University of Fort Hare

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University of Fort Hare
University of Fort Hare logo.svg
MottoIn lumine tuo videbimus lumen ("In your light we shall see the light"), from Psalm 36
TypePublic university
Established1916; 106 years ago (1916)
ChancellorDumisa Buhle Ntsebeza
Vice-ChancellorSakhela Buhlungu[1]
Students13,331 (2015)
Main campus: Alice
Other: Bhisho
East London
, ,
Coordinates: 32°47′13.4″S 26°50′56.7″E / 32.787056°S 26.849083°E / -32.787056; 26.849083
Colors  Blue

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

It was a key institution of higher education for Africans from 1916 to 1959 when it offered a Western-style academic education to students from across sub-Saharan Africa, creating an African elite. Fort Hare alumni were part of many subsequent independence movements and governments of newly independent African countries.[2][3]

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. It is the alma mater of well-known people including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Robert Sobukwe, Oliver Tambo, and others.


Union Hall 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.

During the 1830s, the Lovedale Missionary Institute was built near Fort Hare.[4]: 419  James Stewart, one of its missionary principals, suggested in 1878 that an institution for higher education of black students needed to be created.[4]: 419  However, he did not live to see his idea put into operation[4]: 419  when, in 1916, Fort Hare was established with Alexander Kerr as its first principal. D.D.T Jabavu was its first black staff member who lectured in Latin and African languages.[4]: 419  In accord with its Christian principles, fees were low and heavily subsidised. Several scholarships were also available for indigent students.

Fort Hare had many associations over the years before it became a university in its own right. It was initially called the South African Native College and attached to the University of South Africa.[4]: 419  It then became the University College of Fort Hare and associated with Rhodes University.[4]: 419  With the introduction of apartheid, higher educational institutions in South Africa were strictly segregated along racial lines; blacks had previously gone to classes with Indians, coloureds and a few white students. From 1953 the school became part of the Bantu education system, and with the passage of the Promotion of Bantu Self Government Act in 1959, it was nationalized and segregated along racial and tribal lines, and teaching in African languages rather than English was encouraged.[5] Fort Hare became a black university in its own right in 1970, strictly controlled by the state government.[4]: 419 

Centenary logo in 2016

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.[5] Amongst those who studied at Fort Hare who later became leaders of their countries were Kenneth Kaunda, Seretse Khama, Yusuf Lule, Julius Nyerere, Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo.

Liberation movement archives

Leading opponents of the apartheid regime who attended included Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Oliver Tambo of the African National Congress, Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Robert Sobukwe of the Pan Africanist Congress, and Desmond Tutu. 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: "For young black South Africans like myself, it was Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, all rolled into one."[5]

After the end of apartheid, Oliver Tambo became chancellor of the university in 1991.[5]


Faculty of Law

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.

Strategic plans[edit]

Following a period of decline in the 1990s, 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 five faculties remained:

  • Education
  • Science and agriculture
  • Social sciences and humanities
  • Management and commerce
  • Law
Sports grounds and swimming pool
Fort Hare De Beers Art Gallery

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 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 four 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[edit]

