Wits’ founding values remain at the heart of our daily lives. We prepare students not just for a profession, but for a life of active citizenship.
Celebrating 100 Years of Wits
Our Centenary is a significant opportunity for us to galvanise our community to secure Wits’ place as one of the world’s great universities, mapping a bright future for this remarkable institution and strengthening our impact. We also want to show you who we are, what we can achieve together, and the immense impact Wits University has in changing and shaping society for the better.
A remarkable university that is internationally distinguished for its excellence.
The story of Wits University is a time-honoured legacy. From our early beginnings in Johannesburg a century ago, to our plans to lead the fourth industrial revolution for the century ahead, journey through our finest and toughest moments in this 100-year timeline.
Prior to the official opening of the University of the Witwatersrand in 1922, we began as a school in Kimberley in 1896.
Ever since, this University has been the epicentre of knowledge, growth and social justice. We have maintained our legacy of excellence by consistently providing quality higher education and staying at the forefront of innovation.
With our African roots and our global competitiveness, we're shaping a number of great minds, fighting for human rights, discovering life saving technologies and uncovering hidden gems. We're here and we're staying. For Good.
The University of the Witwatersrand is officially established
Wits is granted full university status in March 1922. Once the University was officially established, it appointed H.R.H Price Arthur as Chancellor and Professor Jan Hofmeyer as Principal. The official opening ceremony only occurred on 4 October 1922 because of the postwar revolutionary strikes that were taking place for most part of the year.
From its beginning, authorities at Wits University were clear on three things that would not be compromised on at the University: first, that the academic standard must always be of the highest; second, that adequate infrastructure was to be a priority for staff, lecture halls and student residences; and third, that modern and expensive laboratory equipment was needed to provide the best environmental conditions for research. These standards of quality are still staunchly maintained at the University today and cements our internationally recognised academic programmes.
Phineas: Former Wits Mascot
A forlorn, armless figure in a tartan sash and kilt stands in a corner of the Wits University Archive. Known as Phineas, he was the University’s mascot for many years. On his head, he used to sport a “towering black busby”, which he lost, along with one of his arms, when he was kidnapped by UCT students shortly after inter varsity athletics in 1923. He was recaptured by Witsies after a seven year sojourn at UCT.
Wits Professor discovers the Taung Skull
Professor Raymond Dart announced the discovery of the Taung skull, the first of Africa’s early hominids, and named the species Australopithecus Africanus. He published an article in Nature. This and later discoveries established his international scientific reputation and brought enormous prestige to the University.
The University of the Witwatersrand moves from Plein Square to Milner Park
In 1923, the University gradually vacated its premises in Eloff Street to move to the first completed teaching buildings at Milner Park.
The University had, at that stage, 6 faculties (Arts, Science, Medicine, Engineering, Law and Commerce), 37 departments, 73 members of academic staff and little more than 1 000 students. In 1925 the Prince of Wales officially opened the Central Block.
Government of the time reduces funding to universities
Since the mid-1920s the government of the time under Barry Hertzog hinted that subsidies to universities were putting a strain on the state.
In particular, they questioned the need for certain departments at Wits University, such as the School of Architecture and the Schools of Music and Bantu Studies.
In 1929, the government took direct measures to cut funding to universities and Wits saw its state subsidy reduced to just 5%. Soon after this came the Great Depression, which further strained university funding.
Rag Day Commemoration 1929
Rag Day (Remember and Give) was the climax of six weeks of activity aimed at raising funds for charity, which also involved the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. A month before Rag Day, students took to the streets selling the Rag magazine, Wits Wits, a compendium of jokes and cartoons. A Rag Queen presided over a street procession of floats in the morning and the Rag Ball in the evening.
Champion Tree at Wits
The massive crown of a eucalyptus (blue gum) tree, measuring more than 38 metres from side to side, supported by a trunk of 7.5 metres in circumference, shades part of the Gavin Reilly Green on West Campus.
