(Published - 27 June 2019)
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) is a higher education Goldilocks story - old enough to have established itself, young enough to believe there’s a better way. It is that spirit that has earned UWC a place in the top 150 on the Times Higher Education Golden Age Universities Ranking 2019.
“The University of the Western Cape sees itself as an engaged university - a nexus of research, teaching and learning that responds to the needs of a society in transition in critical and creative ways,” says UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius. “These are exciting times for higher education, and we are proud to be recognised for our contributions as we grapple with the complex issues facing the world - issues like global climate change, poverty, inequality and the clash of cultures.”
The Golden Age ranking uses Times Higher Education (THE) data to cast a spotlight on the best universities established for more than 50 years, but less than 80 years - universities old enough to have established themselves on the global academic scene, but young enough to have a fresh and dynamic approach.
“The ranking takes its name from what was a Golden Age in global higher education, characterised by rapid university expansion and increasing investment in research,” says Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer, Times Higher Education. “They make up a unique group of higher education institutions that have embedded academic practices but that have not been around for hundreds of years.”
As a historically disadvantaged institution, UWC has made significant strides in a very short period of time - and it’s not the first time the University has been recognised in this way.
The THE research rankings have consistently ranked UWC as one of the top 800 universities in the world (and top 200 in emerging economies), a sentiment echoed by the 2018 URAP ratings that placed it in the top 1000 universities, as did the recent QS World Universities Ranking 2019/2020. It’s also the only South African university to have been ranked among the world’s top 200 higher education institutions in the very first Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2019.
“UWC has arrived on the global scene in a big way,” says Prof Pretorius. “Today it’s no longer surprising - though it’s always welcome - when we find ourselves celebrated among the world’s best in a variety of areas. But we won’t be resting on our laurels anytime soon - as an engaged university, we believe in tackling the challenges of the twenty-first century, and we will continue to produce research and graduates that make a difference.”
UWC: Changing The World One Step At A Time
The University of the Western Cape first opened its doors in 1960, offering limited training to Coloured students for lower positions in schools, the civil service and other institutions - exclusively in Afrikaans. In that first year, the teaching staff numbered only 17 – and the student body was only 166 strong.
“UWC is proof that we don’t have to let our history determine our future,” Prof Pretorius notes. “For decades, we fought to overcome an oppressive system, and establish our place in the world. Today we have top researchers working on the largest and most powerful scientific instruments in the world, and produce graduates who engage with matters that matter to society.”
The University of the Western Cape has really come a long way - and with that in mind, here are a few firsts from UWC to the world.
1991: Then-UWC-Rector Prof Jakes Gerwel and founding Director Prof David Sanders launch SA’s first School of Public Health outside a medical school – UWC’s SOPH, where researchers from a range of disciplines collaborate to build an effective public health system for all.
2009: Writer Meg van der Merwe creates UWC Creates, the first creative writing programme in South Africa operating across three languages (English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa) – encouraging creative expression and social dialogue across languages, culture and ethnicities.
2012: UWC becomes the first university to be declared Africa’s Greenest Campus, thanks to its innovative green tech and groundbreaking approach to environmental management and sustainability. The University goes on to claim the title two more times...and counting.
2018: UWC is the first university in South Africa to offer an accredited Postgraduate Diploma in e-Skills with Immersive Technologies Stream, which incorporates Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality - transforming the way we view the world.