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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

UFS receives research grant focusing on enablement of non-profit organisations
2011-01-20

 
Prof. Mabel Erasmus

The University of the Free State (UFS) has received a research grant to the value of R1,1 million from the National Research Foundation (NRF) to conduct research on community engagement, with the emphasis on knowledge as enablement – a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) focus.

This was the first time the NRF had requested applications for research with a focus on community engagement (CE). With the grant, the UFS has become one of the first recipients of a research grant that focuses on community engagement.

The overarching research question that will be dealt with is how Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and the NPO sector can establish long-term, research-based collaborative engagements that will be mutually empowering and enabling through joint, reciprocal knowledge-based activities and capacity building.

The contention that this proposal is based on, is that HEIs have limited knowledge of the NPO sector and thus are unable to be fully responsive to the challenges that NPOs face. What is more, it is very likely that staff and students from HEIs do not have an adequate grasp of the experiential understanding, contextual community knowledge and practical know-how that NPO practitioners have, and hence do not appreciate the crucial contributions that they can make with regard to meaning-making processes aimed at improving some of the harsh South African realities.

According to Prof. Mabel Erasmus, Associate Professor and Head of the university’s Division: Service Learning, which submitted the research proposal to the NRF and is the grant-holder, the university would like the information generated by the research to be beneficial to both HEIs and the NPOs. “Knowledge regarding NPOs, specifically their challenges and information about what they are doing, will be invaluable to HEIs. At the same time, the research must benefit the NPOs with knowledge to improve their practice and strengthen their functioning.

“The research will take place in close collaboration with the NPOs, as their inputs are crucial. The research will thus not be ‘about’ them but ‘with’ them.”

“We do not want to send our students for community-based education or as volunteers to NPOs year after year and it does not mean as much to them as these organisations would hope for. With the research process we would like to strengthen NPOs, to build their capacity and give them our whole-hearted cooperation,” she said.

Funding received from the grant will be applied over a period of three years. Except for the study grants for five Ph.D. students and four master’s students, the grant will further make provision for a number of workshops, a local conference, a publication and presentations at international conferences on this matter. The research team of 22 persons includes academics from other HEIs such as the Central University of Technology, University of Zululand, University of Johannesburg and Monash SA. Several staff members of NPOs also form part of the team, including REACH (Bfn), Childline (FS) and others.

Prof. Erasmus said that the UFS was one of a few institutions that were currently conducting research to this extent on the link between the NPO sector and HEIs within the field of community engagement.
 

Media Release
18 January 2011
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication (actg)
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: news@ufs.ac.za

 

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