In Truth is the Light of Wisdom

UFS in Focus

In Truth is the Light of Wisdom

The Kovsie motto guiding our actions and permeating our essence.

Brief History

Description: Brief History Tags: Brief History 

At the beginning of the previous century, a decades-long dream of an institution of higher education in the Free State (then called the Orange River Colony), one of the provinces in South Africa, became a reality with the establishment of the Grey College School with only six (B.A.) students on 28 January 1904.

The first two students graduated in 1905 and a year later the institution became known as the Grey University College (GUC). Shortly thereafter, the school and college parted ways. By 1907 the number of students had grown to 29 and the lecturers to ten. In 1910 the Parliament of the Orange River Colony passed legislation declaring the GUC an official educational institution in Arts and Sciences.

In the beginning the main thrust at the GUC was towards English and lectures were mainly offered in English, but in the late 1940s Afrikaans became the official language of instruction at the university. In 1993 the UFS became a parallel-medium institution, offering lectures in both English and Afrikaans. In the 1940s, to cement ties with its home province, the name was changed to the University College of the Orange Free State. This was followed by another name change to the University of the Orange Free State (UOFS) on 18 March 1950 when the South African Parliament declared the university a fully fledged, independent university.

Over the following decades this university became an institution of higher learning to be reckoned with, not only in South Africa, but also outside the country’s borders.

In February 2001, the university’s name changed again, this time to the University of the Free State (UFS). The new name was adopted to reflect the real character of the university and its environment.

Today, this proud institution is bursting at its seams with more than 30 000 students in seven faculties, namely Economic and Management Sciences, Education, Health Sciences, the Humanities, Law, Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Theology. These faculties offer a vast range of undergraduate and post-graduate courses to South African students, and also students from neighbouring and African countries, and more than fifty countries around the globe.


Our Faculties of Education, Law and Social Sciences were established in 1945, while the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences came into being in 1954. The addition of the Faculty of Agriculture in 1958 was an important step to boost research and make a contribution to agriculture in the region. The Faculty of Medicine was established in 1969 and the Faculty of Theology in 1980. The Faculty of Education, which formed part of the Faculty of the Humanities, became a fully fledged faculty in 2009.


During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the university thrived with many residences and other buildings mushrooming on campus. This drive was repeated in the 2000s with the addition and upgrading of more buildings, such as the Centenary Complex, to celebrate the university’s hundred years of existence.

Additional Campuses

Our Qwaqwa Campus, formerly a campus of the University of the North, was incorporated into the university on 1 January 2003 as part of a higher-education restructuring process, and a year later it was followed with the incorporation of the Bloemfontein Campus of the former Vista University.

Meeting our Challenges

To realise the university’s vision to be an excellent, equitable and innovative university, we have adapted our academic courses and managerial structures, as well as student matters, sports, cultural and other activities, in order to function better within the framework of a democratic, diverse university community and to be responsive to market needs. Over the past few years the university has also promoted academic entrepreneurship to meet the challenges of modern-day higher education in South Africa, thus fulfilling its role as the only residential university in the Free State and central region.


We are an important centre for research and have close ties with a number of universities in Africa and elsewhere in the world. The UFS is consistently ranked among the top seven South African universities in terms of research performance.


Last updated: 13 August 2013 10:01