University of Cape Town (UCT)
University of Cape Town (UCT) – The University of Cape Town (UCT) is a public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, and is the oldest university in South Africa and the second oldest extant university in Africa. UCT is the highest-ranked African university in the QS World University Rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and its Law and Commerce Faculties are consistently placed among the hundred best internationally. The language of instruction is English.
Founded in 1829, UCT has a proud tradition of academic excellence and effecting social change and development through its pioneering scholarship, faculty and students.
It is also renowned for its striking beauty, with its campus located at the foot of Table Mountain’s Devil’s Peak, with panoramic views of much of Cape Town.
UCT is very similar to the city of Cape Town: it has a vibrant, cosmopolitan community. It is a cultural melting pot where each person contributes their unique blend of knowledge and thinking. Our staff and students come from over 100 countries in Africa and the rest of the world. The university has also built links, partnerships and exchange agreements with leading African and international institutions that further enrich the academic, social and cultural diversity of our campus.
This heritage characterises the experience of studying at UCT, where our students are introduced to a life of leadership and service through social engagement. They also have the opportunity to hone their leadership skills by participating in the over 100 clubs and societies on campus, as well as in student governance.
As a university we are committed to producing graduates who are not only well-educated, but also mindful of the responsibilities of democratic citizenship. This is important as higher education in general has a duty to develop an educated and thoughtful citizenry, which is a critical element of a successful democracy. This is the basis upon which UCT makes its most profound contribution to the development and transformation of our society.
UCT’s reputation for excellence is underpinned by its distinctive research, led by its distinguished faculty, many of whom are world-leaders in their field. Our researchers also teach and so ensure that our undergraduate and postgraduate students benefit directly from the latest scholarly work and discoveries.
Universities have the unique opportunity to influence the future of our society by educating and shaping the future leaders of the country – both in business and government. Our reputation as a leading research and teaching university is also embodied by the quality of our alumni, many of whom continue to make outstanding contributions to society.
Please browse freely through these web pages for information on all aspects of the university. You may also look at our photo albums that capture the highlights of life at UCT.
HISTORY OF University of Cape Town
The University of Cape Town (UCT) is South Africa’s oldest university, and is one of Africa’s leading teaching and research institutions.
The birth of an institution – University of Cape Town (UCT)
The University of Cape Town was founded in 1829 as the South African College, a high school for boys.
The College had a small tertiary-education facility that grew substantially after 1880, when the discovery of gold and diamonds in the north – and the resulting demand for skills in mining – gave it the financial boost it needed to grow.
The College developed into a fully fledged university during the period 1880 to 1900, thanks to increased funding from private sources and the government.
During these years, the College built its first dedicated science laboratories, and started the departments of mineralogy and geology to meet the need for skilled personnel in the country’s emerging diamond and gold-mining industries.
Another key development during this period was the admission of women. In 1886 the Professor of Chemistry, Paul Daniel Hahn, convinced the Council to admit four women into his chemistry class on a trial basis. Owing to the exceptional standard of work by the women students, the College decided to admit women students permanently in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1887.
The years 1902 to 1918 saw the establishment of the Medical School, the introduction of engineering courses and a Department of Education.
UCT was formally established as a university in 1918, on the basis of the Alfred Beit bequest and additional substantial gifts from mining magnates Julius Wernher and Otto Beit. The new university also attracted substantial support from well-wishers in the Cape Town area and, for the first time, a significant state grant.
Ten years later, in 1928, the university was able to move the bulk of its facilities to the magnificent site at Groote Schuur on the slopes of Devil’s Peak on land bequeathed to the nation by Cecil John Rhodes as the site for a national university, where it celebrated its centenary the following year.
“Moscow on the Hill”
Apart from establishing itself as a leading research and teaching university in the decades that followed, UCT earned itself this nickname during the period 1960 to 1990 for its sustained opposition to apartheid, particularly in higher education.
The university admitted its first small group of black students in the 1920s. The number of black students remained relatively low until the 1980s and 90s, when the institution, reading and welcoming the signs of change in the country, committed itself to a deliberate and planned process of internal transformation.
From the 1980s to the early 1990s, the number of black students admitted to the university rose by 35 percent. By 2004, nearly half of UCT’s 20 000 students were black and just under half of the student body was female. Today we have one of the most diverse campuses in South Africa.
Today, against the backdrop of a rapidly changing and diversifying democratic society, UCT is implementing an action guide on transformation looking at issues such as staff diversity, student equity and access, the curriculum, leadership and governance, and attitudes and behaviour.
The university views transformation as a multifaceted and integrated process by which it continuously renews itself in an ongoing effort to represent in all aspects of its life and functions the vision and ideals of its mission and values. In this effort, UCT strives to redress past injustices, promote equal opportunity for all, reflect in the profile of its students and staff the demographics of South Africa, safeguard human rights and ensure that its system of governance, its teaching and learning, and its research and service uphold the inherent dignity of all and meet the development needs of South Africa’s emerging democracy.
For further information on UCT’s transformation process view the transformation pages.
Aspiring to academic excellence – University of Cape Town (UCT)
UCT’s success can be can be measured by the scope of study it offers and the calibre of its graduates.
The university has six faculties – Commerce, Engineering & the Built Environment, Law, Health Sciences, Humanities and Science – which are supported by UCT’s Centre for Higher Education Development, which addresses students’ teaching and learning needs.
Among its more than 100 000 alumni are the late Professor Christiaan Barnard, the world-renowned heart surgeon, and three Nobel laureates, Sir Aaron Klug, the late Professor Alan MacLeod Cormack and JM Coetzee.
UCT also has more than 60 specialist research units that provide supervision for postgraduate work and is home to more than a quarter of South Africa’s A-rated researchers – academics who are considered world leaders in their fields.
UCT continues to work towards its goal to be Africa’s leading research university.
The early history of the university is also set out in:
The History of the SA College: 1829-1918 (2 volumes), by William Ritchie (Maskew Miller, Cape Town, 1918)
The SA College and the University of Cape Town: 1829-1929, by Eric A Walker (Centenary Volume published for the Council of the University of Cape Town by the Cape Times, 1929)
The History of the University of Cape Town 1928-1948: The Formative Years, by Howard Phillips.
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