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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 making it the oldest higher education institute in South Africa, it is jointly the oldest university in South Africa and the oldest extant university in Sub-Saharan Africa alongside Stellenbosch University which received full university status on the same day in 1918. 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.

University of Cape Town
Universiteit van Kaapstad
iYunivesithi yaseKapa
Coat of arms of the University of Cape Town
Former names
South African College
Motto Spes Bona
Motto in English
Good Hope
Type Public
Established 1 October 1829
Endowment R5,519 million[1] (US$426 million as of 2016)
Chancellor Graça Machel
Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 29 074
Undergraduates 18 421
Postgraduates 10 653
Location Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
33°57′27″S 18°27′38″E / 33.95750°S 18.46056°E / -33.95750; 18.46056Coordinates: 33°57′27″S 18°27′38″E / 33.95750°S 18.46056°E / -33.95750; 18.46056
Campus 4 suburban and 2 urban campuses
Colours Light Blue, Dark Blue, Black and White                    
Nickname Ikeys
Affiliations AAU, ACU, CHEC, HESA, IAU, WUN
Mascot Tiger
University of Cape Town logo



The roots of UCT lie in the establishment of the South African College in 1829 as a school for boys. In 1874 the South African College Schools, teaching up to secondary level, were separated from the College, which prepared students for the examinations of the University of the Cape of Good Hope. In 1887 the first male residence in Southern Africa was established, known as College House Residence, under the initiative of Professor C.E. Lewis. In 1918 the South African College was elevated to full university status with the power to award degrees, and renamed the University of Cape Town.

UCT moved to the Groote Schuur Estate campus in 1928. During the apartheid era, roughly 1960-1990, many UCT students consistently opposed apartheid, and the university was a bastion of liberalism. However, the demographics of the university did not begin to change meaningfully until the 1980s and especially the 1990s.[2] 1987 saw frequent clashes between protesting students and police, with reporting of police presence on the campus being censored by the government. On 24 April 1987 the police entered the campus and this marked the first time since 1972 that South Africa's police services had suppressed a demonstration at a white university.[3]

The UCT crest was designed in 1859 by Charles Davidson Bell, Surveyor-General of the Cape Colony at the time. Bell was an accomplished artist who also designed medals and the triangular Cape stamp.


A view of Upper Campus, looking west from the rugby fields that separate Upper Campus from Middle Campus, with Devil's Peak in the background.

The main teaching campus, known as Upper Campus, is located on the Rhodes Estate on the slopes of Devil's Peak. This campus contains, in a relatively compact site, the faculties of Science, Engineering, Commerce, and Humanities (except for the arts departments), as well as Smuts Hall and Fuller Hall residences. Upper Campus is centered on Jameson Hall, the location for graduation and other ceremonial events, as well as many examinations. The original buildings and layout of Upper Campus were designed by JM Solomon and built between 1928 and 1930. Since that time, many more buildings have been added as the university has grown. Upper Campus is also home to the main library, The Chancellor Oppenheimer library which holds the majority of the University's 1.3 million volume collection.

Hiddingh Hall Library on Hiddingh Campus in Gardens, Cape Town.

Contiguous with Upper Campus, but separated from it by university sports fields and the M3 expressway, are the Middle and Lower Campuses. These campuses, which are spread through the suburbs of Rondebosch, Rosebank and Mowbray, contain the Law faculty, the South African College of Music, the School of Economics, most of the student residences, most of the university administrative offices, and various sporting facilities. The state of the art artificial grass soccer field has been approved by FIFA for training for World Cup teams.[4] The Upper, Middle and Lower Campuses together are often referred to as the "main campus".

Jameson Hall and Jammie Plaza, the focal point Upper Campus.

The Faculty of Health Sciences is located on the Medical School campus next to the Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory. The Fine Arts and Drama departments are located on the Hiddingh Campus in central Cape Town. The University's original building, now known as the Egyptian Building, on the Hiddingh campus, was built in the Egyptian Revival style. The only other campus built in this style was the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia in the United States. The UCT Graduate School of Business is located on the Breakwater Lodge Campus at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

For his contribution of the tract of land which the campus was founded on, a bronze statue of Cecil Rhodes was erected in 1934 on the Upper Campus, overlooking the university's rugby fields. The statue was removed in April 2015 following pressure from student groups due to its perceived representation of South Africa's racist past and the university's inadequate representation of blacks.

