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The University of Cape Town (UCT) is South Africa’s oldest university, and is one of Africa’s leading teaching and research institutions.
The birth of an institution
UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College, a high school for boys.
The College had a small tertiary-education facility that grew substantially after 1880, when the discovery of gold and diamonds in the north – and the resulting demand for skills in mining – gave it the financial boost it needed to grow.
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. In 1886 the Professor of Chemistry, Paul Daniel Hahn, convinced the Council to admit 4 women into his chemistry class on a trial basis. Owing to the exceptional standard of work by the women students, the College decided to admit women students permanently in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1887.