The tree was planted in the 1930s, next to the main road used in the 19th century by the early traders on the route between Rustenburg and Joburg when the city was still a gold rush town.
The Department of Agriculture initiated the Champion Trees Project to identify trees worthy of special protection throughout South Africa, under the National Forests Act of 1998. This tree is one of them.
First Wits Library, William Cullen, is officially opened
Construction of Wits' first library began in the early 1930s, and it was officially opened on 12 March 1934. At its opening, The Star newspaper stated that “It is considered that the Library should meet the needs of the University for at least the next 100 years…” A campaign was also started to populate the Library with books. Many came from private individuals, donations, scientific societies, and institutions in the United States and Canada. Thousands of volumes of books were collected and in 1974, the Library was named after William Cullen who played a major part in the reconstruction of the building and collection of its books.
Wits appoints first black staff member
Wits University cements itself as an Open University and appoints its first black staff member, Dr B.W. Vilakazi, who went on to publish the first Zulu - English dictionary with another Wits professor. The infamous 'Vilakazi Street' in Soweto - where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived - was named in honour of Dr Vilakazi.
Vilakazi’s poem “Wo, Ngitshele Mntanomlungu” (“Tell Me, White Man’s Son”) recalls his arrival at Wits and pausing at the sound of pigeons roosting above the columns of Central Block:
Such massive and majestic columns,
Drawing my gaze, where, high above me,
Doves are perched whose noisy cooing
Is like the bellowing of bulls.
Thus, as I gaze in wonder,
I realise beyond all doubt
That I am lost! Yet well I know I came
To serve my own beloved people –
Aware of them always, I hear them cry
“Take up your burden and be our voice!”
Bernard Price Geophysical Research Institute is established
Wits University’s first research institute is established. The Bernard Price Geophysical Research Institute was funded and donated by Dr Bernard Price, who spent many years on the University Council. Important research on lightning and Seismology came out of research work at this institute. The Special Radar Unit of the Corps of Signals, under Brigadier Basil Schonland, developed and built equipment and operated the entire South African Radar activity from this institute.
Great Hall is opened
The Central Block building was an unfinished façade behind which stood a two-storey wood and iron structure, with a basement. It was only completed in May 1940 because of financial constraints. In June the Governor-General officially opened the Great Hall, without incident.
First student protest
The first major protest by Wits students against fee increases takes place. This will set the tone for other student protests throughout the following decades at the University.
1st Zulu English dictionary published, Savernake Mansion hosts all Wits VCs
The Zulu-English dictionary was the result of 12 years of effort between Clement Doke, a lecturer in the Department of Bantu Studies and Dr B.W. Vilakazi, the first black staff member hired at Wits University back in 1935.
The mansion of Savernake has hosted Wits University Vice-Chancellors since 1948. It is one of the few remaining houses scattered along the Parktown Ridge that used to belong to the Randlords who made their money from the goldfields.
A pioneering giant in Zulu literature, Dr B.W. Vilakazi drew inspiration from his rural home in Natal. He created a new genre of poetry combining traditional Zulu praise-poetry with the blank verse form. Vilakazi’s plays, books and poems, along with academic articles, were widely published from the early 1930s.
Wits Convocation Committee approves first ever African Medical Scholarships
The SRC at Wits requested the convocation committee set up a fund and garner financial support for African students to study medicine. The government at the time had stopped all bursaries to African students eligible to study medicine, and wanted medical training facilities for non-Europeans to be confined to only the Natal university. The request was approved by Wits convocation and public support was also received for the training of African students at Wits medical training facilities.
Wits Convocation Committee opposes segregation at universities
Wits University's Convocation Committee stated that it was solidly behind the Council, Senate, staff and students in regard to the independence of the University of the Witwatersrand and it supports wholeheartedly the concept of the University retaining its autonomy in regard to academic freedom.