Residential hallsEdit

  • Smuts Hall is located on the upper campus, and provides housing for around 240 students. On 10 November 1950, the name "Smuts Hall" was formally adopted, named after Field Marshal The Rt. Hon. Jan Smuts. The hall was constructed as part of the first phase of the University of Cape Town's Groote Schuur Campus. The other buildings included Jameson Hall, the Arts Block, the Mathematics Building and the women's residence Fuller Hall. The group of buildings have been declared national monuments. The residents of Smuts Hall have come to be known as the "Smutsmen".[5]
  • Kopano Residence is located at the top of UCT's Lower Campus. Established in 1945 as an accommodation for Ex-servicemen following the end of World War 2. The residence has held many names. Initially known as the "Belsen Residence" after the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lower-Saxony North Germany, it changed its name to the "Driekoppen" Residence during apartheid era South Africa in the 1960s after the infamous story of three black slaves that were tortured and beheaded for an attempted escape, to which the area owes its name for a time past(1724). Following the end of apartheid, and the first democratic elections circa 1994 the residence was given a more South African name "Kopano" Residence which is the Sotho term for "Unity", additionally the motto of the house is "Strength through Unity, Unity through Pride".
  • Graca Machel Hall is located on the Protem site on Lower Campus. Access is gained via Cecil and Chapel roads.The residence is adjacent to the Jammie Shuttle lower campus terminus which provides transport to all campuses. The accommodation is designed around three large courtyards with a total of 382 rooms, made up of 194 single and 94 double rooms, plus four rooms for disabled residents.[6]


The University of Cape Town was originally incorporated as a public university by a private act of Parliament in 1918. At present it is incorporated and structured by an institutional statute issued under the provisions of the Higher Education Act, 1997.

The titular head of the University is the Chancellor; this is a ceremonial position without executive power. The primary role of the Chancellor is to confer degrees on behalf of the University, and to represent the University to the rest of the world. The current Chancellor is Ms Graça Machel, elected for her first 10-year term in September 1999 and re-elected in May 2010.

The Kramer Building, home of the Law Faculty, in 2006. Today, the Student Administration building stands to the north (left, in this photo) of the Kramer building, and to the north east stands the School of Economics building, both of which have been completed in 2011.

The executive head of the University is the Vice-Chancellor (or VC). The VC has the overall responsibility for the policy and administration of the University. The current VC is Dr Max Price, who replaced Professor Njabulo Ndebele on 1 July 2008. The VC is assisted in his task by a number of Deputy Vice-Chancellors (DVCs) who handle specific portfolios. The Registrar is responsible for the academic administration of the University, as well as legal matters, and is secretary to the University Council and Senate.

The academic departments of UCT are divided into six faculties: Commerce, Engineering and the Built Environment, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law, and Science; each faculty is led by a Dean. The multidisciplinary Center for Higher Education Development rates on a level equal to the faculties. Although the Graduate School of Business is considered to be part of the Faculty of Commerce, it is run independently and has its own Dean and Director. The departments of the faculties in listed beneath:

Faculty of Commerce[7]

  • College of Accounting
  • School of Economics (jointly established with Faculty of Humanities
  • Department of Finance and Tax
  • Department of Information Systems
  • School of Management Studies
  • Graduate School of Business

Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment[8]

  • Department of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics
  • Department of Chemical Engineering
  • Department of Civil Engineering
  • Department of Construction Economics and Management
  • Department of Electrical Engineering
  • Department of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty of Health Sciences[9]

  • Department of Anaesthesia and Perioperative Medicine
  • Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
  • Department of Health Sciences Education
  • Department of Human Biology
  • Department of Integrative Biomedical Sciences
  • Department of Medicine
  • Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Department of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • Department of Pathology
  • Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health
  • Department of Public Health and Family Medicine
  • Department of Radiation Medicine
  • Department of Surgery

Faculty of Humanities[10]

  • School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics
  • School of Dance
  • Department of Drama
  • School of Economic (jointly established with Faculty of Commerce)
  • School of Education
  • Department of English Language and Literature
  • Center for Film and Media Studies
  • Michaelis School of Fine Art
  • Department of Historical Studies
  • School of Languages and Literature's
  • South African College of Music
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Political Studies
  • Department of Psychology
  • Department of Religious Studies
  • Department of Social Development
  • Department of Sociology

Faculty of Law [11]

  • Department of Commercial Law
  • Department of Private Law
  • Department of Public Law

Faculty of Science [12]

  • Department of Archaeology
  • Department of Astronomy
  • Department of Biological Sciences
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Computer Science
  • Department of Environmental and Geographic Science
  • Department of Geological Sciences
  • Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
  • Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Department of Oceanography
  • Department of Physics
  • Department of Statistical Sciences


Total research funding: R1.5 billion

Students and staffEdit

As of 2014, 26,357 students were enrolled. The ratio between male and female students is almost exactly 50:50.[citation needed] The student body makeup comprises 30.70% "SA White" students, 43.98% non-white students (SA Black, SA Coloured & SA Indian), and the remaining 25.29% identify as "international" and "other". International students account for 17.73% of total student enrollment at 4674, representing over 100 countries.

