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02 May 2018 Photo Charl Devenish
South Campus UAP celebrates 27 years of access to education
Mr Francois Marais, Prof Kalie Strydom, Prof Daniella Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Prof Francis Petersen, Dr Nthabeleng Rammile (Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council), and Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS).

More than 27 years ago, international funding from the Human Sciences Research Council and Anglo American was put to an unusual use for that time. Prof Kalie Strydom’s research unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) was tasked with reviewing how institutional missions would change in the new South Africa. Prof Strydom worked closely with surrounding communities in Bloemfontein to develop a bridging course which would help students who showed potential to access tertiary education, although they did not meet the requirements. His vision brought to birth the University Access Programme (UAP), as it is known today, which is hosted on the UFS South Campus, and is still providing unique access to higher-education institutions in South Africa.

People with a passion for human development
March 2018 saw the 27th anniversary of this remarkable initiative, which has given a second chance to over 18 000 students. Special guests at the event included Prof Strydom, Mr Francois Marais, and representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training and Investec’s corporate social investment office.

Dr Sonja Loots, researcher in the UFS Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), singled out two key individuals in the formation of the UAP: Prof Kalie Strydom, who initiated the programme, and Mr Marais, who has been Director of the UAP since its inception. Dr Loots highlighted one of the driving forces behind Prof Strydom’s perseverance, vision, and determination with the UAP by quoting from an interview with him for an upcoming book on student access and success. He said, “It was a decision based on principle … to be part of the solution to a better country.”

Access and success still an issue today
In his presentation on the “Importance of Access”, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, pointed out the vital role of access in South Africa, especially the value it offers for the betterment of the country’s people. However, he said that student success is also an issue, and institutions need to be accountable for it. Quoting Prof John Martin of the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Engineering, “We must be flexible on access, but robust on success.” Only by “closing the loop” in this way, can the UFS and other higher-education institutions ensure a valuable contribution to the economy of the country.

News Archive

Reflection should stimulate action – Prof Petersen

 Description: Panel discussion: Reflection should stimulate action  Tags: Panel discussion: Reflection should stimulate action

Panellists at a discussion held by the Institute for
Reconciliation and Social Justice were, from the left,
Prof Elelwani Ramugondo of the University of Cape Town,
Prof Melissa Steyn from Wits, Prof Francis Petersen,
Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, and SK Luwaca,
president of the Student Representative Council on the
Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Johan Roux

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The University of the Free State (UFS) should be a place of belonging, a place where staff, academics and students belong and can make a contribution to a democratic society.

This is according to Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS. He was one of four panellists at a discussion, titled Diversity, inclusivity and social justice and the renewed call for decolonisation, hosted by the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ). Prof Elelwani Ramugondo from the University of Cape Town, Prof Melissa Steyn from Wits, and SK Luwaca, president of the Student Representative Council on the Bloemfontein Campus, were the other panellists.

The IRSJ facilitated the discussion, which formed part of the inauguration proceedings for Prof Petersen as new Vice-Chancellor and Rector, in the Albert Wessels Auditorium on the Bloemfontein Campus on 18 May 2017.

Renewed thinking about decolonisation

Prof Steyn said: “We can develop our vocabulary to understand our real differences.” She noted that we are all part of reproducing, resisting and reframing the current order.

Universities should be a place where questions can be asked, Prof Ramugondo said. She elaborated on the term decolonisation, saying we needed to investigate how we related and reflected on it, mentioning the myths that surrounded the term. “We should renew our thinking [about decolonisation] at universities,” she said.

“We can develop our vocabulary
to understand our real differences.”

What does a transformed UFS look like?
According to Luwaca unity isn’t something that can be faked, but everybody should work towards it, building a rainbow nation together. It is important for everyone to be on the same page: “We have to ask ourselves what a transformed university looks like.”

Prof Petersen said it was important to often pause and reflect: “Reflection should stimulate action. Reflection is not something without action.”

After the discussion, a lively question-and-answer session with the panellists took place. Prof André Keet, director of the IRSJ and facilitator of the discussion, suggested the gathering should be the start of many similar engagements.

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