History of the Press

In 1994 UCT Press was started by Martin Hall, then chair of the Centre of African Studies Board, and it was managed from the Centre by Rose Meny-Gibert. The Editorial Board was chaired by Brian Warner, a professor in the Astronomy Department, and it was made up of a cross-section of academics.

It was not envisioned as a conventional university press, but was expected, rather, to use the opportunity afforded by new electronic technology to be able to produce small runs by printing on demand.

The Press moved to the Old Medical School Building on the Hiddingh Hall campus in 1996. However, it was already clear that investment was required to allow the Press to build a backlist in order to sustain itself. This funding was not forthcoming from the university, so the publishers Juta and Company, bought two thirds of the shares in the Press, took over the existing debt, and paid rent to UCT for the Hiddingh Hall premises.

In 1996 Rose Meny-Gibert was joined by Glenda Younge. The Press then consisted of two staff members and was publishing 15 to 20 books per annum. The sales, marketing and warehousing was outsourced to a company called Book Promotions. Despite some excellent titles, the Press, like most other university presses in South Africa, continued to run at a loss.

In 1998 Juta bought 100% of the Press from UCT, and to maximize economies of scale, moved the UCT Press offices to their premises in Wetton, took over the sales, marketing and warehousing of books published by the Press. UCT Press now became an imprint of Juta and Company.

Throughout this period the Editorial Board continued to meet quarterly and books were being published under the UCT Press imprint. In the early 2000s there was a specific focus on psychology books, many of them textbooks, which generally proved profitable.

However, after a restructuring at Juta in 2004, the Editorial Board did not meet again, and there was very little published under the UCT Press imprint until 2007.

At the beginning of 2007 the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of research, Cheryl de la Rey, re-constituted the Editorial Board with representatives from each faculty and chaired by Digby Sales from UCT Libraries. The re-launched Press was intended to operate like other traditional university presses, publishing peer-reviewed books written by a wide range of authors from UCT as well as other academic institutions, from Southern Africa and abroad.

However, the press did not make a profit, and so Juta offered it to UCT, who took it over on 9 December 2021.