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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

Fracking in the Karoo has advantages and disadvantages
2012-05-25

 

Dr Danie Vermeulen
Photo: Leatitia Pienaar
25 May 2012

Fracking for shale gas in the Karoo was laid bare during a public lecture by Dr Danie Vermeulen, Director of the Institute for Groundwater Studies (IGS). He shared facts, figures and research with his audience. No “yes” or “no” vote was cast. The audience was left to decide for itself.

The exploitation of shale gas in the pristine Karoo has probably been one of the most debated issues in South Africa since 2011.
 
Dr Vermeulen’s lecture, “The shale gas story in the Karoo: both sides of the coin”, was the first in a series presented by the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science under the theme “Sustainability”. Dr Vermeulen is a trained geo-hydrologist and geologist. He has been involved in fracking in South Africa since the debate started. He went on a study tour to the USA in 2011 to learn more about fracking and he visited the USA to further his investigation in May 2012.
 
Some of the information he shared, includes:

- It is estimated that South Africa has the fifth-largest shale-gas reserves in the world, following on China, the USA, Argentina and Mexico.
- Flow-back water is stored in sealed tanks and not in flow-back dams.
- Fracturing will not contaminate the water in an area, as the drilling of the wells will go far deeper than the groundwater aquifers. Every well has four steel casings – one within the other – with the gaps between them sealed with cement.
- More than a million hydraulic fracturing simulations took place in the USA without compromising fresh groundwater. The surface activities can cause problems because that is where man-made and managerial operations could cause pollution.
- Water use for shale-gas exploration is lower than for other kinds of energy, but the fact that the Karoo is an arid region makes the use of groundwater a sensitive issue. Dr Vermeulen highlighted this aspect as his major concern regarding shale-gas exploration.
- The cost to develop is a quarter of the cost for an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Dolerite intrusions in the Karoo are an unresearched concern. Dolerite is unique to the South African situation. Dolerite intrusion temperatures exceed 900 °C.

He also addressed the shale-gas footprint, well decommissioning and site reclamation, radio activity in the shale and the low possibility of seismic events.
 
Dr Vermeulen said South Africa is a net importer of energy. About 90% of its power supply is coal-based. For continued economic growth, South Africa needs a stable energy supply. It is also forecast that energy demand in South Africa is growing faster than the average global demand.
 
Unknowns to be addressed in research and exploration are the gas reserves and gas needs of South Africa. Do we have enough water? What will be the visual and social impact? Who must do the exploration?
 
“Only exploration will give us these answers,” Dr Vermeulen said.

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