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UWC (United World Colleges)
TypeSchools, colleges, and short educational programmes
Established1962; 62 years ago (1962)
FounderKurt Hahn
PresidentQueen Noor of Jordan
Executive DirectorFaith Abiodun
Colleges in 18 countries

UWC International Office,
London and Berlin

United World Colleges (UWC) is an international network of schools and educational programmes with the shared aim of "making education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future."[1] The organization was founded on the principles of German educator Kurt Hahn in 1962 to promote intercultural understanding.[2]

Today, UWC consists of 18 colleges on four continents. Young people from more than 155 countries are selected through a system of national committees and pursue the International Baccalaureate Diploma; some of the schools are also open to younger years. UWC runs the world's largest scholarship programme in international secondary education, with over 80% of students selected by UWC national committees to attend one of the colleges receiving financial support.[3] To date, there are almost 60,000 UWC alumni from all over the world.[4]

The current President of UWC is Queen Noor of Jordan (1995–present). Former South African President Nelson Mandela was joint-President (1995–1999), alongside Queen Noor, and, subsequently, Honorary President of UWC (1999–2013).[5] Former UWC presidents are Louis Mountbatten (1968–1977)[4] and, when he was Prince of Wales, King Charles III (1978–1995).[6]

The movement, including the colleges and national committees, are linked and coordinated by UWC International, which consists of the UWC International Board, the UWC International Council, and the UWC International Office (UWCIO), based in London and Berlin. These entities work together to set the global strategy for the movement, oversee fundraising, and approve new colleges.[7] Faith Abiodun, who joined the movement in 2021, serves as executive director of the International Office,[8] and Musimbi Kanyoro has been the chair of the International Board since 2019.[9]


UWC was originally founded in the early 1960s to bridge the social, national and cultural divides apparent during the Second World War, and exacerbated by the Cold War. The first college in the movement, UWC Atlantic College in Wales, United Kingdom, was founded in 1962 by Kurt Hahn, a German educator who had previously founded Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, Gordonstoun in Scotland, the Outward Bound movement, and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.[10]

Hahn envisaged a college educating boys and girls aged 16 to 19.[4] He believed that schools should not simply be a means for preparing to enter university, but should help students prepare for life by developing resilience and the ability to experience both successes and failures.[11] The selection would be based on personal motivation and potential, regardless of any social, economic or cultural factors. A scholarship programme would facilitate the recruitment of young people from different socio-economic backgrounds.[12]

Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma was involved with Atlantic College from its early days, and encouraged the organization to adopt the name United World Colleges and to open an international office with operations distinct from that of Atlantic College, to indicate a global reach and ambition beyond a single college.[13][14] In 1967, he became the first president of United World Colleges, a position he held until 1977. Lord Mountbatten supported the organization by gaining support from heads of state and politicians and in fundraising activities.[15][16][17] Under his presidency, the United World College of South East Asia was established in Singapore in 1971 (formally joining the UWC movement in 1975), followed by the United World College of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1974.

During the tenure of Prince Charles (now King Charles III) as president, he supervised the rapid growth of the movement, until it encompassed nine schools around the globe. Of Charles, UWC said, "his work in raising the profile and vision of the UWC movement is still felt today".[18]

The Colleges

The United World Colleges, superimposed on the UWC emblem

There are currently 18 UWC schools and colleges in operation,[19] with an international office in London and Berlin.[4][20] UWC Simón Bolivar was a member of the movement until its closing in 2012 by the Venezuelan government.

The location and opening date (and, for those that joined the UWC movement after being founded as an independent institution, their joining year) for each United World College is given below:


UWC values experiential learning alongside providing its 16–19-year-old students with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, an internationally recognised pre-university educational programme developed in close collaboration with UWC in the late 1960s.[22][23] The IB Diploma Programme was co-developed by UWC Atlantic College, the Geneva International School and the United Nations School in New York in 1968[24] and aims "to develop students who have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge – students who flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically".[25] Today, UWC and the IB Organisation continue to work closely together to develop new curricula and shaping international education.

Five UWC schools (UWC Thailand, UWC South East Asia in Singapore, UWC Maastricht in the Netherlands, UWC East Africa in Tanzania and Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa in Eswatini) also offer non-residential educational programmes for younger students aged between 18 months and 15 years.[26]

Meanwhile, some UWC schools and colleges offer a Pre-IB Year, as a preparation year for students before they begin their IB Diploma Programme. UWC schools and colleges that offer the Pre-IB Programme include, UWC Changshu in China, UWC South East Asia in Singapore, Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa in Eswatini, UWC Thailand, UWC ISAK Japan and UWC East Africa in Tanzania.[27]

Co-curricular Activities

The UWC education nurtures students' whole person development by having the 'Creativity, Activity, Service' Programme (CAS) at its core. Each UWC school and college offers CAS activities under different names but similarly offers a wide range of both faculty and student led activities.[28]

Short courses

In addition to its colleges, UWC organizes short courses on a range of topics. Short courses are hosted by UWC colleges, national committees in their home regions and UWC alumni groups.[29] They embody the same experiential learning philosophy as the colleges, but without the academic programme, and usually have a duration of 1 - 4 weeks. Short courses were wholly in-person programs until 2020 when the coordinators of Transforming Identity and Building a Sustainable Future short courses created the first online versions.[30] Since then, online short courses have multiplied and become a core offering of UWC. The longest continuous running short course is the afforementioned Building a Sustainable Future, run by the National Committee of Germany, which has happened every year since 2016.[31] In 2022, 889 participants between 14 and 20 years old attended 23 short courses (15 residential and 8 online) worldwide.[32]


The UWC model relies heavily on funding support of different philanthropists as well as national governments. In its early years, the United World College of the Atlantic and the UWC International Office were funded by the donations and grants from the Ford Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, and the Bernard Sunley trust, in addition to the British and West German governments, and many smaller funders; the site for Atlantic College, St Donat's Castle, was donated for the college by Antonin Besse II. The colleges in Italy and Canada, in particular, receive significant support and funding from their national and local governments.[33]

More recently, the Davis-UWC Scholars Program was launched by Shelby M.C. Davis in 2000 and now supports UWC graduates to study at 99 selected US colleges and universities, and has grown to become the world's largest, privately funded, international scholarship program.[34] In 2018, the Davis-UWC Dare to Dream Programme was launched with the support of Shelby M. C. Davis.[35][36] In 2020, UWC announced a partnership with the Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust, the Rise Programme,[37] through which 15 students with refugee backgrounds will receive all-inclusive scholarships to attend across 3 years from 2021 to 2023, and further educational programmes will be delivered at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.[38]

Notable alumni

Politics and government


Arts and media


Other fields


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