students walking the uwc atlantic grounds

About UWC Atlantic

UWC Atlantic is a college for students aged 16-19 years of age. Students travel from over 150 countries to live, study and learn together pursuing the International Baccalaureate and an outdoor-orientated experiential education over two years.

UWC Atlantic is based at St Donats Castle, south Wales, in a 12th century castle set in 122 acres of woodland and farmland, with its own valley and seafront. We are the only United World College in the UK. Established in 1962, we are the founding college of the UWC Movement, which we launched in 1967. The college also co-created the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme now widely respected across the world. The UWC Movement encompasses 18 global schools and colleges dedicated to uniting cultures and countries through education.

Viewing education as an experimental, experiential journey, the UWC Movement has moved away from rigid frameworks and created a ‘no-limits’ approach that challenges traditional boundaries between the curricular and co-curricular and enables each and every student to discover their sense of self and purpose in our ever-changing world. At UWC Atlantic we have over 9,100 alumni, each determined to make a difference to the lives of others and the world.

uwc atlantic college building

UWC Atlantic is based at St Donats Castle, south Wales, in a 12th century castle set in 122 acres of woodland and farmland, with its own valley and seafront. We are the only United World College in the UK. Established in 1962, we are the founding college of the UWC Movement, which we launched in 1967. The college also co-created the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme now widely respected across the world. The UWC Movement encompasses 18 global schools and colleges dedicated to uniting cultures and countries through education.

Students talking

Our Mission

Our mission is to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. Our vision is ot reclaim our position as the flagship college of the UWC movement, recognised for the radical and experimental spirit that defines our history and drives our impact on the world.

naheed bardai, principal of uwc atlantic

When I think about the varying purposes of education and the impact it can have on society, none is more compelling and pressing for me than that of UWC.

Naheed Bardai, Principal of UWC Atlantic

Our History


Dr Kurt Hahn

The concept of Atlantic College is born during a lecture visit by Dr Kurt Hahn, a key figure in the development of experiential education, to the NATO Defense College in Paris in 1955, where he meets British Commandant Air Marshal Sir Lawrance Darvall.“I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.” – Kurt Hahn

Antonin Besse Donates St Donat's Castle

Antonin Besse, who had bought St Donat’s Castle from Hearst, donates it to the developing governing body of Atlantic College.

This most generous donation was a key step in bringing to life the vision of UWC’s founders: to build an institution where education could be a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.

Antonin Besse was also strongly involved in the foundation of UWC Adriatic and supported the college for many years. In 2001 it was again due to his generosity that one of UWC’s most courageous projects was made possible: the founding of UWC in Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was the first UWC established in a post-conflict area and a city and country with deep ethnic divides and a most difficult political context.

It was also thanks to Antonin Besse’s determination and generosity that students from Yemen started to attend UWC schools and colleges. He not only provided the financial means for their scholarships but was also involved in their selection.


Atlantic College Opens

Atlantic College opens. Start of the original Inshore Lifeboats Service. Rear Admiral Desmond Hoare becomes the founding Principal.

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.

The UWC movement was founded with the vision of bringing together young people whose experience was of the political conflict of the cold war era, offering an educational experience based on shared learning, collaboration and understanding so that the students would act as champions of peace. All members of the UWC movement remain committed to this goal today, but have expanded our reach to embrace the tensions and conflicts that exist within, as well as between, societies.


Lord Louis Mountbatten becomes president of the UWC movement

When becoming President of the UWC movement in 1967, Lord Louis Mountbatten was one of the most decorated and important diplomats and military figures of his time.

Of royal peerage, Mountbatten grew up in a prominent military family, his father having served as First Sea Lord of the British Navy during the early part of WWI. Seeing action during both WWI and WWII, Mountbatten rose through the ranks of the military and diplomatic worlds, eventually becoming First Sea Lord himself in 1954, and head of the British Armed Forces in 1959 as Chief of the Defence Staff. Upon retiring, Mountbatten devoted his life to international affairs and the avoidance of conflict, with UWC becoming one of his most prominent interests.

During his tenure as UWC President, Mountbatten grew the movement significantly around the world, including UWC South East Asia in Singapore in 1971 and the Lester B. Pearson UWC of the Pacific near Victoria, British Columbia, in 1974. In 1978, Mountbatten passed the UWC presidency onto his great-nephew, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales.


Atlantic College collaborates to develop the International Baccalaureate

Atlantic College works with the Geneva International School and the United Nations School in New York to develop the International Baccalaureate.

Atlantic College played a major part in developing the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, taught today in 5,000 schools worldwide to more than one million students. The College became the first in the world, in 1971, to adopt the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme as its sole exam qualification.

Since then, the International Baccalaureate is the academic programme studied by all students aged 16 to 19 at all UWC schools and colleges.

