UWC comes out tops in university rankings

Picture Henk Kruger

As the University of the Western Cape (UWC) celebrates the accomplishments of thousands of future nuclear physicists, theologians and sports stars, among others during its April graduation, rector and vice-chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius says the institution believes in making a difference.

UWC is the only South African university to have been ranked among the top 200 universities in 76 countries in the newly released Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings.

The University Impact Rankings recognise universities across the world for their social and economic impact, based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which include academic freedom policies, efforts towards gender equality and taking action against climate change.

“We grapple with the complex issues facing the world in the twenty-first century – issues like global climate change, poverty, inequality and the clash of cultures,” says Professor Pretorius.

UWC’s inclusion in these rankings demonstrate the institution’s commitment to supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) through its teaching, research and knowledge transfer. In addition to its top 200 status, the university also excelled in several specific SDG areas, including:

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities (Where UWC ranked 10th);

SDG 5 Gender Equality (28th); and

SDG 4 Quality Education (31st).

UWC also made the top 100 for SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and top 200 for SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities and SDG 13 Climate Action, among others.

“Today we have seven faculties, produce more than half of South Africa’s oral hygienists and dentists each year, have top researchers working on the largest and most powerful scientific instruments in the world, and engage with matters that matter to society,” says Professor Pretorius.

As a historically disadvantaged institution, UWC, founded in 1959 as a college for black students, with the aim of training teachers and civil servants for leadership of a separate black community, has made significant strides in a very short period of time – and it’s not the first time the university has been recognised this way on the global stage. The THE research rankings have consistently ranked UWC as one of the top 800 universities in the world (and top 200 in emerging economies), a sentiment echoed by the 2018 URAP ratings that placed it in the top 1 000 universities.

Among the university’s achievements are that UWC’s Science Learning Centre for Africa (SLCA) is promoting the culture of maths and science through tutorial programmes, science competitions and clubs, robotics and aviation initiatives, and constructing state-of-the-art science labs at underprivileged schools while its researchers are playing a leading role in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Project, joining international researchers in investigating the secrets of the cosmos, while stimulating technological advancements such as the IDIA research cloud.

UWC’s HySA Systems is also leading the way when it comes to hydrogen power, partnering with industry leaders to produce South Africa’s first hydrogen-powered fuel cell backup power systems, forklift and refueller, and a fleet of green golf carts, among others..

The university is also a world leader in constitutional law and child rights law, and academics and alumni from the university’s Dullah Omar Institute were closely involved in drafting South Africa’s Constitution.

“With over 20 000 students in seven faculties, the University of the Western Cape takes pride in preparing people who can adapt to, engage with and think deeply about the opportunities and risks available in a rapidly-changing world,” says Professor Pretorius. “We’re graduating citizens of the world.”