University of Cape Town

University of Cape Town

UCT is an inclusive and engaged research-intensive African university that inspires creativity through outstanding achievements in learning, discovery and citizenship; enhancing the lives of its students and staff, advancing a more equitable and sustainable social order and influencing the global higher education landscape.

1. Faculty of Health Sciences

The Faculty’s mission is to:

  • Respond to the health care needs of South Africa and beyond.
  • Educate health professionals, educators and scientist for life.
  • Undertake research that is relevant to the needs of our country and beyond.
  • Promote health equity through promoting health professional standards in the delivery of quality health care.
  • To be socially responsive to the needs of the people of our country and beyond.
  • To develop interventions to reduce the risk of ill health, disability and mortality.

FHS offers a variety of educational, training and academic career options within the context of health care and research - from clinical and public health to health and rehabilitation sciences. It is a Faculty of world-class training - owing to the strong reputation for having trained some of the best health practitioners and scientists globally, and for its Clinical achievements and cutting-edge research.

In 2012 FHS celeberated its centenary as the first medical school in sub-Saharan Africa, and also its rating among the top 50 health sciences faculties worldwide (by Times Higher Education) - a first for any university in Africa and the developing world.

The Faculty has 13 academic departments, over twenty multi-disciplinary research groupings, and more than 4000 students. FHS programmes are embedded in four main themes, namely undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, clinical services and research.

FHS activities are in responding to South African problems in the context of African and global health challenges through supporting training and research. Research is high on FHS agenda. Exceptional academics drive research in cross-disciplinary and international collaborations - amongst us are 12 of UCT's 33 A-rated scientists and 8 of the 29 UCT SARCHI Research chairs. The growing numbers of postgraduate students, many from Africa and beyond, reflect the commitment to building research capacity and growing the next generation of academics. Postgraduate registrations now exceed undergraduate, highlighting the attraction of the research environment.

2. Faculty of Science

The Faculty of Science is home to approximately 2 600 students, of which some 36% are postgraduate research students registered in the 12 academic departments – Archaeology, Astronomy, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental & Geographical Science, Geological Sciences, Mathematics & Applied Mathematics, Molecular & Cell Biology, Oceanography, Physics and Statistical Sciences. There are about 185 academic staff and some 160 support staff who provide for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Undergraduate teaching is a cornerstone of FS activities and the Faculty offers 20 different majors, with possibilities to co-major in subjects located in other Faculties. FS majors are loosely organised into three clusters – those in the biology, earth and environmental sciences, those in the chemical and molecular sciences, and those in the numerical and physical sciences.

The Faculty of Science prides itself on the high regard in which it is held by the international academic community, reflected in part by international world university and subject rankings. According to the latest QS rankings, the Science Faculty at UCT places in the band 51-100 top universities in the Earth and Marine Sciences and in the band 101-150 in the Biological and Environmental Sciences. In part, the national and international prominence of FS staff is captured in the high number of researchers rated by the National Research Foundation (NRF) system as having leading or prominent international standing (18 A-rated, 64 B-rated, 60 C-rated and 7 P-rated). Much of this international recognition comes from the strong research programmes run by the Faculty staff, in collaboration with international colleagues, the rigorous doctoral programmes offered by the Faculty, and through the resultant research output. Research emanating from the Faculty is published by a mixture of 185 permanent academic staff, over 80 Honorary Research Associates, ~400 doctoral students, ~140 postdoctoral fellows, 14 South African Research Chairs, 14 Senior Scholars, and international collaborators from across the world. An important component of the FS research takes place through 16 formal university accredited intra- and inter-disciplinary research groupings, and an NRF Centre of Excellence.


  • Oceanography
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental & Geographical Science
  • Molecular & Cell Biology

Department of Oceanography

The Department of Oceanography, the only one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, aims to advance knowledge of all facets of the oceans around Africa and in the Southern Hemisphere. Understanding the impact of our oceans on the atmosphere and ultimately climate change is central to many of the research interests of staff in the department. Emphasis is on the physical environment in the oceans and atmosphere and their interactions. The main focus of the department is on teaching and research in physical oceanography, atmospheric science and climatology in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa.

