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University of Cape Town: History and Location

The oldest university in South Africa, UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College – a school for boys that also provided some tertiary education. Women were admitted to the college after 1887. UCT was formally established as a university in 1918.

The university moved to its spectacular Groote Schuur campus on Rhodes’ Estate on the slopes of Devil’s Peak in 1928. This campus is still home to most of UCT’s academic functions.

Additional campuses are in Observatory (home to the Faculty of Health Sciences), Gardens (the Hiddingh Campus for fine art and drama studies) and the Waterfront (the Graduate School of Business). .

UCT awarded its first honorary degree in 1920, and has since presented honorary master’s and doctoral degrees to over 330 recipients, including Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II, Raymond Ackerman, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Helen Suzman, Chinua Achebe, Pieter-Dirk Uys and Lucas Radebe.

Academic Freedom

In the classic expression of freedom of speech and assembly, the university’s policy is that our members will enjoy freedom to explore ideas, to express these and to assemble peacefully.

UCT’s annual TB Davie Memorial Lecture on academic freedom commemorates the work of Thomas Benjamin Davie, vice-chancellor of the university from 1948 to 1955 and a champion of the principles of academic freedom.


The 1980s and 1990s were characterised by the deliberate transformation of the student body.

In 1981/82, UCT established the Academic Development Programme (ADP), designed to help students from disadvantaged educational and social backgrounds acclimatise to the demands of university studies. As a result, a student body that was 90% white in 1979, when UCT marked its 150th anniversary, is 50% black in 2007.

Following an Institutional Climate Survey in 2003, UCT launched the Khuluma Project in 2006, a series of workshops where academics and support staff have safe spaces to talk openly about transformation. Khuluma continues, and a follow-up series, titled Mamela, was launched in 2007.