The University of Cape Town (UCT) is South Africa's oldest university, and is one of Africa's leading teaching and research institutions.
UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, a boys' school which also provided some tertiary education. The College developed into a fully fledged university during the period 1880 to 1900, thanks to increased funding from private sources and the government.
During these years, the College built its first dedicated science laboratories, and started the departments of mineralogy and geology to meet the need for skilled personnel in the country's emerging diamond and gold mining industries.
Another key development during this period was the admission of women, and the consolidation of the College's tertiary status. Its pre-matriculation years were later relegated to a secondary school.
The years 1902 to 1918 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, on the basis of the Alfred Beit bequest and additional substantial gifts from mining magnates Julius Wernher and Otto Beit.
The new university also attracted substantial support from well-wishers in the Cape Town area, and (for the first time), a significant State grant. UCT moved to its present site — the Groote Schuur Campus — on Rhodes' Estate on the slopes of Devil's Peak in 1928, providing an opportunity for rapid development.
Apart from establishing itself as a leading research and teaching university in the decades that followed, the period 1960 to 1990 was marked by sustained opposition to apartheid, particularly in higher education.
The 1980s and 1990s at UCT have been characterised by a deliberate, planned process of internal transformation, to meet South Africa's new challenges in higher education.