The Department has research groupings in sea-going observations, satellite marine remote sensing, marine biogeochemistry, the Southern Ocean, the Agulhas Current system and South West Indian Ocean, the Benguela upwelling system, coastal oceanography, numerical modelling, the science underpinning operational oceanography, marine and coastal meteorology, severe weather, and climate change and variability. It hosts the Nansen-Tutu Centre for Marine Environmental Research, the international French-RSA ICEMASA collaboration, and a DST/NRF Chair in coupled ocean-atmosphere modelling.

Department of Biological Sciences

The Department of Biological Sciences at UCT was established in 2013 as a result of a merger between the long standing Botany and Zoology Departments. The department has a large academic staff compliment, a large group of research associates, and a vibrant group of postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students. The Department houses the Bolus Herbarium, the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology (a DST-NRF Centre of Excellence), and three formal URC research units - the Plant Conservation Unit (PCU), the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) and the Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), as well as hosting the Marine Research Institute (Ma-Re). Research strengths range from marine biology, conservation biology, biodiversity, ecology, evolutionary biology, ornithology, palaeobiology, physiology and systematics. The Department hosts the DST-NRF South African Research Chair in Marine Ecology & Fisheries. (SARCHI ME&F).

Department of Chemistry

The Department of Chemistry has a proud teaching and research track record and is one of the largest departments in the Faculty of Science. It provides a high-level, quality learning experience for all its students, from undergraduate to postgraduate, in both theoretical and practical aspects of chemistry. It has no fewer than four recipients of the UCT Distinguished Teacher award on its current teaching staff. Two members of its academic staff have been awarded prestigious research chairs under the South African Research Chair Initiative. The Department has active research groups with strengths in Catalysis, Bioinorganic, Biophysical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, Synthetic Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, Supramolecular Chemistry, Scientific Computing and Chemical Glycobiology.

Chemistry is a popular study choice at UCT as graduates are directly employable and the postgraduate degrees are in demand in industry. The versatility of the chemistry qualification is borne out by the fact that graduates find employment in such diverse fields as energy (fossil fuels), agrochemicals, mining and minerals, pharmaceutical and medicinal (biotechnology, drug production, and vaccines), polymers (plastics), food (quality control, and wine and beer-making), and computationalchemistry.

Department of Environmental & Geographical Science

The Department of Environmental & Geographical Science aims to further knowledge, understanding and management of interactions between humans and their social, biological, and physical life-support systems.

The research undertaken is often interdisciplinary and covers a wide range of areas which include: vulnerability and adaption to climate change, urban food security, cultural geography, environmental change, access and benefit sharing, governance of natural resources, environmental assessment, land reform, transfrontier conservation, biodiversity, energy politics, atmospheric modelling, climate variability, sustainable development, paleoenvironments, physical geography, landscape ecology, agroecology, and urban development.

Potential career opportunities may be sought in local, provincial or national government, parastatals, non-governmental organisations, research, education, community development, and tourism.

Department of Molecular & Cell Biology

The Department of Molecular & Cell Biology has interests and expertise in diverse areas of biology. The members of staff are involved in research that is of great economic and social importance to South Africa and the rest of Africa. The research includes areas such as health and disease, plant and animal pathogens, viruses, genetic engineering, drought resistant crops and marine aquaculture. With well-equipped laboratories, offering access to DNA synthesis facilities and Proteomics/Metabolomics platforms, and strong connections to the Faculty of Health Sciences, the department is in a position to offer exciting research opportunities in fields of enquiry as diverse as plant desiccation, plant and marine biotechnology, signal transduction, evolutionary genetics, molecular virology, biochemistry and microbiology.

The department hosts a large number of postdoctoral research fellows and has a vibrant postgraduate student community.