The University Of Fort Hare

The University Of Fort Hare, Many forces have interacted in the Eastern Cape.  Incoming Afrikaners and British met with Xhosa-speakers in the eighteenth century, and the long process of conflict, followed by the subordination and expropriation of the indigenous people, took place over more that one hundred years.  

An important British base at this time, named after a military officer , and a small town of Alice grew near its environs. The  process  of  colonization  and  expropriation was  paradoxical.    Brutal  military conquest, and integration of the population into the colonial economy, was accompanied by the spread of Christianity.  

The missionaries who carried the new ideas were themselves part of colonial expansion, but brought with them a creed which was taken by Africans and forged into a tool for grappling with the challenges of the colonial world.  The South African Native College, later the University of Fort Hare, was,  ironically, founded in  1916 on  the  site  of  the  earlier British military stronghold. The college originated from the sometimes uneasy alliance between the new class of educated African Christians, supported by a  number of  traditional Southern African leaders, and early twentieth-century white liberals, many of them clergy.

The religious tradition at the heart of Fort Hare‟s origin, shared by blacks and whites alike, heralded “plain living and high thinking‟, and a form of education that was undeniably Eurocentric.   However it did not make the assumption, central to the Bantu Education implemented in South Africa from the 1950’s, that black Africans required or deserved a different, inferior education. Thus, the University of Fort Hare produced graduates from South Africa and as far north as Kenya and Uganda, who knew they were as good as the best.  

Many went on to prominent careers in fields as diverse as politics, medicine, literature and art. Some politically active alumni like Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Robert Sobukwe and Mangosuthu Buthelezi in South Africa, Robert Mugabe and Herbert Chitepo in Zimbabwe, and Elius Mathu and Charles Njonjo in Kenya, have impacted their nations. In the arts Fort Hare has released from South Africa, poet Dennis Brutus, Drum journalist Can Themba, sculptor and painter Ernest Mancoba and Xhosa author and scholar Archibald Campbell Jordan. The first black Zimbabwean medical doctor, Ticofa Samuel Parirenyatwa, and the historian, novelist and politician Stanlake Samkange were also among the many non-South Africans who spent formative years at Fort Hare.

Though Fort Hare operated in an environment of racial segregation even before apartheid, the college contained the seeds of a more tolerant South Africa.  It was as racially inclusive as it could be at the time, with black, coloured and Indian students studying as one. It had men and women students from the beginning; its mainly white staff included black academics like ZK Matthews and DDT Jabavu and student’s home languages ranged through Xhosa, Sotho, Zulu, Afrikaans and many others. The takeover of the college in 1959-60 by the National Party government put an end to these achievements.  Fort Hare was transformed into an ethnic college for Xhosa speakers.   Outspoken staff members were expelled and a new administration, conspicuously loyal to the government and intent on imposing its world-view, was installed.   The campus grew over the next three decades, and student numbers increased, but government interventions reduced Fort Hare to the level of “Bush Colleges‟ that were instituted in many homelands.   In a parody of true academic maturity, Fort Hare became in 1970, self-governing and “independent‟. With the creation of Ciskei   in 1980, Fort Hare became the university of a microstate, recognized only by its fellow Bantustans and by South Africa’s minority government, a marked decline from its previous status as the greatest centre of black higher education in Southern and Eastern Africa.

The values and traditions of Fort Hare were embattled after 1960. The apartheid state made a determined attack upon the institution and did immense damage. However, some continuities of  its unique and proud historical traditions of  non- racism, critical debate and aspiration towards educational excellence were never eliminated and these are now being nurtured and developed

The tradition of excellence survived, firstly, amongst the students and also among a small but growing number of progressive academics.  Many rejected the attempt to turn Fort Hare into  an  ethnic institution, and from various directions  –  political, religious and cultural – people kept alive a spirit of opposition.  In the 1960’s various African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress aligned organizations emerged and were quickly suppressed.   Subsequently, Fort Hare became a stronghold of the Black Consciousness oriented South African Students‟ Organisation. Later still, there were constant protests by students, brutally suppressed, against the Ciskei homeland regime.

