United World Colleges (UWC)





Armenia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Canada, China (Hong Kong & Changshu), Costa Rica, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Swaziland, Thailand, UK (Wales), US

Grade Level of Students Participating

Most of the schools enroll students only for Grades 11 and 12 (the IB Diploma) and have a total student population of 200-300 students each.

However, Waterford Kamhlaba (Swaziland) and Diljian (Armenia) enroll students from Grade 6 to 12, while UWC Maastricht (the Netherlands), UWC South East Asia (Singapore), and UWC Thailand enroll students from K1 to Grade 12.

Number of Students Participating per Year

Approx. 3750 students per year in the IB diploma years and 9100 students in total.

To date, more than 60,000 young people from over 190 countries have graduated from UWC schools and colleges. 

Year Organization Began


Relationship to the public education system

UWC is an independent and global network of schools and education projects with currently schools and colleges in 15 countries, as well as national committees in 154 countries, who select the students through an application process, based on demonstrated promise and potential.

Organization’s Vision and Mission

Mission: To make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.

Central to the ethos of UWC is the belief that education can bring young people together in their formative years on the basis of their shared humanity to create social change through courageous action, personal example and selfless leadership.

“We do not simply want to produce educated young people. We hope to nurture and educate activists and future leaders who can identify and help resolve the challenges within their own societies and contribute to stability, peace and justice in the wider world.”
- HRH Queen Noor of Jordan, President of the UWC movement2

Brief Description of Program Activities

The UWC experience provides intense experiential education for young people, in and outside the classroom and through the majority of students in the IB diploma years being part of the residential program.  By making students live and learn together, UWCs foster relationships and understanding across diverse nationalities, cultures, races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds.

Student composition, selection and scholarship system are key components of UWC.

  1. Composition: A major element of UWC schools is the deliberately diverse student body. Current students at the UWC schools represent over 150 different nationalities.
  2. Selection: Over 70% of students attending a UWC in the IB diploma years are selected by a national committee within their country and culture independent of their socio-economic background.
  3. Scholarships: The vast majority of UWC students selected attend the school with a full (almost 40%) or partial scholarship ensuring that attendance does not depend on the student’s socio-economic means.

The UWC experience is delivered through the following:

  • Rigorous academic program designed to foster a sense of responsibility, critical thinking, global awareness and civic engagement
  • A challenging environment for enquiring minds,
  • Extensive community service, involving people from outside the school, that emphasizes mutual giving and learning,
  • Strong environmental awareness, including wilderness experiences and outdoor challenges,
  • Exploration of global issues,
  • Respect for and interaction with the host community.

(from “UWC Colleges and Programs Statement of Values and Principles,” 2003)

The IB Curriculum is used as part of a broader UWC curriculum, which is reflected in the UWC Educational Model where a deliberately diverse, engaged and motivated community is at the center.  

United World College logo

Program Content: Intrapersonal Competencies

Personal responsibility & integrity, compassion, creating space and opportunities for student driven projects and initiatives, mindfulness, autonomy, respect on different levels - in particular with regard to all members of a deliberately diverse community living closely together. Compassion, empathy, challenging the student’s strength and supporting them in developing the courage to work on their weaknesses and push their own boundaries. 

Program Content: Interpersonal Competencies

“Learning does not stop when students leave the classroom- they learn by living together and navigating values and responsibilities with people from around the world. They learn by working on projects together incorporating campus service and engagement with the local communities.”2

Program Content: Cognitive Competencies

“Students learn how to think, not what to think. Students learn to express themselves with confidence and clarity in speech and writing. Students are encouraged and expected to express their ideas openly in classroom discussions, college meetings, global affairs and other venues. They are encouraged to challenge ideas and to think critically and creatively for solutions. They learn to handle multiple perspectives.”2

Strong connection between classroom content and activity with the real world: UWC ensures that teachers come from equally diverse backgrounds as the students and often had prior practical experiences, so that students can learn how learning relates to the world.

Program Content: Attitudes and Values

International and intercultural understanding; the celebration of difference in a wide spectrum of learning and teaching experiences, backgrounds, and values; personal responsibility and integrity; mutual responsibility and respect; compassion and service; respect for the environment; a sense of idealism; taking on personal challenges; committing to action and setting personal examples; curiosity.

Program Content: Pedagogy/Active Engagement of Students

Founded by Kurt Hahn and based on the values of experiential education, today UWC pedagogy is strongly marked by an experiential based approach to learning.

For example, there is a focus on student-driven learning and living.  Students are given freedom to fail and trust. There is an emphasis on autonomy.  Teachers practice openness to soliciting and listening to students’ comments and engage in seminar classroom teaching.  There is a feedback culture in the schools.  Adults and students in the school form mentor relationships.  The schools work intentionally to create spaces in which to live together and reflect. 

Additional Notes

“UWC offers a challenging and transformational education to a deliberately diverse group of young people, inspiring them to become agents of positive change. The UWC movement operates the only global network of pre-university schools whose aims are to make leaders to create a peaceful and sustainable future, selected on their own merit, regardless of their ability to pay.”

Relevant Links

Ashoka’s interview with Jens Waltermann, Executive Director of UWC International in May 2016

Article in Forbes in May 2016 about UWC Dilijan

Reference List

1All information from this organizational profile is from the UWC website, the 2UWC Mahindra website, and from a phone interview with Hannah Tümpel, UWC’s Director of Communications and Engagement that took place in May 2016. 

Prepared by 

Connie K. Chung