The award is the Vice-Chancellor's annual prize in recognition of outstanding welfare-related research. It highlights the strategic goal of promoting socially responsive research, and honours a UCT researcher whose outreach work has contributed to the advancement and welfare of South Africa's disadvantaged people.
The prize was established to honour Alan Pifer, philanthropist and former president of long-term UCT benefactors, the Carnegie Corporation. He died in 2005.
Throughout Pifer's career, his focus was on social justice and strengthening the rights of historically disadvantaged groups, including women. Pifer also established the UCT Fund, which raises funds in the US to support black students and to promote the advancement and welfare of disadvantaged groups.