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A Few Quick Facts About UWC: A World-Class University With A Heart of Gold

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the University of the Western Cape has continued to focus on quality education and training, and research that makes a difference - and continues to be recognised around the world as a place of quality and action.

(Published - 3 September 2020)

In 1960 a group of 166 students started classes at the University College of the Western Cape. They were destined for lower- to mid-level positions at schools, in the civil service and at other institutions.

Today, as the University of the Western Cape (UWC)  celebrates its 60th anniversary, UWC has been repeatedly recognised as one of the world’s premier higher education institutions: a celebrated world-class research institution that conducts game-changing research in a number of fields.

“As a historically disadvantaged institution, the University of the Western Cape has come a long way,” said Professor Tyrone Pretorius, UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor. “From a ‘bush college’, we have grown into an intellectual home of the left, an integral partner in building a democratic South Africa, and now, a leading institution dedicated to tackling the challenges of the 21st century.”

Prof Pretorius is proud to have seen the rise of the University’s international standing firsthand, as both a student and a lecturer. And he’s even prouder to have been part of that continuing trend.

“Over the past five years, I’ve been privileged to see how UWC has gone from strength to strength, recognised as a rising star the world over. Year after year, we have been featured among the top 1000 universities by the University Rankings by Academic Performance (URAP); in the top 800 in the the global Times Higher Education rankings, and the top 200 in the THE emerging economies ranking (reaching a record 115th spot this year) - and in the top 800 in the QS World University Ranking, among others. We even recently made our first appearance in the US News & World Report 2020 Best Global Universities rankings.

But while rankings like these are welcome reminders of how far we have come, there are a few accomplishments that we must take special note of. The University of the Western Cape has been noted worldwide for our commitment to:

1. Building A Sustainable Future: The University of the Western Cape has thrice been crowned Africa’s Greenest Campus, and was the only South African University to be named among the top 200 universities in the world in the inaugural 2019 Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, measuring higher education’s commitment and contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. UWC was singled out particularly for exceptional contributions to SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals) - exceptional contributions that saw the University again making the top 200 Impact Rankings in 2020.
2. Understanding The World: UWC produces world-class research into matters big and small, from xenophobia to zoology. The University held just one South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in 2008 - and currently holds 18 of them, providing leadership in research and capacity-building in areas from Health Systems Governance to Visual History. And globally, UWC researchers are playing a leading role in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project, with our four Astrophysics NRF A-rated researchers helping us earn a place among the top 200 universities on the planet for studying the stars. UWC is also ranked as one of the top universities in the world when it comes to health and medical science - even without a dedicated medical school.
3. Preparing The Leaders Of Tomorrow: It’s not just about the quality of the research the University produces - it’s about empowering graduates to make a difference. UWC’s world-class teaching and learning activities have seen it ranked among the top 6% of universities worldwide in rankings focused on academic empowerment, including the QS World University Rankings and CWUR (Centre for World University Rankings), and have seen no fewer than 10 UWC lecturers receiving HELTASA National Excellence in Teaching and Learning awards for their innovative and effective educational techniques. That’s to say nothing of our innovative e-learning initiatives, advanced by the Centre for Innovative Educational and Communications Technologies (CIECT) - and the virtual laboratory simulations that UWC is currently pioneering for the African continent.

“It is always an honour for the University to receive recognition for our achievements,” said Prof Pretorius. “They remind us of how far we’ve come, what we have done to change the lives of our students and our communities, and our understanding of the world around us. But we must always remember our motto: Respice, prospice. We celebrate the past, and we look to the future – as we remain a place to grow, from hope to action through knowledge.”​

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