Re-energising UCT research

20 April 2021 | Professor Sue Harrison

Dear UCT staff, postdoctoral researchers and postgrad students

I am sure that the damage of the Table Mountain fire at the University of Cape Town (UCT) is weighing heavily on you members of the institution’s core research team and professional research support team, just as it is on UCT’s Executive. We are now taking stock of the damages, the losses to UCT and the work to be done to return the university to full operation.

While we are certainly all feeling the pressure of this new disruption to teaching and learning and research at UCT, we are pleased to report that all our staff and students are safe, following the efficient evacuation from campus on Sunday. For this we express appreciation to the UCT teams who jumped into action and ran operations smoothly to protect our people and, wherever possible, our buildings and facilities. We also celebrate the tireless work of the City of Cape Town fire and emergency services. Both groups demonstrated a superior level of commitment and teamwork.

With teamwork in mind, I encourage each of you to give your first attention to your personal safety and well-being. While many of you will be able to work remotely on research, we are aware of the demand that this crisis may place on others. UCT is prioritising efforts to restart our research activities, including those on campus, so that we can all return to work as soon as our personal circumstances allow.

Of course, our major tragedy is the loss of the Jagger Library Reading Room and, with it, some of our Special Collections. These have been key research facilities for many of you, whose access was already limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of the Pearson Building was also damaged, but I am pleased to report that the historic Bolus collection, which is housed there, remains intact. The damage to the building and the need to preserve this important collection will affect Biological Sciences and related research.

In addition to the physical losses, the research programme has been set back by the fire. While fire damage to our buildings is variable, there is the risk throughout our operations of smoke inhalation, especially as the fire continues to burn across the city and wind direction may change. Until the fire is extinguished, evacuation remains a possibility.

For these reasons, and because we need to assess the safety of UCT buildings, we request all staff and students to remain off campus. We will reopen our academic buildings as soon as possible and will issue instructions for returning to campus when it is safe to do so.

If your research requires urgent attention on campus and you have not already been contacted about it, please email Dr Linda Mtwisha.

We look forward to rebuilding UCT’s on-site research over the coming months, not only to put behind us the effects of the pandemic and the fire, but also to continue to unleash our capacity as researchers to help build a fair and just society. UCT’s focus on social impact remains as strong now as it ever was.

Many thanks for your understanding and your commitment to knowledge generation, translation and sharing, building the Africa-focused knowledge base of South Africa and the rest of the continent.


Professor Sue Harrison
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation

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#UCTFire – one year later

Jagger Library Memorial Exhibition opens on 20 April 2022

The Centre for Curating the Archive, in association with Michaelis Galleries (UCT) and UCT Libraries will stage a memorial exhibition marking the one-year anniversary of the tragic Jagger Library fire at the Michaelis Galleries. The exhibition will open to the public on Wednesday, 20 April 2022.

Campus communications


Updates on Campus Fire


Campus communications

News and videos

Memories of Jagger Library – stories from the UCT community

Content submitted by members of the UCT community has been published with little to no editorial intervention from UCT News.

#UCTFire – stories from the UCT community

Content submitted by members of the UCT community has been published with little to no editorial intervention from UCT News. 


In an email to UCT students, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“Thank you for your patience as we seek ways to return to full academic activity at the University of Cape Town under COVID-19 regulations. Our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of everyone who needs to return to campus buildings.”

UCT is deeply grateful to all the donors who supplied food and other essential items for our students, and to everyone who has so generously offered other forms of support and assistance.

Everyone who would like to support the #UCTFire emergency relief fund is urged to please make financial donations to UCT through the UCT Alumni Ways to Give web page.

Donations can also be made by EFT using the details below:
Account name: UCT Donations Account
Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa
Branch code: Rondebosch Branch, 025009
Account number: 07 152 2387
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ
Please include your donor name if you so wish, as well as the reference for your donation, e.g. Name Surname, #UCTFire.

Messages of support

Cengage EMEA 17:00, 7 June 2021
Ricardo de Sao Joao 16:00, 17 May 2021
J.P. Morgan 10:00, 17 May 2021
Unilever Southern Africa 16:10, 6 May 2021
Iziko Museums of South Africa 16:20, 5 May 2021
Sciences Po, France 10:05, 4 May 2021
The University of Tokyo 09:00, 30 April 2021
McCall MacBain Foundation 16:00, 29 April 2021
Stephen Toope, Chair of IARU 23:50, 27 April 2021
Mazi Asset Management 21:00, 27 April 2021
The National Archives (UK) 17:40, 27 April 2021
Universiteit Antwerpen 16:20, 26 April 2021
Yale University 21:15, 23 April 2021
SOAS University of London 17:00, 23 April 2021
University of Nairobi 15:45, 23 April 2021
Zhejiang University 12:05, 23 April 2021
University of Glasgow 11:20, 23 April 2021
Durham University 18:20, 22 April 2021
Sanlam Corporate Team 16:00, 22 April 2021
MANCOSA 16:00, 22 April 2021
Mastercard Foundation 13:30, 22 April 2021
National Research Foundation 09:05, 22 April 2021
Taylor & Francis 08:20, 22 April 2021
McGill University, Canada 21:35, 21 April 2021
Wild Bean Café 19:50, 21 April 2021
Worldwide Universities Network 19:10, 21 April 2021
University of Groningen 13:35, 21 April 2021
National University of Lesotho 11:00, 21 April 2021
Google South Africa 10:35, 21 April 2021
Chinese Ambassador Chen Xiaodong 09:00, 21 April 2021
George Whitefield College 08:40, 21 April 2021
Virginia Tech 02:00, 21 April 2021
University of Southampton 18:10, 20 April 2021
University of the Free State 17:25, 20 April 2021
KU Leuven 15:45, 20 April 2021
Northwestern University 15:45, 20 April 2021
Council on Higher Education 14:00, 20 April 2021
Times Higher Education 11:45, 20 April 2021
Regent Business School 11:15, 20 April 2021
Professor Crain Soudien 09:05, 20 April 2021
University of the Western Cape 09:00, 20 April 2021
Bishop Tshalo Katshunga 07:30, 20 April 2021
National Library of France 20:50, 19 April 2021
Thabo Mbheki Foundation 20:00, 19 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 19:10, 19 April 2021
Chinese Embassy in South Africa 17:20, 19 April 2021
University of Hull 17:00, 19 April 2021
University of Copenhagen 13:25, 19 April 2021
Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies 13:10, 19 April 2021
Mastercard Foundation 10:50, 19 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 09:20, 19 April 2021
Minister Blade Nzimande 09:15, 19 April 2021
Committee on Higher Education 09:10, 19 April 2021
University of the Witwatersrand 09:05, 19 April 2021
University of Pretoria 09:00, 19 April 2021