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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

Physics Department sheds light on mystery of dark matter through films and radio programme
2017-06-23

Description: Dark Matter Tags: Dark Matter

The screening of The Dark Matter Mystery and Dark
at the Naval Hill Planetarium was followed by a discussion
recorded for the radio programme Sterre en Planete
on RSG. From left are Mariette Erwee, Senior Officer at
the School of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and
Technology Education of the UFS, Prof Matie Hoffman,
Associate Professor at the Physics Department of the UFS,
Hennie Maas, from RSG, and Sakkie van der Westhuizen,
PhD student in astrophysics.
Photo: Mart-Mari Duvenhage

The Physics Department at the University of the Free State (UFS) not only recently educated the local community about the mystery of dark matter, but shared its knowledge with a much wider audience.

The first screening of two planetarium full-dome films, The Dark Matter Mystery and Dark, at the Naval Hill Planetarium were concluded with a recording for the radio programme Sterre en Planete. During the discussion, led by Hennie Maas from RSG radio station, the audience asked questions that were answered by Prof Matie Hoffman, Associate Professor at the department, Sakkie van der Westhuizen, a PhD student in astrophysics, and Mariette Erwee from the School of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology Education. The radio show was broadcast on 18 June at 19:30 on RSG.

Shows screened at special event
According to Prof Hoffman the planetarium hosts a movie premiere whenever pre-rendered shows are screened for the first time. The films shown on 10 June 2017 introduced viewers to the quest for dark matter. “Dark Matter makes up a huge part of the Universe, but it is a great mystery. We know very little about it. We cannot see it, and it is an area of enormous interest to scientists,” Prof Hoffman said.

Films sourced from European Southern Observatory
The event was attended by various stakeholders such as loyal planetarium patrons, UFS colleagues, and those interested in astronomy. The films were sourced from the European Southern Observatory, an organisation that makes planetarium content available online.

The Dark Matter Mystery took the audience on contemporary astrophysics’ biggest quest. They saw why astronomers know dark matter exists. Dark, directed by Peter Morse, is an adventure that goes to the very edges of contemporary cosmology and data visualisation, telling a complex scientific story with a touch of humanity.

The films will be screened at the Naval Hill Planetarium from time to time and those interested can visit Computicket for more info.

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