22 February 2024 | Story Lunga Luthuli | Photo Stephen Collett
Prof Petersen 2024 Official Opening
UFS Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof Francis Petersen addressed the institution's official opening on 16 February 2024.

Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Free State (UFS), addressed the institution's official opening on 16 February 2024, highlighting the complex current global geopolitical landscape and the university's long-term strategic plan, Vision 130.

During the address, held at the Centenary Complex on the UFS’s Bloemfontein Campus and streamed live to its Qwaqwa Campus, Prof Petersen noted that the “world is more interconnected but also more divided and fragmented, with inequality and injustice reaching critical levels”.

He added that there is a need for the higher education sector to be prudent and think differently in the face of global challenges, including market dislocations, supply chain dislocations, and economies going into recession. 

Vision 130 progress: addressing global disruptions

Vision 130, a strategic plan to reposition the university by its 130th anniversary in 2034, is centred around values such as Excellence, Innovation and Impact, Accountability, Care, Social Justice, and Sustainability. “The exciting journey is about care, being courageous, and having a strong appetite for curiosity,” Prof Petersen said. He acknowledged that 2023 provided initial traction but also identified specific areas where the university needed to improve to stay on track to deliver on the commitments of Vision 130.

“Undergraduate student success and overall student employability have been reset and stabilised post-COVID pandemic, with continued engagement and financial and advisory support from various foundations and government departments.” The university's student success rate currently stands at 83%, and Prof Petersen applauded the efforts of the team at the Centre for Teaching and Learning and all the faculties for their contributions towards this achievement.

Industry and private-sector involvement in the university’s academic work remains strong through a range of academic advisory boards and a renewed focus for the Career Services office. Prof Petersen highlighted the need to develop more platforms and spaces for robust engagement, debate, critical thinking, and exposure to diverse views for and among students.

Looking back to 2023, there was no change in the UFS’s average postgraduate-level results, but there was an overall improvement in other indicators of research output. Prof Petersen committed to strengthening support to the research and postgraduate environments.

Digital transformation and the UFS's forward-looking approach

Prof Petersen highlighted the importance of digital transformation, digitalisation, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) as part of the university's institutional DNA, supported through its Digitalisation Strategy. He acknowledged that a fully resourced Information Communication and Technology Service (ICTS) is essential to ensuring a quality, forward-looking institution.

Valamy Vermeulen, Chief Officer at University Estates responsible for cleaning and events maintenance, said Prof Petersen’s speech created enthusiasm about facing 2024 head-on. “Working together, we can overcome a lot of challenges and achieve university goals,” Vermeulen said. “It is important to see your plans for the university, play your role, stay positive, and together as a team, we will succeed.”

Prof Petersen concluded by saying the university is financially sustainable but needs to be prudent in its resource management. He emphasised the need for a renewed commitment from all members of the university to own their space, understand how their space is connected to Vision 130, and share an unrelenting ambition to deliver on the strategy.

Grey document Click here for the official opening speech or watch the video below.

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.