University of Cape Town (UCT)
Universiteit van Kaapstad

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, 2017-18; 171 in the world THE 2017-18), 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 2017). 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 2017, UCT received the highest number of direct awards, as well as the highest amount of funding, from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) of any other higher education institution outside the US.

Read the latest issue of Umthombo, our magazine featuring research stories from across the university. Umthombo is the isiXhosa word for a natural spring of water or fountain. The most notable features of a fountain are its natural occurrence and limitlessness. Umthombo as a name positions the University of Cape Town, and this publication in particular, as an undepletable well of knowledge. In the context of the Cape Town water crisis, Umthombo represents hope itself.

University of Cape Town retains sole responsibility for content © 2018 University of Cape Town.

1 August 2017 - 31 July 2018

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 August 2017 - 31 July 2018 which are tracked by the Nature Index.

Hover over the donut graph to view the FC 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.

141 10.88

Outputs by subject (FC)

Subject AC FC
Physical Sciences 86 2.54
Life Sciences 37 3.98
Earth & Environmental Sciences 14 3.64
2 1.20
3 1.14
2 0.56
2 0.15
3 0.25
2 0.33
Chemistry 3 0.84

Highlight of the month

Earliest signs of active TB revealed



Latent tuberculosis may not always be so latent after all. Researchers have discovered that some people diagnosed with this non-active form of the bacterial infection show early immunological signs of progression to full-blown disease. This finding could spur the development of predictive blood tests and new drug interventions.

A team that included scientists from the University of Cape Town analysed gene expression patterns in the blood of 35 HIV-infected people diagnosed with latent tuberculosis, 10 of whom showed radiographic evidence of early active disease — a condition termed ‘subclinical’ tuberculosis. 

Like patients with active tuberculosis, but unlike those with truly latent infections, individuals with subclinical disease expressed many genes involved in mounting a specific type of immune response involving the so-called ‘classical complement pathway’. These patients also showed increased levels of disease-linked ‘immune complexes’ and the receptors that bind them.

HIV co-infection makes the progression of tuberculosis more likely, but this subclinical disease phenomenon may be more general, as the same immune-related gene signature was also present in an HIV-uninfected cohort during the year leading up to active tuberculosis presentation.

Supported content

  1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 115, E964–E973 (2018). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1711853115

View the article on the Nature Index

See more research highlights from University of Cape Town (UCT)

More research highlights from University of Cape Town (UCT)

1 August 2017 - 31 July 2018

International vs. domestic collaboration by FC

  • 8.22% Domestic
  • 91.78% International

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

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

Affiliated joint institutions and consortia

Return to institution outputs