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17 April 2020
UWC Celebrates 60 Years of Hope, Action and Knowledge with Virtual Anniversary Launch

(Published - 17 April 2020)

“UWC’s motto, Respice Prospice (looking back, looking forward), reminds us of the foundation the University has built out of the struggle against apartheid, forging its way into becoming a world-class learning and teaching, research-led university. This foundation also underscores UWC’s role in the space of social justice,” says Professor Vivienne Lawack, UWC’s Acting Rector and Vice-Chancellor. 

The University has come a long way - from a bush college to an intellectual home of the left in the 80s. It played an integral part in the anti-apartheid project and contributed towards building a democratic South Africa in the 90s. UWC played a crucial role in the negotiation and drafting of the interim Constitution of South Africa. Today, it is a leading institution dedicated to tackling the challenges of the 21st century in alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Goals.

“We had planned an incredible launch on our birthday on the 25th of March for a milestone built on Social Justice, Community Engagement and Graduate Employability, but all our planning was brushed aside by the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were forced to think differently about our future - while staying true to the values of our past.” 

The COVID-19 situation has been a catalyst for innovative thinking at all institutions of higher learning - and UWC is leading the way. 

“In this challenging period, UWC scientists have helped decode the genome of COVID-19 to find answers to curb its spread and contribute towards finding a vaccine,” says Prof Lawack. 

“Our researchers have examined the impact of the pandemic and the lockdown on South African society, from big business to spaza shops. And our academics have worked to keep the public informed of the latest developments in the battle against Covid-19, and what they mean for all of us.”

UWC continues to seek solutions in the face of adversity as it strives to complete the academic year amid immense challenges. 

The University pioneered a virtual graduation ceremony during lockdown so that graduates could celebrate their hard work and achievements. And its #NoStudentsWillBeLeftBehind appeal aims to address the need of 30% of our 24,000 students who do not have the resources for flexi-learning. This is UWC’s commitment to graduate employability - and to producing the next generation of South African leaders.

UWC is committed to community engagement, and is keenly aware of the role it has to play as an anchor institution in Cape Town. The University’s dedication to urban renewal was demonstrated with the establishment of a state-of-the-art Community Health Sciences building in the heart of the Bellville CBD.

“I am very proud of the University of the Western Cape,” says Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who served as UWC Chancellor for almost 25 years. “Under the exceptional leadership of Professor Jakes Gerwel, and then Professor Brian O’Connell, it was transformed from a marginalised ‘bush college for Blacks’ into a deracialised centre of academic excellence with an acute social conscience. The courageous commitment of the university community to the parallel values of intellectual growth and justice was second to none. Since I stepped down as Chancellor, it has been thrilling to see the institution continue to grow under a new generation of leaders. May God richly bless my dearly beloved UWC and all her people, past and present.”

As the University extends its anniversary plans through the year in service to others. It wishes to honour alumni, former and current students and staff, generous donors and all other stakeholders. 

It’s thanks to you that UWC has become - and remains – a place to grow, from hope to action through knowledge. #IamUWC 

On Monday, 20 April 2020, UWC will launch its anniversary virtually on  

Read all about its past, its activism against apartheid, its historic role in the transition of South Africa as a democracy by helping to draft the Constitution, its current role as a catalyst for social change aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and how it is forging ahead as a university of the future.

For interviews, please contact UWC Spokesperson Gasant Abarder via email at, Alternatively, Harriet Box at or Aidan vd Heever at