18 March 2024 | Story EDZANI NEPHALELA | Photo SUPPLIED
GPS Launch 2024
From the left: Prof Francois Strydom, Senior Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL); Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the UFS; and Themba Hlasho, Executive Director of Student Affairs, officially open the GPS@UFS Hub.

The University of Free State (UFS) unveiled its latest initiative, the Graduate Positioning Service (GPS@UFS) Hub, on 27 February 2024 on the Bloemfontein Campus. This hub aims to enhance students' time to complete their degree and to support their successful employment or registration for a postgraduate degree. This innovative one-stop centre serves as a central point of contact for students, referring them to various vital resources and assistance.

The hub is designed to cater to diverse student needs, from academic advice to success coaches' career development programmes.

This initiative is a collaborative effort of the UFS, alongside other generous contributors and funders, to nurture student aspirations within a dynamic global landscape. Mainly because education is not merely about imparting knowledge; it is about fostering growth, nurturing potential, and empowering individuals to thrive; achieving these goals requires consensus from various stakeholders.

During his opening and welcome, Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the UFS, endorsed these partnerships that pave the way for student development and achievement. “The GPS Hub stands as a testament to our shared belief in the power of education to change lives and shape futures. It embodies our collective efforts to provide our students with the tools, resources, and support they need to thrive academically, professionally, and personally.”

At the heart of this hub is its holistic approach to student development. Not only does it provide academic advising to help students navigate their educational journey, but it also focuses on success coaching and career development programmes. Through these programmes, students are supported with their academic decisions as well as the development of professional skills.

One of the critical features of the hub is its emphasis on preparing students for the competitive job market. Students can refine their interview techniques and enhance their employability skills with tailored resources and support. By bridging the gap between academia and industry demands, the GPS@UFS Hub equips students with the tools they need to succeed beyond the classroom.

Knowledge with an impact

Prof Francois Strydom, Senior Director in the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the UFS project lead for the Digitally Enhanced Student Success and Employability Programme (DESSEP), said that this project has helped to catalyse innovations and highlight what can be achieved through collaboration with supportive partners inside and outside the university.

“Currently, DESSEP comprises three projects: Digital Literacy, Scaled Responsive Student Tracking, and the Career Development Pathway, aimed at enhancing technical skills by integrating technology into education. These projects converge within a physical space, an addition not initially planned. The idea emerged when the team recognised the necessity for a tangible venue where students could access various services beyond the digital realm.”

Prof Strydom expressed the project's goals to increase graduation rates, decrease dropout rates, and elevate employment rates, aligning with the institutional strategy, Vision 130.

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