Student Enrollment Student enrollment by population group 2009 - 2013, showing percentage growth on base[13][14]

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014  % Growth  % Of Total
SA Black 5068 5323 5744 6012 6199 6813 28.67% 25.23%
SA coloured 3623 3653 3687 3530 3573 3601 0.73% 13.34%
SA Indian 1630 1681 1671 1701 1714 1813 11.6% 6.72%
SA white 8984 9183 8992 8814 8434 8093 -10.69% 30%
International 3821 4171 4268 4802 4708 4674 19.57% 17.32%
Other 886 1003 1146 1191 1488 1993 73.28% 7.39%
Total 24012 25014 25508 26505 26116 26987 -0.32% 100%

UCT employs over 5000 staff members of whom 44% are academic staff; the rest are administrative and support staff. In 2007 UCT had 866 permanent academic staff members. Between 85% and 90% of academic staff hold doctoral or masters qualifications.[citation needed]

The UCT Employment Equity Plan April (2010 to March 2015) indicates moderate but consistent changes in the demographic makeup of the staff body. The five-year plan specifies specific targets ranging from between about 5% to 10% adjustments in the representation of SA Black staff. According to the plan the staff makeup would have changed by 2015 by achieving either parity or more SA Black staff than SA white in all categories other than senior lecturer and professor positions.[15]

Student lifeEdit

UCT has 36 different sports clubs, including team sports, individual sports, extreme sports and martial arts.[16] The university's sports teams, and in particular the rugby union team, are known as the "Ikey Tigers" or the "Ikeys". The "Ikey" nickname originated in the 1910s as an anti-semitic epithet applied to UCT students by the students of Stellenbosch University, because of the supposed large number of Jewish students at UCT.[17] Stellenbosch is UCT's traditional rugby opponent; an annual "Intervarsity" match is played between the two universities. UCT has a total exceeding 9000 recognised sports participants.[18]

Looking south on the north end of University Avenue on Upper Campus.

There are more than 80 student societies at UCT; these fall generally into five categories:[19]

  • Academic societies for those interested in a particular field of study or studying a particular topic: The most prominent of these include the History and Current Affairs Society (HCA), United Nations Association of South Africa (UNASA) and Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ).
  • Political societies, including branches of the youth wings of national political parties such as the South African Students Congress (SASCO), the Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO), and the African National Congress Youth League.
  • Religious societies, some of which are associated with religious denominations or local places of worship.
  • National/cultural societies for students from particular countries or particular ethnic backgrounds.
  • Special interest societies (such as RainbowUCT, the university's LGBTI society, UCT Mountain & Ski Club, UCT Ballroom and Latin dancing) for those interested in various activities or issues.

In addition to the plethora of student societies, there are several student organisations dedicated to the development of communities surrounding the University in the Cape Metropolitan Area. Some of the biggest include: SHAWCO, Ubunye and RAG.[20] Recently, several students movements have developed, such as the Green Campus Initiative.


University rankings
ARWU World[21] 301-400
Times World[23] 171
QS World[22] 191
ARWU Africa[21] 2
Times Africa[25] 1
QS Africa[24] 1

The University of Cape Town achieved a rank of 191 in the 2018 QS World University Rankings[22] and a rank of 171 in the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings,[23] making it the highest-ranked African university in these rankings. It is ranked in the 301-400 by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities, placing it second in the continent behind the University of the Witwatersrand.[21]


Notable alumniEdit

J. M. Coetzee, twice awarded the Booker Prize and awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature, read mathematics and was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts at the University of Cape Town.

Five of the University's graduates have become Nobel Laureates:[26]

Notable staff (past and present)Edit

Notable researchEdit


A debate at UCT over the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes spawned Rhodes Must Fall movement. UCT also spawned the subsequent FeesMustFall movement.

Destruction and censorship of artEdit

Since the removal of the Rhodes statue, other art has been removed or destroyed. FeesMustFall students burned 23 of the university's historical paintings in February 2016.[31][32]

According to GroundUp, art experts connected to the university are concerned about intolerance towards art at the institution, as UCT has removed and censored 75 further "vulnerable" art which it claims are offensive to students.[33][34]

An Artworks Task Team was set up in September 2015 to assess art at the university "with a view to transformation and inclusivity",[34] and went about finding "artworks on campus that may be seen to recognize or celebrate colonial oppressors and/or which may be offensive or controversial", and specifically artworks deemed to be "offensive" in their depiction of black people. Both Stanley Pinker’s Decline and Fall, which makes ironic use of colonial iconology, and Breyten Breytenbach's Hovering Dog, which shows a black person wearing a white mask and a white person wearing a black mask, were removed;[33] and Diane Victor’s Pasiphaë, which depicts black farmers with allusions to Greek mythology, was covered by a wooden panel.[31] In response, Breyten Breytenbach remarked that UCT were making fools of themselves,[35] while Diane Victor thought UCT's actions were “slightly comical” and her artwork was being understood on a “simplistic level”.[36]

