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Get to know your faculty
09 February 2022
UCT has around 29 000 students who study across six academic faculties, including Commerce, Engineering & the Built Environment, Health Sciences, Humanities, Law and Science. These faculties are ably supported in their teaching and learning by the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED).
With approximately 6 700 students, Commerce offers several undergraduate specialisations namely accounting, actuarial science, computer science, economics, finance, information systems, law, management studies, marketing, organisational psychology, quantitative finance and statistical sciences.
The faculty is home to seven departments and 12 research groups.
Launched in 2018, UCT’s School of IT responds to the growing needs of the South African and global tech industry, and the increasing demand for university qualifications in the sector. As an interdisciplinary collaboration that bridges the faculties of Science, Commerce and Humanities, the School of IT offers a wide variety of courses and programmes to cater for students’ personal interests and aptitudes.
With just under 5 000 students and staff, state-of the-art facilities and world-renowned teaching staff, the faculty is home to architects, urban planners, landscape architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, land surveyors, GIS specialists, and property and construction managers.
The faculty is proud of its 60 National Research Foundation-rated staff members, not to mention its 16 active accredited research groups, covering African urbanism, fuel cells, minerals, biomedical engineering, robotics, alternative energy and more.
The annual QS World University Rankings - one of the three top university ranking systems in the world – have been released for specific study areas, including law, engineering and finance. Overall UCT is the best engineering university in South Africa, and fourth in Africa.
A team of researchers in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Sasol have made advancements in the use of a commercial iron catalyst, produced cheaply and at large scale at Sasol’s Secunda plant, which will enable conversion of unavoidable or biogenically derived carbon dioxide (CO2) and green hydrogen directly to a variety of green chemicals and jet fuel.
The Royal Aeronautical Society conferred a silver medal on the Aircraft Fuel Tank Component Design team in the Department of Mechanical Engineering for the application of their research work in computational fluid dynamics.
Engineering has the biggest role to play in making fundamental societal change – this is the motivation of the team from the Department of Electrical Engineering as they embark on a new project that aims to locate and monitor ocean pollution in waters off Cape Town.
The oldest medical school in sub-Saharan Africa (established in 1912), the Faculty of Health Sciences has around 2 600 staff members and 4 900 students (2 118 undergraduates and 2 785 postgraduates in 2020). It’s considered a centre of excellence in teaching, learning and research for health professionals and scientists with a strong reputation for having trained some of the best health practitioners and scientists globally, and for our clinical achievements and cutting-edge research across health disciplines.
With 14 academic departments comprising 106 divisions, the faculty is committed to responding to the health challenges facing South Africa and the continent, with the vision of achieving social justice and health equity.
The world’s first successful human heart transplant performed in 1967 by faculty member Dr Christiaan Barnard.
The top-rated health sciences faculty on the continent, and among the top 100 globally in clinical and health.
High numbers of UCT’s National Research Foundation A-rated researchers.
Researchers publishing more than five peer-reviewed articles every day, on average.
Having four out of the top 10 inventors by patents granted at UCT.
Our engaged students. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our students played an important role in responding to the pandemic and learning by being part of a multi-disciplinary response team. Students also assisted with testing, contact tracing and working at the Cape Town International Convention Centre ‘Hospital of Hope’ COVID-19 field hospital.
Assoc Prof Sudesh Sivarasu, based in the Division of Biomedical Engineering, who conceptualised the multi-award-winning FrugalBiodesign™, a unique medical device innovation methodology. He founded the Medical Devices Lab and co-founded the Orthopaedic Biomechanics Lab. This multi-award-winning lab has produced several medical technologies and innovative solutions with students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a locally manufactured ventilator.
Groote Schuur Hospital (a partner in our clinical teaching platform) recently became the first public-sector hospital in Africa to offer robot-assisted surgery, following the launch of the R38 million Da Vinci Xi surgical system. This represents four generations of refinement and nearly 20 years of learning and enhances surgical performance in a minimally invasive way by creating a natural extension of the surgeon’s eyes and hands.
