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University of Cape Town
Universiteit van Kaapstad
iYunivesithi yaseKapa
Coat of arms of the University of Cape Town
Former names
South African College
Motto Spes Bona
Motto in English
Good Hope
Type Public
Established 1 October 1829; 191 years ago (1829-10-01)
Endowment ZAR 11.8 billion
Chancellor Precious Moloi-Motsepe
Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 28,703
Undergraduates 17,217
Postgraduates 10,511
Location , ,
South Africa

33°57′27″S 18°27′38″E / 33.9575°S 18.46056°E / -33.9575; 18.46056Coordinates: 33°57′27″S 18°27′38″E / 33.9575°S 18.46056°E / -33.9575; 18.46056
Campus 4 suburban and 2 urban campuses
Colours Light Blue, Dark Blue, Black and White                    
Nickname Ikeys
Mascot Tiger
University of Cape Town banner.svg

The University of Cape Town, abbreviated as UCT, is a public university located on the Rhodes Estate on the slopes of Devil's Peak, in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, and is the oldest university in South Africa. It is one of Africa's leading teaching and research institutions.


UCT Upper Campus landscape view
A view of UCT

The main teaching campus, known as the Upper Campus, is located on the slopes of Devil's Peak. This campus contains in a relatively compact site the faculties of Science, Engineering, Commerce, and most of the faculty of Humanities, as well as the residences Smuts Hall and Fuller Hall. Upper Campus is centered on Jameson Hall, the location for graduation and other ceremonial events, as well as many examinations. The original buildings and layout of Upper Campus were designed by JM Solomon and built between 1928 and 1930. Since that time, many more buildings have been added as the university has grown.

Contiguous with Upper Campus, but separated from it by university sports fields and the M3 freeway, are the Middle and Lower Campuses. These campuses, which are distributed through the suburbs of Rondebosch, Rosebank and Mowbray, contain the Law faculty, the South African College of Music, most of the student residences, most of the university administrative offices, and many sporting facilities. The Upper, Middle and Lower Campuses together are often referred to as the "main campus" or the "Rondebosch Campus".

The Faculty of Health Sciences is located on the Medical School campus at the Groote Schuur Hospital. The Fine Arts and Drama departments are located on the Hiddingh Campus in central Cape Town. The Graduate School of Business is located on the Breakwater Campus at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

Sports, clubs, and traditions

UCT has different sports clubs, including team sports, individual sports, extreme sports and martial arts. The university's sports teams, and in particular the rugby union team, are known as the "Ikey Tigers" or the "Ikeys". The "Ikey" nickname originated in the 1910s originated as an anti-semitic epithet applied to UCT students by the students of Stellenbosch University, because of the supposed large number of Jewish students at UCT. Stellenbosch is UCT's traditional rugby opponent; an annual "Intervarsity" match is played between the two universities.

There are many student societies at UCT; these fall generally into five categories:

  • Political societies, including branches of the youth wings of national political parties.
  • Academic societies for those interested in a particular field of study or studying a particular topic.
  • Religious societies, some of which are associated with religious denominations or local places of worship.
  • National/cultural societies for students from particular countries or particular ethnic backgrounds.
  • Special interest societies for those interested in various different activities or issues.


The roots of UCT lie in the establishment of the South African College, a boys' school, in 1829. In 1874 the tertiary education part split off into the University and the younger students into the South African College Schools.

UCT moved to the Groote Schuur Estate campus in 1928. During the apartheid era, roughly 1960-1990, UCT consistently opposed apartheid, and was a bastion of liberalism and racial integration. 1987 particularly saw frequent clashes between protesting students and police. The official student newspaper, Varsity, frequently had its journalists and editors come under scrutiny from the ruling apartheid National Party government.

The UCT crest was designed in 1859 by Charles Davidson Bell, Surveyor-General of the Cape Colony at the time. Bell was an accomplished artist who also designed medals and the triangular Cape stamp.


UCT is a member of the Association of African Universities, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Cape Higher Education Consortium, Higher Education South Africa, and the International Association of Universities.

Notable alumni

  • Nobel Laureates:
  • Juctice Albie Sachs, of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.
  • Andries Treurnicht, was the founder and the leader of the Conservative Party in South Africa.
  • Athol Fugard, is a South African playwright.
  • Brett Kebble, was a South African mining magnate who was shot to death in 2005.
  • Breyten Breytenbach, author who studied fine arts at UCT.
  • Professor Christiaan Barnard, who performed the first heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital.
  • Cromwell Everson, the clasical music composer and composer of the first Afrikaans opera.
  • David Cooper, was a noted theorist and leader in the anti-psychiatry movement.
  • Donald Woods, was a South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist.
  • Dullah Omar, was a South African anti-Apartheid activist, lawyer, and a minister in the South African cabinet from 1994 till his death.
  • Edward Neville Isdell, current CEO of the Coca-Cola Company
  • Emanuel Derman, noted Goldman Sachs financial engineer and author of My Life As A Quant
  • Galt MacDermot, composer of the musical Hair
  • Hilary Deacon, is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Stellenbosch specialising in the ‘emergence of modern humans’ and African archaeology.
  • Isaac Schapera, was Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and regarded as one of the world's leading experts in the anthropology of South African tribesmen.
  • Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, obtained an M.A. at the age of 17.
  • Jonathan M. Dorfan, director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
  • Jonathan Shapiro, a South African political cartoonist known by the nom de plume Zapiro.
  • Justice Kate O'Regan, of the Constitutional Court of South Africa
  • Mamphela Ramphele, formerly the Vice-Chancellor of UCT and now a Managing Director of the World Bank.
  • Mark Shuttleworth, an entrepreneur and the first African in space and second space tourist.
  • Neil Aggett, was a South African trade union leader and labour activist who died in custody after 70 days detention without trial.
  • Nicolaas Petrus van Wyk Louw, was an Afrikaans-language poet, playwright and scholar.
  • Nick Mallett, played for and later coached the Springboks, South Africa's national rugby union team.
  • Percy Yutar, lawyer and prosecutor at Rivonia Trial.
  • Richard E. Grant, now an actor, is a graduate of the UCT Drama school.
  • Roelof Botha, the grandson of Pik Botha who began his career as an actuary and became a venture capitalist.
  • Roger Ebert, film critic, graduated with an English degree as part of a Rotary International program.
  • Richard van der Riet Woolley, was a British astronomer who became Astronomer Royal.
  • Robert Carl-Heinz Shell, is a renowned South African author and professor of African Studies.
  • Salim Ahmed Salim, Tanzanian diplomat and former Secretary General of the OAU.
  • Steve Meyer, is a South African professional rugby union player who recently tore a ligament.
  • Sydney Harold Skaife, was an eminent South African entomologist and naturalist.
  • Vincent Ebrahim, known for his part on The Kumars at No. 42, studied drama.
  • Gwen Lister, South African born Namibian journalist, anti-apartheid activist and founder of The Namibian

Notable staff

  • Cosmologist George Ellis, collaborator with Stephen Hawking and winner of the 2004 Templeton Prize, is Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
  • Author Andre Brink is a professor in the English Language and Literature Department.
  • Author Breyten Breytenbach is from January 2000 a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Humanities.
  • The staff of UCT contains 17 A-rated scientists, meaning that they are world leaders in their fields of research.
  • Helen Zille, current mayor of Cape Town, was formerly Director of Public Relations for the university.
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