"Furthermore, Convocation has already registered its strong protest at a Special General Meeting on 23 February 1954, when, by a large majority, it took exception to the appointment of a Government Commission to investigate the 'practicability and financial implications of providing separate training facilities for non-Europeans at the universities'." - Convocation Commentary, 1956
Apartheid government enforces racial segregation in South African universities
Most affected were the four English-medium and liberal universities: Wits University, the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University and the University of Natal.
The John Moffat building was officially opened and named after Moffat, who bequeathed the greater part of his estate to Wits with the condition that something of permanence be constructed.
The Extension of University Education Act was passed in 1959 and barred all non-Europeans from attending universities in the country. This went against the most important values of Wits University, particularly academic freedom. The University staged a protest in opposition to the new legislation when staff and students lined the streets of Johannesburg calling for government to end its interference in academic matters.
In the 1960s the University acquired the Sterkfontein farm from the Stegmann family, with its world-famous limestone caves, rich in archaeological material. In 1968 the neighbouring farm, Swartkrans, also a source of archaeological material, was purchased.
The Planetarium is opened on 12 October 1960 - the first one in Africa and the second in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Unknown Miner, and Wits acquires Nuclear Reactor
This bronze statue was created in 1961 and donated Wits by Louis Wald in 2012. It honours the many thousands of migrant black mineworkers who worked on the gold mines of the Reef. The atlas-like figure appears to hold up the rock surrounding the stopes deep beneath the surface, and, in so doing, the whole edifice of mining. Conceived by sculptor Herman Wald, who also has other works on display at Wits.
Wits acquires a cheap, small nuclear reactor from a lab linked to Cambridge University, which was the alma mater of Prof. Friedel Sellschop. The reactor was housed in the Nuclear Physics Research Unit and was key to the success of an international team, including Sellschop, devoted to the detection of neutrinos found in nature.
Wits becomes the first university in the country to own a computer
Wits University's Council made a decision to purchase a computer in 1961, and purchased one the following year. It was the first ever university-owned computer in South Africa. Apart from a machine owned by the CSIR at the time, it was also the only other scientific computer in the country. The University replaced the first computer with more advanced ones over the next 10 years - and maintained its position in the computing field in the decades that followed.
Student Union is officially opened
After many years of deliberating on a suitable site for a student's union building, one was finally decided on in 1964 and still exists today. It has grown to become a hub for student life and interaction, houses a mini student shopping mall called The Matrix, is also home of the SRC, the centre of student clubs and organisations — and the place for awesome food.
Robert Kennedy visits Wits University
Robert Kennedy makes a seminal speech to a packed mixed audience in the Great Hall saying, “ So many of these I have seen, so many who are in this hall, are standing with their brothers around the globe for liberty and equality and human dignity; not in the ease and comfort and approbation of society, but in midst of controversy and difficulty and risk.”
Kennedy was the first American leader to visit South Africa after the National Party came to power. He was highly critical of apartheid and committed to racial equality and civil rights in the US. Invited by the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) to deliver the Annual Day of Affirmation Speech at UCT, he went on to speak at two other universities. The apartheid government found it difficult to handle his visit, because of its ambivalent dependence on the US. It refused to provide any security, and government ministers petulantly contented themselves with delivering insults, including that Kennedy was “a little snip”.
Wits Business School is established
Wits Business School was opened in 1968. It has an extensive Management Library, 24-hour meeting rooms and Africa’s largest Case Study Centre, housing over 200 real-life cases that bring relevant business challenges into the classroom. The main campus is in Parktown.
Free Peoples Concert
From 1971 through to the 1980s, Free People's concerts were hosted by Wits at various iconic venues from the Wits Library Lawns through to the Kloofendal Amphitheatre. It was one of the very few places were mixed races and bands were given an opportunity to come together.
Wits buys nuclear accelerator
Wits University was the first university in South Africa to buy and operate a nuclear accelerator. The Tandem van Der Graaf generator called 'Daisy' was purchased for the Nuclear Physics Research Unit. These relatively compact machines pioneered the understanding of low-energy heavy-ion physics at just above the Coulomb barrier. Through the determined efforts of Sellschop, an EN Tandem van der Graaff accelerator reaching 6 MV was obtained from High Voltage Engineering Corporation, and installed in a purpose-designed building in 1973.