Major research institutes, namely the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Cape Heart Institute and the Neuroscience Institute hosting a high-tech PET-CT Scanner.
Made up of more than 1 200 students (45% postgraduates) and 165 staff, the Faculty of Law was rated in the Top 150 Law Schools in the world by the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings 2021.
The Faculty of Law is the oldest and smallest faculty at UCT. Organised into three departments – Public Law, Private Law and Commercial Law – the faculty is home to world-class research units that provide the bridge between academic endeavour and social responsiveness. The faculty has two community-serving law clinics, one of which is focused on refugee rights.
Of the faculty’s academic staff, 21 are National Research Foundation-rated researchers and two are holders of SARChI chairs.
The faculty has a range of international agreements that support law academics and students to pursue international partnerships and study exchanges.
The faculty is home to a dedicated Moot Court for practising mooting skills, while the new Centre for Law and Technology focuses on legal tech.
Students are supported by a 24/7 library space and other facilities that help produce graduates who are sought after globally.
Law alumni include many leading law figures, such as Advocate Cissie Gool (anti-apartheid political and civil rights leader), Justice Albie Sachs (former Constitutional Court judge), Justice Kate O’Regan (former Constitutional Court judge) and Mr Ezra Davids, Chairman of Bowmans.
With almost 3 500 students and staff, the Faculty of Science continues to contribute to globally relevant research. This includes, but is not limited to, African climate and development, biodiversity, chemistry and biology for health in Africa, marine biology, southern skies and the evolving universe, and human evolution.
The faculty is made up of 12 departments, including archaeology, astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, computer sciences, environmental and geographical sciences, geological sciences, mathematics and applied mathematics, molecular and cell biology, oceanography, physics and statistical sciences.
Two alumni from the faculty have won Nobel Prizes: Allan MacLeod Cormack received the 1979 Nobel Prize in Medicine – together with Godfrey Hounsfield – for his work on X-ray computed tomography (the CT scanner); Sir Aaron Klug was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy, which helps us peer into the arrangement of atoms.
The faculty has 27 international leaders in their field, and our lecturers regularly win the Distinguished Teacher Award.
Over a third of the university’s annual PhD graduates are from the Faculty of Science.
CHED is a transversal faculty that works with the other faculties and many units across campus to continually improve access to and quality of higher education, promote excellence through equity, develop curricula in partnership with faculties, support the professionalisation of teaching staff, help students to make informed choices for career planning and readiness for the world of work, and enable systemic improvement through research-led development of informed policies.
CHED comprises several entities that collectively contribute to achieving its goals. These include:
the Academic Development Programme (ADP) – including the Numeracy Centre and the Language Development Group
the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT)
the UCT Careers Service
the Centre for Educational Assessment (CEA)
the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking (d-school)
the First-Year Experience (FYE).
CHED staff are deeply involved with rigorous institutional and national conversations and research in key areas of higher education, including academic advising, academic literacy, curriculum development, work readiness initiatives, educational technology, online and blended learning, assessment and diagnostic testing, numeracy, the first-year experience and multilingualism to improve your university experience.
The Distinguished Teacher Award has been awarded to several CHED staff over the years, including Associate Professor Janice McMillan (2016), Tim Low (2011) and Carla Fourie (2009).
Construction of the first academic 6 Green Star-rated building in Africa is near completion on middle campus; the donation building to UCT by the Hasso Plattner Foundation will house the HP d-school at UCT, which offers students opportunities to engage with a design thinking approach.
The Careers Service has been voted by employers as the “Best Careers Service” for 12 years in a row.
CILT led the project that culminated in UCT adopting the Brightspace Learning Management System in 2021; a cloud-based system which will replace Vula, Brightspace is a major milestone in enhancing the university’s digital infrastructure to support student success and provide students with rich and engaging blended and online learning experiences.
CILT was awarded the 2020 UCT Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Service Excellence for steering the university’s emergency remote teaching and learning project amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.