University of Cape Town (UCT)

South Africa

The University of Cape Town’s geographical vantage point at the tip of Africa offers an exhilarating research environment that combines excellence with impact.

As a leading research university (1st in Africa THE, QS, 2016; 148 in the world THE 2016), UCT is one of the best places in the world to research Africa-specific problems, from the chemistry of malarial drug discovery to the development of urban Africa. We have strong collaborative networks across the globe, and often form a nexus of partnerships between researchers in the global north and global south, particularly Africa. UCT is the first university in Africa to join the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). It is therefore not surprising that we attract researchers — from postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows to leaders in their field — from all over the continent and the world.

Experts in the southern skies

UCT is fast becoming Africa’s astronomy and cosmology hub. It includes global leaders in their field, such as Professor George Ellis, who co-wrote The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with Stephen Hawking; Professor Michael Feast, who published his first paper in Nature at 21 and his most recent at the age of 87; and Professor Russ Taylor, who is leading our involvement in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project and the big data challenges it brings.

Climate and development

UCT has extensive interdisciplinary expertise in conservation, climate adaptation and community conflict. The AXA Research Fund awarded its first research chair in Africa to the director of the African Climate & Development Initiative, a leading interdisciplinary research group. The Percy FitzPatrick Institute was identified as a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Birds as Keys to Biodiversity Conservation in 2004; UCT ranks 3rd in the world in ornithology (CWUR 2016). The Future Water Institute builds on UCT’s substantial research footprint in water and encompasses the skills and resources of 10 different departments across six faculties.

Healthcare for Africa

In a country that faces four epidemics, where most countries only have one or two, UCT has developed unique expertise in addressing healthcare in Africa. The Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) and the Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) have produced ground-breaking research, particularly in HIV, TB and malaria. A Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa (CIDRI-Africa) – the first of its kind in Africa – will be established at UCT. In 2016, UCT received the highest number of direct awards, as well as the highest amount of funding, from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) than any other higher education institution outside the US.

University of Cape Town retains sole responsibility for content © 2017 University of Cape Town.

1 February 2016 - 31 January 2017

Region: Global
Subject/journal group: All

The table to the right includes counts of all research outputs for University of Cape Town (UCT) published between 1 February 2016 - 31 January 2017 which are tracked by the Nature Index.

Hover over the donut graph to view the WFC output for each subject. Below, the same research outputs are grouped by subject. Click on the subject to drill-down into a list of articles organized by journal, and then by title.

Note: Articles may be assigned to more than one subject area.

AC FC WFC
197 19.64 11.74

Outputs by subject (WFC)

Subject AC FC WFC
Physical Sciences 144 12.33 4.44
Life Sciences 40 4.55 4.55
Earth & Environmental Sciences 16 3.55 3.55
Chemistry 6 0.87 0.87

Highlight of the month: University of Cape Town (UCT)

Birds of a feather hunt together

© Sebastian Kopp/Eye Em/Getty

© Sebastian Kopp/Eye Em/Getty

Variation in light can explain how a species evolves subgroups with different colours, a condition known as polymorphism.

Despite their name, black sparrowhawks are not completely black. In South Africa, black sparrowhawks in the Western Cape tend to have dark feathers on their underside, while those in the northeast usually have light feathers. This variation may result from geographic differences in light levels during the sparrowhawks’ breeding season affecting their visibility to prey.

To test this hypothesis, researchers at the University of Cape Town filmed sparrowhawk nests during the breeding season to measure how much prey the males brought home. Dark birds fared better in the wet winters of the Cape, where clouds and vegetation reduced light levels, while lighter birds brought home more prey in the dry, bright northeast. These findings demonstrate how lighting conditions can affect the fitness and evolution of different subgroups.

  1. Ecology Letters 19, 679-686 (2017). doi: 10.1111/ele.12606

View the article on the Nature Index

1 February 2016 - 31 January 2017

International vs. domestic collaboration by WFC

  • 6.24% Domestic
  • 93.76% International

Note: Hover over the graph to view the percentage of collaboration.

Note: Collaboration is determined by the weighted fractional count (WFC), which is listed in parentheses.

Affiliated joint institutions and consortia

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