In 1972 at a Senate Committee meeting, the administration voiced concern over the abbreviation "Rand" cited on quaifications for academics and official publications from the University had become increasingly confused with Rand Afrikaans University. Suggestions were made to change the citation to WWR, WU, UW, Wits, and R'RAND. It was finally settled on "Wits" - which is the citation carried today on all academic credentials.
Wits Law Clinic opens, Student banned
The Wits Law Clinic was opened in August to provide free legal advice for staff and students of the University. Advice was given by law students who were under the guidance of experienced members of staff.
A Wits student is banned due to a highly controversial cartoon depicting then Prime Minister John Vorster dumped down a toilet faucet with a quintessential Wits student speaking down to him. This then sparks calls from government minsters for VC Bozzoli to intervene.
The Wits Law Clinic was established by Felicia Kentridge, who studied and lectured at Wits in the 1960s. She was a pioneer of public interest law in a time when no one else would provide these services. The Wits Law Clinic gave much needed support to impoverished black South Africans and it remains an important institution in South Africa today. In its opening year, the Clinic handled 145 cases and in 1993 over 2000 cases.
In 2002, the Clinic successfully compelled the government to provide Nevirapine to HIV-positive mothers in a landmark case on mother-to-child-transmission, and fought for the provision of ARV treatment, which marked a turning point in the government's AIDS policy. It won another landmark case on housing in the infamous Grootboom case, which compelled the state to provide adequate housing to all its citizens.
Adler Museum opens
The Adler Museum was handed over to Wits University in 1974. It was founded in 1962 by Drs Cyril and Esther Adler. It is the only one of its kind in South Africa and is one of the most comprehensive history of medicine museums in the world.
Senate House is opened
Senate House serves as the administration block of Wits. During the #FeesMustFall protests, it was referred to as 'Solomon House' by students. It was officially renamed Solomon Mahlangu House in 2016 when the SRC put a formal request to the Wits Naming Committee to have it changed.
Sports Club officially opens
The All Sports Club opens and fills a need for a central clubhouse on campus. It provides a venue for sporting functions and a meeting place for athletes from inside and outside Wits University.
Following the death of Steve Biko, Wits Professor Phillip Tobias and other scholars wrote a formal complaint to the South African Medical Council about the treatment of Biko by the police. They also took the Council to the Supreme Court regarding the matter.
CALS is established, Wits wins Mainstay Cup
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) was established in 1978 in order to promote research into areas of the law affecting the black community and civil rights. It was jointly funded by Wits University and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Wits Football secured the Mainstay Cup in 1978, with a win over Kaiser Chiefs. As part of the new multiracial National Professional Soccer League, Wits had also become the first racially mixed team to play in black townships.
Standard Bank Foundation of Art is established
The Standard Bank Foundation of Art was started in 1979 when it was agreed that a certain sum of money would be made available on an annual basis for the purchase of African art. The collection would be owned by both Wits University and Standard Bank. Today, the collection of art is housed at the Wits Arts Museum.
Wits Bridging programme launched
The Wits Bridging Programme was designed for disadvantaged students and started in the Centre for Continuing Education on a part time basis in the 1970s. It was officially launched by 6 faculties in 1982.
Wits Theatre is officially opened
The Wits Theatre complex first opened its doors in July 1983. Ten years before that, the plan for the theatre was first announced. In the intervening years money was raised from the public and private sectors and the complex cost in the region of R5 million.
The Schools of Dramatic Art and Music needed a laboratory where their students could learn to develop their craft; where they could experiment with the latest in performing arts technology and could display the results of their work and experiments to the university and the public at large; where this could be done in the comfort of relatively well-equipped venues.