Name DoB - DoD Notes
Milner Langa Kabane 18 June 1900 – 1945 Educator, First Native Principal at Lovedale College, South African Politician, S.A. Bill of Rights pioneer: 1943.[6][7][8]
Z. K. Matthews 20 October 1901 – 11 May 1968 Lectured at Fort Hare from 1936 to 1959
Archibald Campbell Jordan 30 October 1906 – 20 October 1968 Novelist, pioneer of African studies
Govan Mbeki 9 July 1910 – 30 August 2001 South African politician
Yusuf Lule 10 April 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 15 June 1915 – 15 June 2003 President of bantustan Transkei
Mary Malahlela 2 May 1916 – 8 May 1981 First female black doctor in South Africa
Oliver Tambo 27 October 1917 – 24 April 1993 African National Congress activist, expelled while doing his second degree
Nelson Mandela 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013 Former President of South Africa; expelled and later attended the University of the Witwatersrand but did not graduate
Charles Njonjo 23 January 1920 –2 January 2022[9] Former Attorney General of Kenya and Former Minister of Justice in Kenya
Lionel Ngakane 17 July 1920 – 26 November 2003 South African film maker
Seretse Khama 1 July 1921 – 13 July 1980 First President of Botswana
Julius Nyerere 19 July 1922 – 14 October 1999 First President of Tanzania
Herbert Chitepo 15 June 1923 – 18 March 1975 ZANU leader
Robert Mugabe 21 February 1924 – 6 September 2019 Former President of Zimbabwe, attended 1949–1951
Kenneth Kaunda 28 April 1924 – 17 June 2021 First President of Zambia
Can Themba 21 June 1924 – 1968 South African writer and one of the "Drum Boys" who worked for Drum (a magazine for urban black people
Robert Sobukwe 5 December 1924 – 27 February 1978 Founder of the Pan Africanist Congress
Alfred Nzo 19 June 1925 – 13 January 2000 South African politician
Munyua Waiyaki 12 December 1926 – 26 April 2017 former Kenyan Minister for Foreign Affairs
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. Leader of KwaZulu Bantustan in apartheid South Africa
Leepile Moshweu Taunyane 14 December 1928 – 30 October 2013 Life President of Premier Soccer League, President of the South African Professional Educators Union
Desmond Tutu 7 October 1931 – Archbishop Emeritus, South African peace activist, Chaplain at Fort Hare in 1967–1969.[10]
Frank Mdlalose 29 November 1931 – 4 April 2021 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 at Rhodes University
Wiseman Nkuhlu 5 February 1944 – economic advisor to former President Thabo Mbeki, Head of NEPAD
Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile 27 December 1944 – 15 August 2016 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
Sabelo Phama 31 March 1949 – 9 February 1994 South African politician and Secretary of Defense in the Pan African Congress
Bulelani Ngcuka 2 May 1954 – South Africa's former Director of Public Prosecutions
Loyiso Nongxa 22 October 1954 – Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand
Thandi Ndlovu 1954/1955 - 24 January 2019 South African medical doctor and businesswoman
Joseph Diescho 10 April 1955 – Namibian novelist
John Hlophe 1 January 1959 – Judge President of the Cape Provincial Division of the High Court
Zara Thruster 15 July 1977 –

Patenting nerve regeneration compound "18-MĆ" extracted from the root of the Alepidea Amatymbica plant

Dr. Mgwebi Snail 12 October 1952 – South African Historian, Politician Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) and Author
Wandile Sihlobo 16 October 1990 South African Agricultural Economist and Government Rural Development Advisor

See also[edit]


  1. South African Native College Calendar, Thirteenth year, 1928. Fort Hare, Alice.
  1. ^ "University of Fort Hare appoints Prof Sakhela Buhlungu as new vice chancellor" (Times Media Group). Time Live. Archived from the original on 9 November 2016. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  2. ^ "CHE | Council on Higher Education | Regulatory body for Higher Education in South Africa | Education | Innovation | University | South Africa". Archived from the original on 24 May 2020. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  3. ^ "University of Fort Hare | National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS)". Archived from the original on 14 August 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Maaba, Brown Bavusile (2001). "The Archives of the Pan Africanist Congress and the Black Consciousness-Orientated Movements". History in Africa. 28: 417–438. doi:10.2307/3172227. JSTOR 3172227. S2CID 145241623.
  5. ^ a b c d Samuel G. Freedman (27 December 2013) Mission Schools Opened World to Africans, but Left an Ambiguous Legacy Archived 8 November 2019 at the Wayback Machine New York Times. Retrieved 27 December 2013
  6. ^ Republic of South Africa, The Presidency, National Orders Booklet, 2017.
  7. ^ Africans Claims in South Africa, Alfred Bathini Xuma, 1943
  8. ^ African Native College Calendar, Thirteenth year, 1928. Fort Hare, Alice.
  9. ^ "Sir Charles Njonjo dead at 101". Nation. 2 January 2022. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  10. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 1984". Archived from the original on 11 September 2019. Retrieved 27 November 2019.

External links[edit]