13 May 2019 | Story Mamosa Makaya

The autumn graduations at the University of the Free State (UFS) in 2019 highlighted the success of public private partnerships between big business and academic institutions in tackling the lingering challenge of financial support of students in institutions of higher learning. With the advent of #feesmustfall protests in recent years, a call to action for student financial support was made, not only by university students, but by civil society as well. The response was a joining of efforts between UFS and Absa. The bank came on board as a sponsor and has provided more than R28 million in scholarships at UFS between 2016 and 2018.

Institutional advancement key facilitator

The office of Institutional Advancement (IA) at UFS was a key roleplayer in securing this funding from Absa, by facilitating the process of acquiring the funding, managing the relationship with Absa and the UFS Student Aid office. IA facilitated the process of identifying and allocating student funding, signing of bursary contracts, and stakeholder liaison.

Student success and economic growth

The Absa Scholarship Programme was conceptualised as a demonstration of the company’s commitment to tackling social change and driving economic growth. Absa partnered with various other universities in the country to ensure academically excellent and financially constrained students have a chance to complete their undergraduate degrees. Since 2016, sponsored UFS students were covered for tuition fees, accommodation, text books and meals, enabling them to focus on their studies, and to acquire their qualifications in record time, ready to enter the world of work. 

The scholarship is reviewed annually with the following criteria; studying towards a degree in commerce, the humanities, engineering, science and technology, while maintaining an academic average of 55% or higher, and with a combined household income of less than R1million per annum.

Achievements of the programme

Since 2016, 723 UFS students were financially supported, with 2018 being the last year of the new intake. The current cohort is expected to complete their undergraduate studies by 2020 when the programme ends. To date more than 101 UFS students have obtained their qualifications and more will graduate later this year. Partnerships between academia, big business and other private sponsors are one of the great building blocks of our society, and continue to play a significant role its development.