The tradition survived through the affection and loyalty of people towards Fort Hare, and, when the opportunity arose after 1990 when the apartheid-era administration was expelled, many opted to work here. Supporters included Sibusiso Bengu, the first black Vice-chancellor of the new dispensation, later Minister of Education and subsequently the University Chancellor; Makhenkesi Stofile, the Minister of Sport and Recreation; and Sipho Pityana, Registrar in the early 1990’s.  

It survived in the creation of a new Pan-Africanism and internationalism, with students from Zimbabwe to Eritrea, and staff from all over Africa and the world flocking to its doors. Many came  because  they  knew  of  Fort  Hare’s historical  reputation  and  wanted  to contribute to  its  newfound opportunities towards  renaissance. It  survives in  the remarkable archival records at Fort Hare, made up of the papers of the ANC and other liberation movements in exile. The archives of the university itself record an extraordinary and sustained educational achievement, forming a corporate memory now made accessible to scholars from all over the world.

This tradition survived notably in the university’s determination, under dynamic new leadership since 1999, to pull back from the brink of institutional collapse, to refute any misconceived national attempt at higher education rationalization that  would cause it to fade away or disallow its distinctive voice to be heard.

To contemporary Fort Harians, it is important to acknowledge, record and question its history, and to extract the  most  liberating, enriching and  valuable elements from  its  history  as building blocks towards a radically modernized institution. In the process the institution is building on the foundational strengths of its historical inheritance, geographical locations, stakeholder constituencies and committed workforce, and does not rely on a nostalgic invocation of previous glory.

The university is redefining its role as the producer and disseminator of new knowledge,  particularly  focusing  on  its  central  place  in  the  reshaping  of  post apartheid South Africa, and repositioning itself as the empowerment agent in the political, economic, cultural and social revolution that is unfolding in the subcontinent and beyond. Its curriculum and research agenda is being tuned to resonate with the contextual social renaissance, both by stimulating it and by responding to it. At the same  time  it  is  utterly  conscious of  the  need  to  engage  and  partner  with  the surrounding communities and region in a serving capacity and to extend into society at large through interesting new interconnections.

Following a decision by the Ministry of Education, the university has, since January 2004, been incorporating and integrating a new campus in the city of East London, formerly of Rhodes University, into UFH. This significant development in a new larger operating environment presents significant challenges as well as strategic opportunities for the calculated expansion of UFH into new markets, enabling it to play a stimulating and catalytic role in the development of the Buffalo City region.

Hence it is strategically planning to grow and develop programmes in a much wider student market and is re-profiling Fort Hare across the three campuses in Alice, Bhisho and East London. As the backbone to a new academic system, five new Faculties were established in 2005-6. Over the next period significant expansion in the portfolio of academic and strategic programmes are foreseen.

The University of Fort Hare is indeed more determined than ever to build on its distinctive and illustrious past.


A vibrant, equitable and sustainable African university, committed to teaching and research excellence at the service of its students, scholars and the wider community.


To provide high quality education of international standards contributing to the advancement of knowledge that is socially and ethically relevant and applying technological and socio-economic development of our nation and the wider world.


Integrity –  To respect and affirm the dignity, equality, freedom and rich cultural diversity of all human beings as the basis for peace and social justice, the pursuit of truth, intellectual honesty, and  openness to ideas.

Excellence – To be recognised as an international centre for excellence that is both rooted in its environment and sensitive to the challenges of human progress, and to foster a culture of teaching and learning and research excellence in the University as a basic minimum requirement for living up to the claim of being a site of knowledge generation.

Innovation – To focus on the challenges presented by new information technologies, information management systems and processes, and opportunities for innovation. And to do so in an enterprising way that benefits the University and humanity.  

Ethics – The attainment of the highest professional and ethical standards in teaching, learning, research, community engagement and corporate governance.

Strategic Objectives

Excellence in teaching and learning, research and community engagement;

This strategic objective focuses on the broad social vision which is required to sustain the University as an international centre for excellence that is both rooted in its environment and sensitive to the challenges of human progress; the imperative to revive a culture of teaching and learning and research excellence in the University as a basic minimum requirement for living up to the claim of being a site of knowledge generation and in order to be able to compare with similar institutions elsewhere in the world; and the fundamental mission of the contemporary African university and the inter-connection between that mission and broad-ranging expectations of the social responsibilities of the University to the communities it serves. It also focuses on accessing of new technologies that could facilitate teaching and learning, and research.