For the first eight years of its existence, the occasional open air production was staged there when the winter nights were not too cold or it did not rain in summer. In 1992 it was enclosed and added a third venue to the complex - a 120-seater all enclosed theatre where work which cannot be housed in the other two venues can find a home. It has its own foyer space.
Amic Deck is officially opened
The Amic Deck was built to connect the east and west campuses of Wits University and was funded by Anglo American and De Beers. The 50 meter wide plaza was constructed from steel and glass, and spans the M1 highway. It gives pedestrians easy access to both campuses.
Nelson Mandela wins the Nobel Peace Prize
Honorary Wits alumnus and Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, wins the Nobel Peace Prize. The motivation for the award: "For their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa."
The Organ was installed in the Atrium of the Department of Music
The Organ was built by the firm of Fehrle and Roeleveld. In tona qualities it is said to follow the baroque and classical French traditions. The instrument is an important cultural contribution not only to Wits University, but to Gauteng as well. The Atrium currently serves as an occasional performance area for small music concerts arranged by the Music Division in the School of Arts
Judge Richard Goldstone becomes the 7th Chancellor of Wits University
Judge Richard Goldstone becomes the 7th Chancellor of Wits University. After graduating, Goldstone practised as an advocate at the Johannesburg Bar. In 1976 he was appointed Senior Counsel and in 1980 was made a judge of the Transvaal Supreme Court. From 15 August 1994 to September 1996 he served as the chief prosecutor of the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Sydney Brenner wins Nobel Prize for medicine
Wits Alumnus Sydney Brenner is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for medicine.
Wits Donald Gordon Hospital is officially opened. Sir Donald Gordon and his family's R120 million donation to Wits in 2002 is the largest single donation ever received by Wits University. With the funds from the Gordon donation, Wits was able to purchase the Kenridge Hospital in 2002, with Mediclinic, the international private hospital group, becoming a 49.9% shareholder in 2005.
The Matrix Student Mall is opened
International House, a residence designed for the growing international student population is opened and the revamped student mall, the Matrix, is established. Branches and ATMs of all major banks are located in The Matrix, as well as book stores, grocery stores, restaurants and leisure areas.
The Dalai Lama visits Wits, and scientific discoveries are made
The Dalai Lama visited Wits and delivered a public lecture.
Wits Scientists determine that impact craters on Earth are caused by bolides.
A new species of dinosaur known as Antetonitrus ingenipes is discovered by a Wits Scientist.
Wits also finds a pneumococcal vaccine that significantly reduces pneumonia in South African children.
Wits VC Professor Loyiso Nongxa acknowledges social segregation among students
At an Alumni General Assembly and a special graduation ceremony for Wits graduates who boycotted their graduation, Professor Nongxa spoke about the social segregation that occurred at Wits University during the 1980’s despite the university declaring itself to be an ‘Open University’ at the time, and opposing apartheid segregation. He acknowledged the anger felt by many black graduates of Wits for their social experiences.
In his speech, Professor Nongxa said: "As Head of this institution, I wish to say `ngxe’ to each and every one of you, both within this Great Hall and those who couldn’t come. `Ngxe’ is a Xhosa-term which is an apology that conveys an acknowledgement of the hurt or anger or bitterness that was caused by an action or actions that could have been avoided or were beyond the control of the perpetrators. Ngxe! Is an appeal for a new beginning, closing the chapter on past experiences."
Also in 2005, Wits alumnus Rory Byrne, chief constructor for Ferrari, is awarded an Honorary Doctorate. Byrne-designed cars have won ninety-nine Grands Prix, seven constructors' titles and seven drivers' titles. This makes Byrne the third most successful Formula One designer, behind rivals Adrian Newey and Colin Chapman.
Origins Centre is opened at Wits University
Opened by President Thabo Mbeki in 2006, the Origins Centre is dedicated to exploring and celebrating the history of modern humankind. It contains evidence of ancient stone tools, artefacts of symbolic and spiritual significance, and examples of the region’s visually striking rock art. It also captures the impact of the colonial front and highlights examples of resistance. The Origins Centre boasts an extensive collection of rock art from the Rock Art Research Institute (RARI) at Wits, affording visitors the opportunity to view some of the richest visual heritage found in South Africa and to learn about its history and meaning.
