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University of Cape Town

Jameson Hall at the University of Cape Town  © Ian Barbour, License

University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town

1829 saw the birth of an institution that would change education in South Africa but nothing happens overnight. The South African College, which was a high school for boys was opened in 1929 in the Weeshuis on Long Street, Cape Town. In 1841 the school moved to the Egyptian Building which is located on what is now the University of Cape Town's Hiddingh Campus, in the Gardens district of Cape Town. It would be another 33 years before the College would be split into the University of Cape Town and the College Schools. The small tertiary institution grew exponentially shortly after 1880 with the discovery of gold and diamonds in the north which resulted in the demand for skills in mining as well as the financial boost it needed to grow.

The period between 1880 and 1900 saw some important changes to the University. With increased funding from private sources and the government the College was able to build its first dedicated science laboratories. The institute also started the departments of mineralogy and geology which met the needs for skilled personnel in the country's emerging diamond and gold-mining industries. But probably one of the biggest steps in the Universities history was when the Professor of Chemistry, Paul Daniel Hahn, convinced the Council to admit four women into his chemistry class on a trial basis in 1886. The women provided an exceptional standard of work and in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1887, the College decided to admit women students permanently. The following 20 years saw the establishment of the Medical School, the introduction of engineering courses and a Department of Education. UCT was formally established as a university in 1918.

In 1928, the university moved the bulk of its facilities to the magnificent site at Groote Schuur on the slopes of Devil's Peak where it celebrated its centenary the following year. Today the university has six different faculties which include Commerce, Engineering and the Built Environment, Law, Health Sciences, and Humanities and Science. Among its more than 100 000 alumni are the late Professor Christiaan Barnard, the world-renowned heart surgeon, and three Nobel laureates, Sir Aaron Klug, the late Professor Alan MacLeod Cormack and JM Coetzee.

There are various campuses around Cape Town dealing with the different faculties. The main teaching campus, known as Upper Campus, is located on the Rhodes Estate on the slopes of Devil's Peak. The original Upper Campus buildings were built between 1928 and 1930 but many more have been added since then. This campus is also home to The Chancellor Oppenheimer library which holds the majority of the University's 1.3 million volume collection. The Middle and Lower Campuses are spread through the suburbs of Rondebosch, Rosebank and Mowbray and include a state of the art artificial grass soccer field has been approved by FIFA for training for World Cup teams. Hiddingh Campus in central Cape Town is home to the University's original building, now known as the Egyptian Building, which was built in the Egyptian Revival style. The only other campus built in this style was the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia in the United States. The UCT Graduate School of Business is located on the Breakwater Lodge Campus at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. And lastly but probably most importantly is the Medical School campus which is next to the Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory. Groote Schuur is also home to The Heart of Cape Town museum.

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