Our Story

History of UWC

In an age when many major issues require global solutions, UWC (formerly United World Colleges) aims to promote, through education and exchange, a greater understanding between the peoples of the world. The UWC network includes 13 colleges and schools around the globe, which are coordinated by the UWC International Board.

The UWC movement was conceived in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War. Kurt Hahn, a noted educator forced to flee Germany during World War II, believed that much could be done to overcome religious, cultural and racial misunderstanding and avoid conflict if young people from all over the world could be brought together. It was felt that students ages 16 to 18 would be grounded in their own cultures but still impressionable enough to learn from each other. Working with Air Marshal Lawrence Darvall and Rear-Admiral Desmond Hoare, Hahn established a new concept of education that would become a powerful force for peace. The first UWC—College of the Atlantic in Wales—opened in 1962, with the second, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific, following in 1974.

Today, more than 40,000 students from over 180 countries have studied at UWC schools and colleges and there are over 130 national committees. The 13 colleges are not identical, but share characteristics. Students, faculty and staff from many different nationalities and a wide variety of backgrounds form vibrant and enthusiastic communities as they live and work together.

UWC has played a major role in helping develop the International Baccalaureate, which provides both the academic program for the colleges and the international university entry examinations taken by graduating students. UWC places strong emphasis on community service activities, in the belief that understanding between peoples cannot be created in the classroom alone.

UWC was founded in 1962 with the vision of bringing together young people whose experience was of the political conflict of the Cold War era.
By offering an educational experience based on shared learning, collaboration and understanding it was intended that the students would act as champions of peace. In the turbulent world of the 21st century, UWC’s aims and objectives are as relevant today as they were in 1962 – perhaps even more so.

UWC Timeline

1962:UWC Atlantic College opens in South Wales and is hailed by The Times as "the most exciting experiment in education since the Second World War."

1967:Lord Mountbatten becomes President of the organization and the movement becomes "United World Colleges".

1970s:Increasing numbers of national committees are established to promote UWC within their own countries and to select students for the colleges and schools.

1971:The Singapore International School officially opens as an associate member of UWC.

1974:Pearson College UWC opens. Lester B. Pearson, former Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, had been the inspiration behind the founding of the college.

1975:The Singapore International School becomes a full member of the UWC movement and is officially renamed UWC South East Asia.

1978:HRH The Prince of Wales becomes president of UWC.

1981:Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland, founded in 1963 as a multi-racial school in opposition to South Africa's apartheid policies, becomes Waterford KaMhlaba UWC of Southern Africa.

1982:UWC-USA in New Mexico, USA and UWC Adriatic, near Trieste in Italy both open.

1988:HRH the Prince of Wales and agronomist Dr. Luis Marcano Coello play a key role in the establishment of a College in Venezuela, Simón Bolívar UWC of Agriculture.

1990s:UWC develops short courses as a means of providing further opportunities for young people to share the UWC experience.

1992:Li Po Chun UWC of Hong Kong opens.

1995:HM Queen Noor of Jordan and Nelson Mandela become joint presidents. UWC Red Cross Nordic in Norway opens, a joint venture with the Red Cross/Red Crescent organization and the eight Nordic governments.

1997:UWC Mahindra College in Pune, India, opens.

1999:Nelson Mandela becomes honorary president of UWC.

2006:UWC Costa Rica, formerly the Costa Rica SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College joins UWC and UWC in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina opens.

2009:UWC Maastricht joins UWC, merging two exisiting international schools, International School Maastricht, and the International Primary School Joppenhof.