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UWC History & Founding Ideas

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 was founded in 1962 when Atlantic College in south Wales, UK admitted its first students. At a time when the Cold War was at its height, the aim was to bring together young people from different nations to act as champions of peace through an education based on shared learning, collaboration and understanding.

UWC’s educational concept was based on the ideas of German educationalist Kurt Hahn, one of the founding fathers of the UWC movement. Hahn believed that school should be a preparation for life, not just for university, and that education should help students to develop resilience and the ability to experience failure as well as success.

The creation in 1962 of Atlantic College was Kurt Hahn’s final achievement in a lifetime of educational pioneering. His earlier initiatives had included Salem School in Germany, Gordonstoun School in Scotland, Outward Bound and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme. In 1955 he visited the NATO Defense College in Paris where he was inspired by the cooperation and loyalty to a common cause that he witnessed among military men who had been adversaries in World War Two. This, and his rapidly developing relationship with the Commandant, Lawrance Darvall, led directly to the concept of Atlantic College, the world’s first international, two-year “Sixth Form” College for teenagers aged 16-19. Thus was laid the foundation of the UWC movement. A few years later Lord Mountbatten, UWC’s International President from 1968-1977, pressed for the expansion of the UWC’s role beyond its original West European and North American context, establishing an international office in London and an International Council, and the growing movement was renamed the United World Colleges.

Since then UWC has been firmly committed to providing students with a challenging and transformational educational experience to inspire them to become agents of positive change and to create a more peaceful and sustainable future.

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UWC Today


There are 18 UWC schools and colleges.


We are represented in more than 150 countries through our national committees.


Almost 60,000 students from over 180 countries have studied at UWC schools and colleges and on our short course programmes.