The College and the International Baccalaureate (IB) continue to work closely together to develop new curricula and shape international education and the College. In 2023, the Systems Transformation Pathway: Leadership for Just Futures was launched with the backing of the IB to equip students with the knowledge and skills to be able to master the complex global challenges of the 21st century.


David B. Sutcliffe becomes the second principal of Atlantic College

Through his connection with Kurt Hahn, David was involved in the planning of Atlantic College before it opened in 1962 and became a member of the founding staff. He taught German (until 1972 the College prepared its students for British A-level exams) but that was only a small part of his life at the College. Under the leadership of Rear-Admiral Desmond Hoare, the inspirational first Headmaster, the College was actively developing sea-rescue services : David first led the Canoe Lifeguard Unit, initially separate from, but working with, the Beach Lifeguards before the two merged into the Surf Lifesaving Unit. He quickly became a very proficient surf canoeist and this determination continued when he took over from Hoare the Inshore Lifeboat Station, for many years the best- known feature of the College. He soon became a housemaster and then Director of Studies and took part in early discussions about an ambitious new curriculum which was to become the International Baccalaureate.

David B. Sutcliffe: A Tribute

Rear-Admiral Desmond Hoare

The rigid hull inflatable boat (RIB) was developed in the 1960s by Rear-Admiral Desmond Hoare and the students of Atlantic College. The early RIB X craft were built and test-driven along the dramatic Bristol Channel coastline by Atlantic College students. Now known as the Atlantic Class, the design (which developed from the original ‘X Alpha’ prototype), revolutionised maritime rescue worldwide and became the model for RNLI inshore boats across Britain.

The RIB became the world’s most widely used craft for inshore rescue, and in 2017, it was awarded the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage Award.

The Awards recognise irreplaceable artefacts to celebrate and raise public awareness for the vital role mechanical engineering plays in modern life.

Award For Innovation

HRH Prince of Wales becomes president of the UWC Movement

Assuming the UWC presidency in 1978 from his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales has championed many humanitarian causes and raised awareness for a huge number of social issues over the course of his public life.

A passionate environmentalist, HRH has been at the heart of raising awareness for climate change. In founding the Prince’s Trust in 1976, he leads sixteen charities and serves at the helm of the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the UK, raising an estimated £100 million annually. Serving as President of the UWC movement from 1978 until 1995, HRH oversaw the rapid and drastic growth of the movement to nine schools and colleges worldwide by the time of his stepping aside, including the UWC-USA campus which he helped open in 1982. Remaining active in educational issues to this day, HRH’s contributions to the prominence and growth of the UWC movement continue to be felt today.


Colin Jenkins

Colin Jenkins was a giant in the UWC movement. If 27 years of devotion to UWC Atlantic was not enough, there was a further decade of service to follow that had a profound impact on UWC’s growth.

When Colin and his wife, Isobel, left in 2000, the college was indelibly associated with him. He had served as Houseparent, Director of Studies, Vice-Principal and, for ten years, Principal. There were a couple of periods away: a short stint at Pearson College UWC, and three years as Director of Examinations and Deputy Director General at the IB, playing a major role in the IB’s move to Cardiff. But it was at UWC Atlantic that Colin was the commanding presence in the 1980s and 90s.

colin jenkins

Nelson Mandela, UWC Honorary President

Considered by many as the father of modern South Africa, and one of the most important figures in global political history, President Nelson Mandela served as South Africa’s first democratically elected leader from 1995 until 1999.

A political activist, prisoner, and social justice campaigner for his entire public life, Mandela oversaw the transformation of South Africa from a nation divided by a brutal apartheid system to the ‘Rainbow Nation’ that we see today. South Africa’s first black head of state, Mandela’s ethos of reconciliation and dialogue over revenge and division earned him near-universal plaudits around the world.

In 1999, he became Honorary President of UWC. Additionally, his children and grandchildren attended Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa, further deepening his connection to the movement and our shared ideals of peace, international understanding, and sustainable futures.
September 19, 2012

50th Anniversary

UWC Atlantic College celebrates 50 years of inspiring and transforming the lives, not only of the generations of students who have studied at the college, but also of the communities in which they live and work. 50 years of reaching out across cultural, political, religious and economic barriers and bringing together nations, cultures and backgrounds in an effort to foster mutual understanding and peace in the world. Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan plants a time capsule.


The College welcomes HRH Queen Elizabeth II


Matthew Prichard opens the newly refurbished library

The Agatha Christie Library has benefited from major structural refurbishments and technological investments. A significant proportion of the work was funded by donations from The Mousetrap Settlement Trust, which is itself primarily funded by the international royalties of Christie’s murder mystery play, The Mousetrap.