Improve the Student Experience:

This strategic objective has to do with managing the experience of student life at the University, so that critical, engaged citizens and appropriately skilled graduates leave the University of Fort Hare. It focuses on the administrative, residential, sporting, cultural and social support systems for students.

Build a Service Culture:

This objective is designed to ensure that the ethical principles of service and ethos of service excellence permeate the University culture, for students, staff and stakeholders; as well as improved efficiencies in administrative and management systems that support the primary processes.

Optimise the Multi- Campus model:

This objective introduces the ‘Planets in Alignment’ model as the optimal model for our multi-campus university; and describes how we intend to leverage the relative strengths and strategic niches of each of our three campuses, while ensuring equivalence of status and coordination across the geographic space.

Harness Technology Effectively:

This objective focuses on the challenges presented by new information technologies in terms of the investments that need to be made, information management systems and processes, and opportunities for innovation.

Develop Human Resources:

This objective is about refreshing – or possibly re-negotiating – the psychological and developmental contract with our staff. We will also have to revisit our models of management and leadership, and significantly improve our management capacity and capability. Managers will need to take responsibility for managing and supporting staff to make the transition to a new balance of activities, considering new models of teaching and learning, and planning staffing needs to deliver that model. We also need to inculcate a firm, but compassionate culture of individual and collective accountability; and reinforce staff expectations about being managed in line with this agenda.

Achieve financial viability and sustainability:

This enabler is concerned with the development of a sustainable funding base for the University; and with ensuring that the size and shape of the University is both viable and supports its strategic goals.

In summary, the University will focus on transformation in higher education, good governance and accountability, and its social responsibility function in the coming period. It will also emphasise technological development and the establishment of a sustainable funding base.


Preamble: ‘In lumine tuo vide bimus lumen’ – ‘In Thy light we see light’

The University of Fort Hare recognizes that any institution or community is ultimately governed by norms, values and belief systems that reflect its distinctive identity, traditions and orientation. The University believes that knowledge is a positive force only if integrated with values and that it should provide a nurturing context of strong ethical norms and principles. In the absence of such values, knowledge could be a destructive force.

This Charter therefore presents the crucial value-framework that defines the ethos of the University of Fort Hare. It guides the University’s Vision, Mission, Corporate Goals and Strategic Objectives. It serves as a reference point for all its academic and administrative policies, programmes and procedures and it binds the entire university community by shared ethical principles and values. The Charter is relevant to our rights and responsibilities, as Fort Harians, in relation to each other, the wider society and the environment. Ultimately, it seeks to inspire all people to live with nobility, dignity and an active conscience.

The University of Fort Hare will always be the crucible where many of the critical ideas of South Africa’s democracy, liberation, reconciliation and forgiveness germinated, developed and strengthened and eventually reverberated throughout the country, the continent of Africa and around the globe. The Charter therefore naturally resonates with the principles and values that underlie the Freedom Charter, the South African Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Fort Hare Charter has grown out of an inclusive developmental process that involved the entire university community.

It offers to all its members the ethical principles and values listed below, in order to guide us on our journey of discovery, exploration and realization of our intellectual and unique human potentialities. Without such ethical guidelines all teaching, learning, research and community service are of little value.

The University of Fort Hare Community is:

Inspired by the heritage of the University and the contribution it has made to leadership, liberation and service to humanity;

Accepting that the purposes of education include the realization of our humanity as well as our responsibility to self, family and community;

Recognizing that in the pursuit of truth and knowledge, the University, as an institution of higher learning, shall maintain in all that it does an unwavering focus on excellence;

Affirming that a crucial role of education is to instil in students respect, tolerance and social responsibility in an environment of academic freedom, dialogue, friendship and understanding.

The University of Fort Hare Community hereby accepts this Charter and commits itself to living by and promoting the principles and values listed below:


1. To ensure that the universal values of justice, integrity, discipline, love, kindness, non-injury and concern for the wellbeing of others shall serve as a source of our thought, speech and action.

