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Five Firsts From UWC: Something New Under The Sun

Five Firsts From UWC: Something New Under The Sun

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) wasn’t actually the first university in the Western Cape (don’t let the name mislead you). Nor was it the first place in South Africa to offer education to non-white students, or the first to offer distance education, or to partner with international institutions. For some students, it wasn’t even their first choice (but if you’ve been here a while, you know you’ve made the right choice).

Still, UWC has managed to rack up an impressive amount of firsts. For example:

1991: Then-UWC-Rector Prof Jakes Gerwel and founding Director Prof David Sanders launch South Africa’s first School of Public Health outside a medical school – UWC’s School of Public Health, where researchers from a range of disciplines collaborate to research health policy and systems, social determinants of health and how to build a district-based public health system.

1993: UWC’s anti-apartheid media project Bush Radio first hits the airwaves as a pirate radio station – and shortly thereafter becomes South Africa’s first licensed community radio station. This anti-apartheid media project began in the late 1980s by distributing political and cultural radio programming via cassette tape (since they lacked a license to broadcast on a conventional radio platform).

2009: South African writer Meg van der Merwe creates UWC Creates, the first creative writing programme in South Africa operating across three languages (English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa) – a means to encourage creative and social dialogue across languages, culture and ethnicities. With UWC Creates, learners are exposed to both prose and poetry writing, and learn to work with their natural gifts and develop their own natural storytelling voices.

2012:UWC becomes the very first university to be declared Africa’s Greenest Campus in the inaugural African Green Campus Initiative Challenge, thanks to its groundbreaking approach to environmental management and sustainability (as well as innovative green technologies). The University goes on to claim the title once again two years later (before deciding we’d rather be hosting than claiming the prize).

2016: UWC’s Hydrogen Systems South Africa (HySA), in partnership with Implats and DST, unveil South Africa’s first prototype hydrogen fuel cell forklift and refuelling station - using hydrogen fuel cell technology (HFCT): noiseless, effective, and pollution-free (the only emission is water). A few other hydrogen fuel cell tech breakthroughs from HySA: South Africa’s first hydrogen-powered tricycle, first fuel cell backup power systems prototype for the telecommunications market, and the first loadshedding-beating hydrogen fuel cell generator for the UWC Nature Reserve.

Know of any other UWC firsts you’d like to share? Why not let us know at