Wits Mascot Kudos Kudu makes his official appearance
Kudos Kudu - the current Wits Mascot - is a cosmopolitan Joburger and a proud Witsie. He appears at Wits football and rugby games, university birthday celebrations, and other events.
Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke installed as 8th Chancellor of Wits.
Johnny Clegg and Bruce Fordyce bestowed with Honorary Doctorates
Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen delivers the Nadine Gordimer public lecture at Wits.
The Centre for Indian Studies in Africa is established
Wits hosts first Arts and Literature Experience
The University celebrated its first Wits Arts and Literature Experience hosted by the Faculty of Humanities, which transformed the campus into a cultural epicenter.
Wits University makes a variety of scientific discoveries
Wits announces the discovery of a new species of dinosaur from the early Jurassic period - Aardonyx celestae (See picture).
A group of astronomers including several Witsies, discover how the smooth disks of spiral galaxies are formed.
A new species of mosquito from Malawi is discovered.
Wits researchers announce the discovery of the oldest fossilised human hair.
The Wits Centre for Ethics is also launched in 2009.
Australopithecus Sediba fossils are displayed at Wits
Sir Richard Branson, Al Gore, the President, the Deputy President (at the time) and other dignitaries view the Australopithecus Sediba fossils at Wits University.
Also in 2010, Wits physicists undertake research at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
Wits is acknowledged as the South African institution which produced the most scientific research publications pertaining to HIV/AIDS, between 1996 and 2000.
Wits Junction and the Science Stadium on West Campus is built
A new student residence complex, Wits Junction, and the Science Stadium on West Campus is built.
Also in 2011, Wits researchers discover the world’s oldest art studio – a 100 000-year-old ochre toolkit and workshop is discovered at Still Bay at the Blombos cave.
Wits celebrates its 90th birthday with a party on the Library Lawns
Wits is the custodian of some of the world's most priceless treasures and on the occasion of its 90th anniversary, Wits invited Joburgers to share these riches. Some of these were, Embryo models; animal skeletons; human death masks; iron lungs used in South Africa during the 1950s poliomyelitis epidemic; some 17th Century musical instruments and a medicine chest was also on display.
School of Construction Economics and Management building is opened
The School of Construction Economics and Management building opens in May. It completes the Built Environment Precinct along with the John Moffat building extension and the Yale Telescope building.
Construction of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital begins, based at Wits
The idea of the hospital was born out of the dream of former president Nelson Mandela, who wanted a specialised paediatric centre dedicated to the needs of children in Southern Africa. The hospital received its first patients in 2017.
Wits students launch historic #FeesMustFall protest
Wits students embarked on a historic struggle to remove the burden of fee increases at universities, with an aim to bring about affordable education for all young South Africans. The student protests quickly spread to other universities around the country, and found itself at the Union buildings, where they had agreed with the president and universities that 2016 would not carry an increase in fees.
Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct opens in Braamfontein
Tshimologong is an enabling space to develop new digital technologies. Setswana for “new beginnings”, Tshimologong is Johannesburg’s high-tech address in the vibrant inner-city district of Braamfontein, where the incubation of start-ups, the commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youths take place.
Wits physicists form part of an international scientific observation
Wits physicists formed part of an international observation of signals produced by the collision of two neutron stars.
Also in 2017, the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies is launched, and Wits launched the eZone, a place to explore eLearning.
Additionally the School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Science celebrated their 100th year.
Wits doctors transplant part of an HIV + mother’s liver into her HIV - child
Wits doctors transplant part of an HIV-positive mother’s liver into her HIV- negative child.
Wits completes a Digitisation Centre to preserve resources, widen access to research and support digital learning
The transplant team:
Faculty of Health Sciences turns 100
In 1919, just three years before Wits was officially established, the medical school was opened with just over 20 students enrolled. Later it became known as the Faculty of Health Sciences and now includes 7 schools.
