11 February 2020 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Stephen Collett
UFS official opening
Kovsies is on track with the firm foundation laid in previous years. 2020 is a year where visibility and impact is the key theme.

WATCH: Official Opening 2020

Tackling 2020 with rigour and vigour is the top priority for the University of the Free State’s agenda and it’s all systems go after a year of building a solid foundation. Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, addressed staff in his official Opening speech at the Bloemfontein Campus on Friday 7 February 2020.

“The university is on track with what it set out to deliver in 2019” Prof Petersen shared the successes of 2019 with the audience and outlined his vision and plans for 2020 with visibility and impact as the key themes. 

Prof Petersen urged staff to work hand-in-hand to ensure an outcome that generations will inherit with pride. “We have our eyes firmly set on the far horizon, to ensure that we bestow an institution on the next generation that is different from the past, a place where every essence is in perpetual renewal. That means every one of us is smaller than the institution, and every one of us needs to lay a brick that builds a university that is different from the past, more impressive than the past, an institution that will grow constantly.” 

Setting the pace

As a frame of reference, Prof Petersen pointed to engagement, conversation, clear communication and decisive action to yield the type of environment in which we all want to work and study. “I can assure you that we will continue with that engagement, in a sphere of respect, tolerance for different views by always focusing on what the Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP) stands for – which is fairness and social justice.”

Reflecting on the year that was.

Prof Petersen reflected on 2019 as a year which focused on a return on investment delivery as it relates to the Strategic Plan, ITP, seven Vice-Chancellor’s projects, institutional and multi-stakeholder group and institutional Risk Register. These guiding documents laid a firm foundation for implementation processes to take place this year.

Leading the way

The Rector related some success stories which include the increased number of NRF-rated researchers. “In the area of student success, we are probably leading the country and our inputs are globally known.”

As a national leader on the infrastructural and student accommodation front, the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology often consults the UFS for advice on how other institutions can adequately spend their infrastructure grants. Moving forward, the university also plans to partner more with national and international institutions of higher learning with the aim of strengthening research and innovation ties.

On inclusiveness and social cohesion

Pressing issues such as gender-based violence and xenophobia are constantly being tackled by the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice in collaboration with other academic and support services. These parties have conducted and developed critical conversations, position papers, and policies to guide the institution towards an inclusive and socially cohesive space which embraces the values of ubuntu and respect.

In closing, Prof Petersen reminded the university community of the crucial role each individual plays in building a bright future. “We must always remember that the UFS exists through its staff and students and should never let one of them feel neglected or unheard.” 

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