17 May 2021 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Unsplash
The UFS has had outstanding research outputs over the past few years, according to the Report on the Evaluation of the 2018 Universities Research Outputs published by the Department of Higher Education and Training. From left; Hesma van Tonder; Prof Kobus Marais and Marizanne Cloete.

The essence – inspiring excellence and transforming lives – signifies the DNA of the University of the Free State (UFS). With staff forming one of the building blocks of excellence at the UFS, Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research, earlier this year communicated a call for nominations to recognise the quality that staff is bringing to the institution. 

Staff was nominated for the UFS Book Prize for Distinguished Scholarship and the Research Support award. 

Prof Witthuhn recently (4 May 2021) announced Prof Kobus Marais, Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Language Practice, as the winner of the book prize for his book A (bio)semiotic theory of translation: The emergence of social-cultural reality. The 2019 Research Support Award was conferred on Hesma van Tonder of the Department of Library and Information Services, and the 2020 Research Support Award was presented to Marizanne Cloete of the Office of the Dean in the Faculty of the Humanities.

UFS Book Prize for Distinguished Scholarship

The book prize recognised outstanding researched-based publications produced by a permanent UFS staff member published in a book. According to Prof Witthuhn, the award also aims to motivate UFS academics to produce significant and original contributions of an international standard. Furthermore, it seeks to enhance the quality of specialised works published by UFS staff.

The purpose of the book (not older than three years) should be to spread original research and new developments within a specific discipline, sub-discipline, or field of study. According to the criteria, the book (a minimum of 60 000 words) also need to be peer-reviewed as a research output and must be published by a commercial academic publisher and/or be available as an E-book on the internet.

Besides being selected as the winner of the UFS Book Prize for Distinguished Scholarship, Prof Marais’ book also received favourable reviews in the top four journals in translation studies. The combined reviews rate his book as ground-breaking and having an impact on the whole field of translation studies. 

“Receiving this recognition confirms my (perhaps baby-boomer) belief that, if your work is good enough, it will ‘speak for itself’, meaning that you won’t have to speak for it through a marketing campaign. This recognition also indicates that the hard work that our department has been doing over the past few years – to build a context for innovative research – is paying dividends, and I think the recognition should shine on the team, too,” comments Prof Marais, who also received this prize in 2015. 

Research Support award

For the Research Support award, academics were requested to nominate outstanding staff in the academic or support services who support the research activities of colleagues in departments or faculties above and beyond the call of duty. When reviewing the nominations, the Selection Committee looked for, among others, evidence of widely acknowledged service to a broad community of researchers; innovative approaches to research support; and professionalism in the position.

Van Tonder has been widely acknowledged and highly respected for her outstanding service to the broad community of UFS researchers. She was also recognised for her legendary information-searching skills – ‘she does not stop until she has found the relevant information’. 

On receiving this award, she says that since she really loves her work, it is just an added bonus to be recognised by her academic colleagues, and that she is looking forward to continuing to serve the academic community to the best of her ability.

Cloete was motivated to be one of the most meticulous and efficient members of the Dean's team in the Faculty of the Humanities, consistently providing professional service of a high standard. “The quality of her work is beyond reproach,” says Prof Heidi Hudson, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities, who nominated Cloete. She states that she has an impressive institutional memory and that she has done wonders to streamline postgraduate research processes for the faculty. 

Cloete, whose motto in life is to always do her best, to stay true to herself, and to always be willing to help others, says the award means a lot to her. “It is appreciated when your colleagues and others see and recognise the work you do. Especially when we are in need of encouragement, recognition, and to know that we still make a difference during the ‘new normal’ we are working in.”

Outstanding research outputs

The UFS has also had outstanding research outputs over the past few years, according to the Report on the Evaluation of the 2018 Universities Research Outputs published by the Department of Higher Education and Training

In terms of the number of book publications over the past seven to eight years, the university has outcompeted the other universities in the South African higher education sector. “In spite of a significant increase in student numbers, and with it an increased teaching load, our academics outperformed their peers. Congratulations to every researcher, manager, dean, and research support staff member who made this incredible achievement possible!” states Prof Witthuhn. 

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