Agatha Christie Library Opens

The Moondance Sports Hall opens

The Moondance Sports Hall opens, thanks to a generous donation from the Moondance Foundation. The College Leadership team and Chair of the Board of Trustees, Prof. Jonathan Michie, are joined by Paralympian, Pippa Britton and philanthropist, Diane Briere de l’Isle.

The new £multi-million Sports Hall provides a new space for students to work together to improve their health, fitness, and wellbeing.

The Sport Hall’s construction has been in part funded thanks to generous support from the Moondance Foundation, a charity supporting children, education, issues of poverty, medical research, the arts and humanitarian projects.
Seeing this magnificent facility is a dream come true for me and my family – Diane Briere de l’Isle, co-founder of the Moondance Foundation.

Speaking at the sports hall’s opening ceremony, Diane Briere de l’Isle, who established the Moondance Foundation with her husband Henry Engelhardt, said: “Seeing this magnificent facility is a dream come true for me and my family. We have been involved with UWC Atlantic College for many years, starting when our first son joined the College as a student in 2004. He was later followed by his siblings.


Kurt Hahn House & Antonin Besse House open

We were delighted to open Kurt Hahn House and Antonin Besse House named after two of the most important individuals in the history of the College, the founder of UWC Atlantic, Kurt Hahn and the man who donated St Donat’s Castle to make Kurt Hahn’s idea a reality, Antonin Besse. The building of these houses and the hugely positive impact it will have on current and future students, would not have been possible without the generous contributions of our supporters who include the John Laing Charitable Trust and Geoffrey W. Hall. A massive thank you to everyone who donated to support their building.


Launch of 10 year vision

Transformative Education for Global Impact is our 10-year plan that deals with the modern day challenges faced by humanity.  It identifies four key pillars and 31 action points through which UWC Atlantic plans to transform the structures that have taken us to climate and ecological breakdown, racial injustice and inequality. 

It positions UWC Atlantic as a pioneer within the education world and includes a new and innovative educational pathway developed in partnership with the International Baccalaureate which is called the Systems Transformation Pathway: Leadership for Just Futures.

It will build on existing teaching and learning at UWC Atlantic to develop a Centre for Systems Transformation that will incorporate the Prentis Curriculum, Project Week, Lighthouse Programmes and student conferences alongside the new educational pathway to support our Ambition Statement and drive a new pedagogy to support students and challenge the current traditional educational systems.


Systems Transformation Pathway

Systems Transformation Pathway: Leadership for Just Futures

In our 60th anniversary year, with our partners at the International Baccalaureate, we are pioneering a new way of learning.

A bespoke, first of its kind programme launched 2023/24 at UWC Atlantic, that gives graduates the education they need to meet the challenges of living and thriving in a climate-changed world. 

Our new Systems Transformation Pathway: Leadership for Just Futures prepares students to grapple with some of the most complex global challenges confronting us: how to feed 8 billion people on a warming planet, how to restore and protect the biodiversity of ecosystems, how to transition away from polluting energy sources quickly and equitably, how to respond to mass displacements and migrations as a result of conflict, climate change and disasters.

St Donat’s Castle was home to the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in 1925 after he saw a feature on it in the magazine, Country Life. He spent a fortune renovating the castle. His lavish parties at the 60-hectare estate were legendary with guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Sir Douglas Fairbanks, future president John F Kennedy and his family, and playwright George Bernard Shaw. The Castle was owned by Hearst from the mid-1920s until his death in 1951. In 1960 Antonin Besse, who bought the Castle from Hearst, donated it to the developing governing body of UWC Atlantic College. This was a key step in bringing to life the vision of UWC’s founders.

UWC Atlantic was founded in 1962 by Kurt Hahn. It was during a time when the Cold War was at its height and Hahn wanted to bring young people together from different nations to act as champions of peace through an education based on shared learning, collaboration and understanding. Hahn knew that an innovative educational model could serve to unite a deliberately diverse group of young people from across the globe, to share their dreams and aspirations and to discover their unique cultural identities. And in turn to challenge cynicism with courage and belief, to learn, grow, influence, shape and change lives to make the world a better place. At its foundation, UWC Atlantic was described by The Times as ‘the most exciting experiment in education since the Second World War.'

The world is a very different place to the one Hahn knew and yet not - still characterised by complex political, religious, social, environmental and economic challenges. In an increasingly complex and fractured society, it is more important than ever that we bring unique and compassionate leaders together to channel their energy, passion, voices and viewpoints to help deliver solutions and create an impact.

"There is more to us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less." Kurt Hahn

Carousel of UWC Atlantic images

12th century St Donats Castle home to UWC Atlantic College
St Donats Castle home to UWC Atlantic College
The Rose Garden developed by Randolph Hearst
The Rose Garden developed by Randolph Hearst
Outdoor swimming pool for regular experiential learning
Outdoor swimming pool for regular experiential learning
Seafront at UWC atlantic college
The seafront and seatowers at UWC Atlantic

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