In 2019, The Witsies beat defending champions, NWU Puk 36-33 in a tense final at Alberton Rugby Club in the Pirates Grand Challenge. The last time the Wits Rugby team won the Pirates Grand Challenge was in 1967.
Wits Rugby Pirates Grand Challenge winning team 2019
Wits leads the first and only Covid-19 vaccine trials in Africa
Wits University leads two Covid-19 vaccine trials, which at this time are the only Covid-19 vaccine trials in South Africa and on the continent:
The ‘Oxford trial’
The ‘Novavax trial’
Wits Professor Shabir Madhi, Executive Director of VIDA, leads both trials.
Wits serves as the bridge from a divided past to a united future
Wits. for good.
Wits University is critical to the transformation of South Africa
Through our teaching, research and societal engagement, we are the symbol of what a flourishing and inclusive society should be.
Wits’ founding values remain at the heart of our daily lives. We uphold no distinctions of class, wealth, race or creed and cherish academic freedom and the discovery of truth.
We will continue to grow our global stature as a leading research-intensive university, and as a gateway to research engagement and intellectual achievement in Africa.
Wits leads change
We are transforming lives through world-leading research and by educating students from across society, and have led the way in addressing inequality and the fight for social justice, famously in opposing apartheid. More recently we've addressed the affordability of higher education in SA.
Witsies around the world represent our time-honoured brand. They come from all walks of life. They range from local and global leaders across civil society, business, health and politics. They have built cultural institutions, fought injustices and made their communities better places to live in.
From discovering what lies beneath the earth's surface to saving lives through better health care systems, Wits is on the ground making a difference. We have over 50 active projects around Africa and the University is represented globally through collaborations, partnerships and alumni.
Pioneering new fields
In the same way that Wits led the continent in responses to the burden of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB, where our researchers came up with ground-breaking research and solutions, we will find solutions to address sustainable development in the digital era.
Our Centenary Ambassadors
Why our champions believe in Wits
"We continue pushing the frontiers of world-class teaching, training and research, and provide learning opportunities to academically deserving undergraduate and postgraduate students from a wide array of backgrounds, as well as support their health and wellbeing."
Associate Professor Musa Manzi School of Geosciences
"Wits’ potential to contribute the evidence and insights needed to transform South Africa and the region are immense – and more so given today’s health, social and economic challenges that are truly local and global. The Centenary and its aftermath can pave the way – for today and tomorrow."
Professor Stephen Tollman Rural Health in Transition and Agincourt Research Unit
"To sustain its legacy as one of the leading academic institutions and remain at the cutting edge of scientific developments, Wits will have to exploit synergies among disciplines that have hitherto been considered disparate - the future knows no boundaries."
Professor Thokozani Majozi School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
"To ensure Wits remains a cutting edge research intensive university that is antifragile and can easily pivot and adapt to new uncharted terrains as the COVID 19, #feesmustfall#, and other existential challenges have demanded."
Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo Adjunt Professor Graduate School of Business Administration
"The Wits Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences is the strongest on the African continent, no question. The calibre of the scholarship consistently produced and the outstanding intellectual talent of the academics I am privileged to work with is deeply inspiring."
Professor Sarah Nuttall Director Wits Institute For Social and Economic Research
"Wits embraces the youth of our country – those with tremendous promise but also vulnerability – and fosters critical thinking for navigating life’s ups and downs. Wits changes lives, providing a foundation from which graduates can positively influence communities and society."
Professor Kathleen Kahn Rural Health in Transition and Agincourt Research Unit
"From Nelson Mandela to George Bizos, Wits Law School has produced some of the greatest lawyers and social justice leaders globally. Legal practice is not only about legal rules but the rule of law, and this constitutional imperative affects all of us and our actions affect the rule of law."
Associate Professor Bonita Meyersfeld School of Law and former Director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies