The Physics Department carries out physics and provides teaching programmes that will contribute significantly to the development of human capacity, science and technology in South Africa. The study of Physics at UWC produces holistically educated citizens who understand our rapidly changing technological world. Our vision is to see our graduates be equipped with the fundamental knowledge of physics, problem solving, life and communication skills. This will be achieved by reviewing and developing relevant academic programmes and research projects to address southern African technological needs in areas like astronomy, nanotechnology, materials science and nuclear fields.

Our vision is to be a locally and internationally recognised Physics Department that exposes its successes in public awareness campaign and through established knowledge dissemination channels.


To provide students from the South African school system and elsewhere with a sound physics knowledge base and to prepare them for a career. Physics is a basic science and there is a definite need for the training of:

  • physicists to work in for example industry and government laboratories.
  • secondary school science teachers who are an essential pre-requisite for a scientifically literate South Africa.
  • physicists involved in research at post-graduate level, as academics and as specialists in industry.
  • professionals who require an introductory physics course such as dentists, nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists who are trained at UWC.

Our mission is to continue in this endeavour and to build an increasing diversification into the education we offer.

We wish to train students to achieve the vision described above, in particular by:

  • extending our expertise in academic development course-infusion to accommodate more students from disadvantaged communities and at the same time enhance the possibility of them having a successful and meaningful higher education experience.
  • broadening the scope of a physics education by including topics such as ethical issues, career guidance, and language skills to provide students with a holistic education.
  • an integral part of achieving the training of professional and knowledgeable workers needed for the country’s development, is the requirement of a science department to be involved in research with the aim of generating and applying new knowledge.
  • foster links with industry to exchange research ideas, staff and students.
  • play a role in the policy developments in the field of science in South Africa and further afield.
  • develop all academic staff to become rated scientists with the ability to supervise post-graduate students.
  • build an academic department with the intellectually stimulating environment conducive to the exchange of ideas and the enthusing of students for the subject.

Starting from nothing in 2008, the University of the Western Cape has built up a strong presence in astrophysics. Today, the Astro Group is internationally recognised for its research in cosmology and galaxy evolution. We are also known for our vibrant research and training environment and our commitment to transforming the astronomy community. UWC Astro plays a major role in MeerKAT, the South African 64-dish radio telescope array that will be absorbed into the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA). SKA will become the world’s largest astronomy facility, and most of it will be located in the Karoo area of South Africa, with the regional data centre in Cape Town.

The Astro Group has a high-profile role in the international SKA Project, including leading roles in SKA Science Working Groups (with three chairperson positions in the last six years) and in SKA data science collaborations. We work closely with IDIA (Inter-University Institute for Data-Intensive Astronomy), which is leading the South African MeerKAT/ SKA data science effort. Amongst South African institutions, UWC contributed the highest number of chapters, and the highest number of lead-author chapters, to the 2015 SKA Science Book. In the period 2014 – 2019, nearly 500 research papers with Astro Group co-authors were published in leading international journals. The URAP World University Rankings placed UWC at 157 in the world in Astronomy & Astrophysics for 2018/2019.
As of 2019, the  Astro Group has five faculty (including three Research Chairs), 15 postdoctoral researchers and 19 research students (MSc and PhD).  UWC hosts the Centre for Radio Cosmology, supported by the South African SKA through SARAO (SA Radio Astronomy Observatory). We are highly active in the training of postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom are supported by SARAO and are working on SKA-related science. UWC is making a contribution towards training the new generation of researchers that will help South Africa to do world-class science with MeerKAT, SKA and other telescopes.