2. To respect and affirm the dignity, equality, freedom and rich cultural diversity of all human beings as the basis for peace and social justice.

3. To commit ourselves to the pursuit of truth, intellectual honesty, openness to ideas and excellence through the attainment of the highest professional and ethical standards in teaching, learning, research and community service.

4. To endorse and encourage the endeavour for academic success as being critically linked with the striving towards an ever-deepening expression of our humanity.

5. To uphold and honour the dignity of the University, to preserve its heritage, spirit and assets and to observe its statute, rules and regulations as well as the laws of the country.

6. To encourage an orientation of imaginative, collaborative, problem-solving and entrepreneurial thinking in addressing the challenges that we face.

7. As a staff member, to be a responsible, caring mentor in all our dealings with students and with each other.

8. To not discriminate, directly or indirectly, on the grounds of birth, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or social origin, gender, age, illness or disability, language, culture, political or other opinion, religion, conscience, belief, marital status, pregnancy or sexual orientation.

9. To be ever conscious of the need to develop a responsible relationship with the earth and to understand our critical role to protect and preserve it for future generations.

To undertake teaching and research that will responsibly harness the benefits of all the sciences for the well-being of humanity, being conscious of the harm inherent in the irresponsible use of knowledge.

University Council

The Council of a public higher education institution must govern the public higher education institution, subject to Higher Education Act 101 OF 1997 and the institutional statute.

[Sub-s. (1) substituted by s. 8 (a) of Act 23 of 2001.]

The  Council,  subject  to  the  provisions of  the  HE  Act  No  101  of  1997  and  in accordance with Amendment to the Statute of the University of Fort Hare (Government Gazette No 25987, 04 February 2004), University Senate

The Senate of a public higher education institution is accountable to the Council for the academic and research functions of the public higher education institution and must perform such other functions as may be delegated or assigned to it by the Council.

Institutional Forum

The Institutional Forum of a public higher education institution must-

(a) advise the Council on issues affecting the Institution, including –

(i) the implementation of this Act and the National Policy on Higher Education;

(ii) race and gender equity policies;

(iii) the selection of candidates for senior management positions;

(iv) codes of conduct, mediation and dispute resolution procedures; and

(v) the fostering of an institutional culture which promotes tolerance and respect for fundamental human rights and creates an appropriate environment for teaching, research and learning; and

(b) perform such functions as determined by the Council.

(2) The Institutional Forum of a public higher education institution must consist of representatives of –

(a) the management, as determined by the institutional statute;

[Para. (a) substituted by s. 11 (a) of Act 23 of 2001.]

(b) the Council;

(c) the Senate;

(d) the academic employees;

(e) the employees other than academic employees;

(f) the students; and

(g) any other category determined by the institutional statute.

(3) The number of persons contemplated in subsection (2) and the manner in which they are appointed or elected, as the case may be, are determined by the

institutional statute. [Sub-s. (3) substituted by s. 11 (b) of Act 23 of 2001.]Student Governance


Alice Campus1 King Williams Town Road
Private Bag X1314
Tel: +27 (0)40 602 2441
Bhisho CampusP.O. Box 1153
Independance Avenue
Bhisho, King Williams Town
Tel: +27 (0)40 608 3460
East London CampusP.O. Box 7426,
50 Church Street
East London
Tel: +27 (0)43 704 7105


1 King Williams Town Road
Private Bag X1314
Alice, 5700
Tel: +27 (0)40 602 2441

Opening Hours

Monday – Thursday: 08:30 – 00:00
Friday: 08:30 – 20:30
Saturday: 08:30 – 16:00
Sunday: 13:30 – 17:30


P.O. Box 1153
Independence Avenue
Bhisho, King Williams Town
Tel: +27 (0)40 608 3460

Opening Hours

Monday – Thursday: 10:00 – 18:00
Friday: 08:30 – 15:30
Saturday & Sunday Closed


Private Bag X9083,
50 Church Street
East London,5200
Tel: +27 (0)43 704 7105Opening Hours

Monday – Thursday: 08:00 – 00:00
Friday: 08:00 – 20:00
Saturday: 09:00 – 17:00
Sunday: 12:00 – 17:00