use of all the free walking tours and visited the museums, had the traditional pub lunches and drank the local beers. UK culture is diverse and vibrant, you just need to open yourself up to new experiences. 

What have you been doing since graduating and how did your MSc help you progress in your career?

I have a startup focusing on AI and working within Wealth Management 

What advice would you give to new IGP students and to those thinking of applying?

Be open to new learnings. You will be exposed to different ideas, experiences and people from different backgrounds (experience, cultural, geographic etc) who are all focused on trying to solve issues facing their communities and countries. This bring both fun and learning into your life! 

Do you have recent book, film or podcast that you would recommend? 

I am reading a book called the Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz 

What was the topic of your dissertation and could you share your journey around it?

I investigated creating the Genuine Progress Indicator for South Africa. It is an alternative metric to GDP in determining how wellbeing is affected by externalities created by economic activity such as pollution, inequality and or loss of ecosystems. The topic came into being after talking with Prof Costanza about alternative wellbeing metrics, he pointed out that the GPI was yet to be constructed for South Africa. 


Hear more from Justin on the Life of PIE podcast 

An ‘addiction’ to GDP has led to policies that favour increased economic production without consideration of the effects on society or the environment. In this episode with Justin Van Wyk (UCL MSc PIE alumnus) and Robert Costanza (Professor of Ecological Economics at UCL Institute for Global Prosperity), we discuss the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), one of several alternative measures to GDP which takes into consideration the impact of economic activity on social wellbeing.

Listen on Spotify