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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

Department of English changed to empower students
2017-07-05

Description:Department of English  Tags: Department of English

Lecturers from the Department of English at the University of the Free State have been working
hard to create a robust learning environment for students through continuous assessment.
Photo: Sonia Small


A new curriculum, exciting third-year seminars, and a transition to continuous assessment. These are some of the changes made by the Department of English at the University of the Free State (UFS) over the past few years. The department, which also boasts four National Research Foundation (NRF) researchers, did this to tailor the curriculum towards the needs of its students and to foster a better culture of engagement.

According to Prof Helene Strauss, Head of the Department, the advantages of these changes are clear. “Staff have noted a significant improvement in both the basic writing and critical deliberation skills of our students, and in the responsibility they are taking for their own learning.” The new curriculum empowers students to take a position in relation to the knowledge they encounter in the classroom, thereby strengthening their own critical voice.

Taking continuous responsibility

One of the most significant changes for students was the fact that they have to take responsibility all the time. Prof Strauss says continuous assessment changed “last-minute cramming to near-daily, student-centred activities of reading, writing, and critical discovery.”

Because students have to prepare for lectures and reflect on materials, they are in a better position to internalise difficult debates and critical concepts. “Rather than telling students what to think, we help them develop flexible, critical tools to make sense of a changing world.”

Third-year seminars are another way of including forms of instruction that concentrate on the links between education and democracy, but still improve students’ ability to speak and write English accurately. Every semester, students can choose seminars from a range of topics such as ‘Witchcraft’ (Prof Margaret Raftery) and ‘The Art of Dying’ (Dr Mariza Brooks).

Research and associates around the world

Dr Marthinus Conradie, Dr Rodwell Makombe, Prof Irikidzayi Manase, and Prof Strauss are all NRF-rated researchers in the department.

The department also has affiliated research associates from countries including Zimbabwe, the USA, and Canada. Dr Kudzayi Ngara currently holds a competitive NRF grant for a project on Southern African urbanity, and Dr Philip Aghoghovwia recently received the prestigious African Humanities Programme Fellowship.

Under the guidance of Dr Ngara, the department has been able to roll out a new Honours programme on the Qwaqwa Campus. The campus now also offers students the opportunity to pursue MA and PhD studies.

Other highlights:
• Hosted the international Institute of the Association for Cultural Studies in 2015.
• Books published: Dr Susan Brokensha (with Burgert Senekal). Surfers van die Tsunami: Navorsing en Inligtingstegnologie binne die Geesteswetenskappe (SUN MeDIA, 2014); Prof Iri Manase. White Narratives: The depiction of post-2000 land invasions in Zimbabwe (UNISA Press, 2016); as well as co-edited volumes with Cambridge Scholars Publishing (Dr Oliver Nyambi) and Routledge (Prof Helene Strauss).
• Publications include three special journal issues (of ISI journals Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies; Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies; Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies).

 



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