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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

Little ‘Devil’s Worm’ on Top 10 New Species list
2012-05-29

 

Halicephalobus mephisto (Devil’s Worm)
Photo: Supplied
29 May 2012

A minuscule little worm found and researched with the assistance of researchers at the university has made it onto the list of Top 10 New Species of the world. The list was published by the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) at Arizona State University and a committee of scientists from around the world. It lists the top ten new species described in 2011.

An article on the new worm species appeared in the authoritative journal Nature in June 2011.
 
Prof. Esta van Heerden, leader of the university’s research team, says, “In our wildest dreams, we could not have imagined that we would get so much reaction from the worm’s discovery. We had to do so many checks and balances to convince Nature that the worm could survive in the old and warm water. We were very excited when the article was accepted but the media reaction was unbelievable.”
 
The tiny nematode, Halicephalobus mephisto (Devil’s Worm) of about 0,5 mm in length, is the deepest-living terrestrial multi-cellular organism on earth. It was discovered in the Beatrix gold mine near Welkom at a depth of 1,3 km.
 
The IISE says in a statement the species is remarkable for surviving immense underground pressure as well as high temperatures. The borehole water where this species lives has not been in contact with the earth’s atmosphere for the last 4 000 to 6 000 years.  
 
This top-10 list includes a sneezing monkey; a beautiful, but venomous jellyfish; a fungus named after a popular TV cartoon character; a night-blooming orchid; an ancient walking cactus creature; and a tiny wasp. A vibrant poppy, a giant millipede and a blue tarantula also made it onto the list.
 
The international selection committee made its choice from more than 200 nominations. They looked for species that captured the attention because they were unusual or because they had bizarre traits. Some of the new species have interesting names.
 
Prof. Van Heerden says, “We are very thankful for the exposure that the university gets as a result of the inclusion on the list and we enjoy the international cooperation immensely.”

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