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21 April 2021
Sharing, Caring & Repairing: UWC Among World's Best In Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) has a proud history of social and environmental awareness - and UWC honours that history by looking to the future, and building a better tomorrow. That’s why the University is proud to have been named one of the top 600 institutions worldwide in the 2021 Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings (again).

“Universities are about more than research and education - they’re also about making a positive impact, and working towards a better world for all,” said UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius. “At the University of the Western Cape, we believe in making a difference. We grapple with the complex issues facing the world in the twenty-first century - issues like global climate change, poverty, inequality and the clash of cultures. And we prepare people who can think deeply about the opportunities and risks available in a rapidly-changing world.”

The THE University Impact Rankings, launched in 2019, include more than 1 200 universities from 96 countries, providing the biggest-ever picture of universities’ impact on society, rather than just research and teaching performance. They represent an unusual - but extremely important - way of gauging university performance - recognising institutions for their commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which include poverty alleviation, efforts towards gender equality and taking action against climate change.

UWC made the rankings for each individual SDG area, and excelled in several as well, being ranked among the top 200 institutions in:

  • SDG 1: No Poverty 
  • SDG 4: Quality Education
  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities (Where UWC ranked 85th)

The University of the Western Cape has been consistently recognised by the Times Higher Education rankings for its international excellence - not just in the THE University Impact Rankings (as the only South African university to have made the rankings every year), but also in the global Times Higher Education rankings, the THE subject ranking lists, and also - most recently - in the THE Emerging Economies university rankings as well.

The UWC Dentistry Faculty provides ongoing community outreach services.

“Throughout our six decades of existence, we have consistently punched way above our weight,” Prof Pretorius noted. “Today we have over 20 000 students in seven faculties, and top researchers working on the largest and most powerful scientific instruments in the world, and engage with matters that matter to society.”

Here are a few ways UWC matters...

Global Impact: UWC has been recognised as one of the world’s best universities in the Webometrics Ranking Web of Universities top 1000; in the Centre for World University Rankings top university lists; the URAP top 1000 universities rankings; the US News & World Report 2020 Best Global Universities rankings; and the QS World University Ranking (among others). 

Greening The Future: As Africa’s greenest university, UWC provides green leadership through sustainable waste management, student volunteerism, and research into everything from hydrogen fuel cell technology to business models for waste pickers and the secondary resource economy. Oh, and there’s a UWC Nature Reserve as well.

Justice For All: If there’s one thing UWC knows, it’s the law - whether it’s protesting against an unjust apartheid system, helping to craft a newly-democratic South African constitution, drafting legislation on local government and children’s rights, or pursuing justice in environmental law, labour law and criminal law, the University’s Faculty of Law is sure to have had a role to play.

But UWC isn’t content to just rest on its laurels.

UWC: A History Of Hope, A Legacy Of Lasting Change

From humble beginnings, UWC has grown to firmly establish itself as one of the top tier South African universities, walking a long journey from a “bush college” set up to train administrators to an intellectual home of the left - an integral part of the new democratic South Africa, and a producer of world-class teaching and research.

“UWC is an institution with a proud history - but it’s a history of hope,” said Professor Pretorius. “It’s a history shaped by thousands of people who looked beyond the injustice and challenges of their present circumstances, and dared to dream of a better future. And not just to dream, but to do the hard work necessary to build that future, bit by bit, and to leave the world a little better than they found it.”

That became a little more challenging in 2020, when predictions failed and ideas of the future became more uncertain than they’d ever been. And it became even more challenging with the recent Cape Town fires, which threatened lives and destroyed historic documents and buildings at South Africa’s oldest university.

“As a Council our thoughts are with UCT Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng and her management team, the students and staff of this important institution in South African society,” said Yasmin Forbes, Chair of UWC Council. “We  applaud the efforts of our brave firefighters, the volunteers, all those who made generous donations, and the community at large who have been affected by the devastating fires.”

The four universities in the region (including Stellenbosch University and Cape Peninsula University of Technology) draw strength from our collaboration and partnerships – be it academically or in research endeavours. It’s that spirit of collaboration and cooperation that will make a difference as we move into a still uncertain future.

“We may not know what the future holds, but we do know this: if we want to live in a better world, we have to build it first,” Prof. Pretorius noted. “And we have to do it together. We have to approach it with the compassion and curiosity and critical thinking that is core to who we are as a university. We have to move - as our motto goes - from hope to action, through knowledge.”

Want to know more about the Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings? Looking for more interesting facts about one of the world’s best universities? Why not check these out here, by the numbers? And why not find out about five fascinating UWC firsts, while you’re at it?


Students at work assembling and packing meals for Rise Against Hunger in 2019.