University of Cape Town

Oldest University in South Africa

The University of Cape Town (UCT) is the oldest university of South Africa and one of the most prestigious in Africa. It has a rich yet turbulent history dating back to the early 19th century. Most university students reside in the suburb of Rondebosch - a cosmopolitan, racially diverse area. Bars, nightclubs, affordable eating-places, bookstores and clothing nooks are the order of the day.

©Danie van der Merwe
The University of Cape Town is situated in Rondebosch.

UCT was founded in 1829 under the name South African College, established as a high school for boys (it is now the name of prestigious boys’ high school SACS). When the demand for tertiary education grew in the 1880’s, the college’s small tertiary education saw substantial growth as well.

After the discovery of gold in the Transvaal area, more skilled labour was needed at the mines, and the college built its first science laboratories and departments of mineralogy and geology. In 1887 the college started accepting women to study at the institution as well. Due to private funding, it grew into a fully fledged university in 1900. 

During the early years of the 20th century, the university established the Medical School, Engineering as well as the Education department. UCT officially received university status in 1918. In 1928, facilities were opened on the Groote Schuur site, situated on the slopes of Devils’ Peak on land gifted by Cecil John Rhodes.

During the tumultuous years of apartheid in the 1060’s, the university took a frim stance against the oppressive regime, continuing to accept students of color during this period. The university’s internal transformation made it become one of the most diverse campuses in South Africa. 

UCT’s campuses are split by geographical placement. Upper Campus (on Rhodes Estates on the slopes of Devil’s Peak) is where you’ll find the faculties of Science, Engineering, Commerce, and Humanities (except for the arts departments) as well as various residences.

Middle and Lower Campuses spread through the suburbs of Rondebosch, Rosebank and Mowbray and houses the Law faculty, the South African College of Music, the School of Economics and most of the student residences. 

The Medical School is next to the Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory, and in Central Cape Town the Fine Arts and Drama departments are located on the Hiddingh Campus. The UCT Graduate School of Business is located on the Breakwater Lodge Campus at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.