Spectrophotometry is a cross-cutting analytical technique, which finds use in disciplines ranging from chemistry to pharmacy, biochemistry, food science and physics. The SpecUP (Spectrophotometer of the University of Pretoria) is an educational spectrophotometer which was developed so that students could build their own instruments from components in a kit, and then utilise it to generate analytically useful results. This initiative allows for institutions to have more spectroscopy equipment available, as the SpecUP costs less than $40 as opposed to ~$2 000 which is the cost of an entry-level commercial instrument. This is of particular importance in a developing country context, where student numbers are typically high and resources are scarce. In addition, the SpecUP has moving parts and an open design which allows users to understand what is inside the “black box” of commercial instruments and to discover what happens when they adjust components, allowing for active, inquiry-based learning. The SpecUP user network currently spans South Africa, Tunisia, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Kenya, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Turkey and Italy.