Jacques Rousseau, chair of the Academic Freedom Committee, told GroundUp: “There are a number of artworks in UCT’s collection that could legitimately be regarded as problematic. Even so, any piece of art is potentially offensive to someone, and the very point of art is to provoke reflection and sometimes discomfort." The Academic Freedom Committee noted with "grave concern recent instances of threats to academic freedom".[33]

The South African Human Rights Commission was investigating the matter as of May 2017, in order to determine whether the University was infringing on the constitutional right to freedom of expression, in particular the right to artistic creativity.[34]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Annual Report for the year ended 31 December 2009 (PDF). University of Cape Town. p. 33. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "South African Universities: The University of Cape Town". ShowMe™ - Cape Town. Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  3. ^ Cape Times, staff reporter, front page, Saturday, 25 April 1987. "Large parts of the University of Cape Town campus were at times uninhabitable yesterday afternoon and some lectures were disrupted as a result of actions by certain people which may not be reported in terms of state-of-emergency press censorship. South African Breweries suffered a R120 000 loss when a cab of one of their vehicles was burnt on Upper Campus in the wake of a students’ protest march over the deaths of six railway workers and the dismissal of 16 000 others. The government’s Interdepartmental Press Liaison Centre, last night refused the Cape Times permission to publish the full facts concerning the day’s events at UCT. They also refused the newspaper permission to publish three photographs taken during the afternoon, including one of the burnt out vehicle. A four-hour confrontation between the people who may not be identified and about 150 – 200 students followed a lunch time meeting attended by about 700 students, called to protest at the deaths and firing of SA Railway’s and Harbour’s Workers Union (SARHWU) on Wednesday."
  4. ^ "University of Cape Town / Newsroom & publications / Daily news". 25 June 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "Smuts Hall Est. 1928". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 5 May 2016. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Commerce". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  8. ^ "Commerce". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  9. ^ "Commerce". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  10. ^ "Commerce". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  11. ^ "Commerce". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  12. ^ "Commerce". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 4 August 2017. 
  13. ^ "Introducing UCT: Statistics". About the University. University of Cape Town. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "Census 2011 Western Cape Municipal Report" (PDF). About the Western Cape. Statistics South Africa. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Transformation Plan & Policies: UCT Employment Equity Plan (2010 - 2015)". About the University. University of Cape Town. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  16. ^ "Current Sports Clubs". Retrieved 8 June 2007. 
  17. ^ Swanson, Felicity (2007). "'Die SACS kom terug': intervarsity rugby, masculinity and white identity at the University of Cape Town, 1960s-1970s" (PDF). In Field, Sean; et al. Imagining the City: Memories and Cultures in Cape Town (PDF). Cape Town: HSRC Press. p. 210. ISBN 0-7969-2179-2. Retrieved 8 June 2007. 
  18. ^ "University of Cape Town / Current students / Sports, societies & recreation". Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  19. ^ "Student Affairs: Societies". University of Cape Town. Archived from the original on 3 June 2007. Retrieved 8 June 2007. 
  20. ^ "Student Community Service: SHAWCO". University of Cape Town. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  21. ^ a b c Academic Ranking of World Universities 2017
  22. ^ a b "University of Cape Town". Top Universities. 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  23. ^ a b "University of Cape Town". Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  24. ^ "Top Universities in Africa". Top Universities. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  25. ^ "Best universities in Africa 2018". Times Higher Education World University Rankings. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  26. ^ "The University of Cape Town". Retrieved 31 July 2017. 
  27. ^ "IDM Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine - welcome". Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  28. ^ "BME – Biomedical Engineering - MRC/UCT Medical Imaging Research Unit". 11 May 2000. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "OpenUCT Home Page". Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b Gillespie, Todd (12 April 2016). "Now snowflake students are covering up paintings". Spiked Online. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  32. ^ Furlong, Ashleigh (17 February 2016). "Rhodes Must Fall protesters burn UCT art". GroundUp. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  33. ^ a b c Meersman, Brent (4 April 2016). "Is UCT a safe space for art?". Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  34. ^ a b c "Human Rights investigates the removal of artworks from UCT", SABC Digital News, 5 May 2017
  35. ^ Breytenbach, Breyten (11 April 2016). "Letter to the Editor: Breyten Breytenbach on vanishing UCT artworks and blank minds". The Daily Maverick. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
  36. ^ Furlong, Asheligh (8 April 2016). "Prominent artwork covered up at UCT". GroundUp. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 

External linksEdit