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The University of Cape Town (UCT) launched ‘The University of the Future’ (UoF) project on Wednesday, 31 May at the Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika on Middle Campus. The ground-breaking initiative is aimed at creating a vibrant and modern campus, designed to attract talent, foster community engagement and support UCT’s vision of a fair and just society.

The event was simultaneously livestreamed to an online audience. It started with a video which introduced the project. In the video, the project steering committee chairperson Professor Salome Maswime (also the head of the Global Surgery Division in the Faculty of Health Sciences) asked the viewers to consider the question: what will UCT’s spaces, places, services and functions look like in 2034?

The Programme Director Professor Graham Fieggen, Head of the Division of Neurosurgery and a member of the project steering committee pointed out that it is difficult to make predictions about the future. Referring to a quote by Thomas Sankara (former President of Burkina Faso) referenced in the introductory video, Professor Fieggen said that we need “the courage and extreme clarity today to invent our future”.

Places, spaces, services and functions

UCT’s Chief Financial Officer, Vincent Motholo, then addressed the gathering, saying that the UoF project brings about “hopefulness for the future”. Vice-Chancellor (Interim) Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy delivered the keynote address.

“All of us who have been attracted to be at UCT should be able to be accommodated and to work in spaces in which we are able to thrive.”

Professor Reddy said that the UoF project had to do with physical infrastructure, which is “an absolutely central consideration in the planning of the university”. He said that in the longer run, the way in which we plan and develop our critical infrastructure will determine whether we will meet our objectives. It is therefore important that we get this right. Furthermore, he said, “All of us who have been attracted to be here [at UCT] should be able to be accommodated and to work in spaces in which we are able to thrive.”

The VC (Interim) stated that the project draws inspiration from Vision 2030 strategy which seeks to unleash human potential fo a fair and just society. At the core of the UoF project is a compelling vision: to establish an enabling environment that unlocks human potential. UCT aims to create spaces, services and functions that empower students, staff and the broader community to thrive and contribute to society’s betterment.

The project’s strategic importance is recognised by the UCT Council, which supports its vision of a modern and striking campus capable of attracting top talent, local businesses, donors, and industry interest.

Reddy thanked the members of the project steering committee for their hard work, which has brought the university to this point. The committee boasts diverse representation from UCT, including academic and administrative staff, student representatives, unions, and the Cape Town community. This inclusive approach ensures that the project’s outcomes align with the aspirations of the university and its stakeholders.

Building the future

Professor Maswime shared some of the details of the project. The UoF project will provide a strategic roadmap to meet UCT’s changing physical requirements, enabling the realisation of the university’s vision and mission.

UCT launched the UoF project, aimed at transforming its campus and creating an environment that nurtures the potential of its students and staff.

The academic project takes centre stage in the endeavour, with a focus on:

  1. Development of new buildings: The UoF project aims to create modern structures that cater to evolving academic needs, while enhancing the campus’s aesthetic appeal.
  2. Restoration of heritage buildings: Preserving UCT’s rich heritage is a priority, and the project will include efforts to restore and maintain historic structures.
  3. Repurposing and repairing existing buildings: Through innovative concepts related to spaces, environments, artworks, technology and programmes, the UoF project seeks to repurpose and repair existing buildings, optimising their functionality and relevance.

Maswime continued: “We all have a responsibility towards building the future we want to see for UCT; and the future has to be better than what we have today.”

As part of the launch, a panel discussion was convened by the project’s Deputy Chairperson, Mr Richard Perez from the d-school. The panel addressed the question: “What is the University of the Future?” and served as the beginning of the co-creation session. Participants on the panel were:

  • Mr Carl Manlan, President of UCT Convocation (who joined through a pre-recorded video);
  • Professor Elelwani Ramugondo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness;
  • Mr Deon van Zyl, Chairperson of the Western Cape Property Development Forum;
  • Mr Tebogo Mabusela, final-year student in Accounting in the Faculty of Commerce, and former member of the Student’s Representative Council (SRC)
  • Professor Alison Lewis, Dean: Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment
  • Mr Manfred Braune, Director: Environmental Sustainability
  • Ms Libo Msengana-Bam, senior manager of Alumni Relations.

Phased approach

The UoF project follows a two-phased approach. Phase one, running from May to November 2023,  will feature co-creation project workshops open to all staff and students interested in submitting projects for consideration and potential funding. Additionally, the steering committee will engage with other project implementation committees to explore integration into the UoF project. The phase concludes with a call for projects, and a selection of these will be exhibited to the UCT community, with detailed criteria for submissions shared via Campus Announcements. This phase represents an exciting opportunity for UCT’s community to contribute their ideas and actively participate in shaping the future of their university.

“We need the courage and extreme clarity today to invent our future.”

Phase two, spanning November 2023 to May 2024, will see the execution of selected projects, providing funding to bring them to fruition.

With the launch of this project,UCT sets its sights on becoming a pioneering institution that embraces innovation, collaboration and community engagement. By transforming its campus, UCT aims to create an environment that nurtures the potential of its students and staff.

The UoF committee can be contacted via email at future@uct.ac.za. The committee aims to respond to all inquiries within one working week, reflecting their commitment to open dialogue and collaboration.

Visit the project page.

JUNE 2023 | STORY STEPHEN LANGTRY. PHOTOS ROBIN THUYNSMA. DIRECTOR NICO BADENHUIZEN. VIDEOGRAPHY RUAIRI ABRAHAMS & BOIKHUTSO NTSOKO. VIDEO EDIT BOIKHUTSO NTSOKO