University of Fort Hare

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University of Fort Hare
Motto In lumine tuo videbimus lumen ("In your light we shall see the light")
Established 1916
Type Public university
Vice-Chancellor Mvuyo Tom
Students 13,331 (2015)
Location Main campus: Alice
Other: Bhisho
East London
, Eastern Cape, South Africa

The University of Fort Hare is a public university in Alice, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

It was a key institution in higher education for black Africans from 1916 to 1959. It offered a Western-style academic education to students from across sub-Saharan Africa, creating a black African elite. Fort Hare alumni were part of many subsequent independence movements and governments of newly independent African countries.

In 1959, the university was subsumed by the apartheid system, but it is now part of South Africa's post-apartheid public higher education system.


A building at the University of Fort Hare.

Originally, Fort Hare was a British fort in the wars between British settlers and the Xhosa of the 19th century. Some of the ruins of the fort are still visible today, as well as graves of some of the British soldiers who died while on duty there.

Missionary activity under James Stewart led to the creation of a school for missionaries from which at the beginning of the 20th century the university resulted. In accord with its Christian principles, fees were low and heavily subsidised. Several scholarships were also available for indigent students.

It was a key institution in higher education for black Africans from 1916 to 1959. It offered a Western-style academic education to students from across sub-Saharan Africa, creating a black African elite. Fort Hare alumni were part of many subsequent independence movements and governments of newly independent African countries.[1]

Several leading opponents of the apartheid regime attended Fort Hare, among them Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo of the African National Congress, Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Robert Sobukwe of the Pan Africanist Congress, Desmond Tutu, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo. Mandela who studied Latin and physics there for almost two years in the 1940s, left the institution as a result of a conflict with a college leader. He later wrote in his autobiography that “For young black South Africans like myself, it was Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, all rolled into one.”[1]

During the apartheid years, the school was nationalized and segregated along racial and tribal lines; blacks had previously gone to classes with Indians, coloureds and a few white students.[1] It became part of the Bantu education system and teaching in African languages rather than English was encouraged.[1]

After the end of apartheid, Oliver Tambo became chancellor of the University in 1991.[1]


The University's main campus is located in Alice, near the Tyhume River. It is in the Eastern Cape Province about 50 km west of King William's Town, in a region that for a while was known as the "independent" state of Ciskei. In 2011, the Alice campus had some 6400 students. A second campus at the Eastern Cape provincial capital of Bhisho was built in 1990 and hosts a few hundred students, while the campus in East London, acquired through incorporation in 2004, has some 4300 students. The University has five faculties (Education, Law, Management & Commerce, Science & Agriculture, Social Sciences & Humanities) all of which offer qualifications up to the doctoral level.

University of Fort Hare Strategic Plans

Following a period of decline in the 1990s, Professor Derrick Swarts was appointed Vice-Chancellor with the task of re-establishing the University on a sound footing. The programme launched by Swarts was the UFH Strategic Plan 2000. The plan was meant to address the university's financial situation and academic quality standards simultaneously. The focus of the university was narrowed and consequently 5 faculties remained:

  • Education
  • Science & Agriculture
  • Social Sciences & Humanities
  • Management & Commerce
  • Law

Further narrowing the focus, 14 institutes were founded to deal with specific issues, such as the UNESCO Oliver Tambo Chair of Human Rights. Through their location the institutes have excellent access to poor rural areas, and consequently emphasis is placed on the role of research in improving quality of life and economic growth (and especially sustainable job creation). Among the outreach programmes, the Telkom Centre of Excellence maintains a "living laboratory" of 4 schools at Dwesa on the Wild Coast, which have introduced computer labs and internet access to areas that until 2005 did not even have electricity. The projects at Dwesa focus research on Information and Communication for Development (ICD).

Incorporation of Rhodes University's former campus in East London in 2004 gave the University an urban base and a coastal base for the first time. Subsequent growth and development on this campus have been rapid. Initial developments of the new multi-campus university were guided by a three-year plan; currently the University is following the new "Strategic Plan 2009-2016", set to take the institution to its centennial year.

Notable alumni

Name DoB - DoD Notes
Z. K. Matthews 1901–1968 Lectured at Fort Hare from 1936 to 1959
Archibald Campbell Jordan 30 October 1906–1968 Novelist, pioneer of African studies
Govan Mbeki 9 July 1910 – 30 August 2001 South African politician
Yusuf Lule 1912 - 21 January 1985 Interim president of Uganda 1979
Cedric Phatudi 27 May 1912 – 7 October 1987 Former Chief Minister of Lebowa 1972–1987
Kaiser Matanzima 5 June 1915 - 15 June 2003 President of bantustan Transkei
Oliver Tambo 27 October 1917 – 24 April 1993 member, African National Congress- Expelled while doing his second degree.
Joshua Nkomo 1918 - 1 July 1999 Founder of the ZAPU.
Nelson Mandela 18 July 1918 - 5 December 2013 Former President of South Africa- - Expelled and later graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand.
Lionel Ngakane 17 July 1920 – 26 November 2003 South African filmmaker
Seretse Khama 1 July 1921 – 13 July 1980 First President of Botswana
Julius Nyerere 19 July 1922 – 14 October 1999 President of Tanzania
Herbert Chitepo 15 June 1923 – 18 March 1975 ZANU leader
Robert Sobukwe 1924 - 27 February 1978 Founder of the Pan Africanist Congress
Robert Mugabe 21 February 1924 - President of Zimbabwe, attended 1949–1951
Kenneth Kaunda 28 April 1924 - First President of Zambia
Allan Hendrickse 22 October 1927 – 16 March 2005 Politician, preacher, and teacher
Mangosuthu Buthelezi 27 August 1928 - Leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party - Never graduated but transferred to University of Natal to study History and Bantu Administration; graduated to become leader of KwaZulu Bantustan in apartheid South Africa
Desmond Tutu 7 October 1931 - Archbishop Emeritus, South African peace activist, Chaplain at Fort Hare in 1960
Frank Mdlalose 29 November 1931 - First Premier of KwaZulu-Natal
Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri 18 September 1937 – 6 April 2009 Minister of Communications, South Africa
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang 9 October 1940 – 16 December 2009 Minister of Health of South Africa
Chris Hani 28 June 1942 – 10 April 1993 Leader of the South African Communist Party - Expelled, later graduated from Rhodes University.
Wiseman Nkuhlu 5 February 1944 - economic advisor to former President Thabo Mbeki, Head of NEPAD
Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile 27 December 1944 - former Minister of Sport of South Africa
Sam Nolutshungu 15 April 1945 – 12 August 1997 South African scholar
Nyameko Barney Pityana 7 August 1945 - lawyer and theologian, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Africa
Bulelani Ngcuka 2 May 1954 - South Africa's former Director of Public Prosecutions
Loyiso Nongxa 1954- Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand
Joseph Diescho 1955 - Namibian novelist
John Hlophe 1 January 1959 – Judge President of the Cape Provincial Division of the High Court
Kgathole Bernard Mogadime 10 March 1963 – Chairperson Professional Board of Social Work

(Others, unknown DOB:)

  • Tiyo Soga - religion, Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Africa
  • K. Mokhele - science
  • Don Ncube - business

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Samuel G. Freedman (27 December 2013) Mission Schools Opened World to Africans, but Left an Ambiguous Legacy New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2013

External links

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