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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 multimillion rand international funding for Advancement
2013-01-21

21 January 2013

We are one of four South African universities that have been selected to take part in a multimillion-rand programme to bolster private fund-raising and Advancement efforts.

The UFS will receive US$640 000 (R5 612 800) over a period of five years to use in advancement efforts.

In total, the US-based Kresge Foundation will make US$2.5 million available to the four universities, which includes the UFS, Durban University of Technology (DUT), Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ), over the next five years as part of a joint initiative with Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement, to support the long-term financial sustainability of higher education institutions in South Africa.

Kresge will also provide programmes and support aimed at enhancing student access to universities and improving graduation rates.

Bill Moses, who directs Kresge’s education programme, says declining government support means that South African university officials need to tap into diversified philanthropic and private funding if they want to enhance their institutions’ ability to serve students better. “Stronger Advancement skills are critical to their success and ultimately to getting more South African students into universities and completing degrees. Advancement is not just about raising funds. It is the practice of building, maintaining and improving support, skills and other resources to ensure the sustainability of an institution,” explains Moses.

 This latest Kresge initiative follows the success of a five-year partnership with Inyathelo that helped five high-profile South African institutions - the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits); the University of Pretoria (UP); the University of the Western Cape (UWC); the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the Children’s Hospital Trust - increase their private fund-raising revenue threefold. The four universities will receive additional funding over the next five years and will serve as mentors to the new group of institutions.

In April last year, Kresge announced a new commitment to South African higher education that builds on its efforts in the United States to improve university access and help students succeed academically. Their ‘Promoting access and success at South African universities’ programme will seek to strengthen pathways to and through universities, especially for students who are often unprepared for university study. Moses says enhancing the ability of universities in South Africa to graduate the next generation of knowledge workers, will make it possible for the country to compete more effectively in the global economy. “Access to higher education in South Africa has improved dramatically since the end of Apartheid. A doubling of enrolment since 1994 has, however, contributed to serious challenges, including under-prepared students and disappointing graduation rates. We are confident that our programme will help address some of these obstacles to success,” says Moses.

Kresge has already funded several efforts that support its interest in strengthening pathways to and through universities this year, including a grant to the University of the Free State to expand the South African Survey of Student Engagement, as well as funding to the University of Pretoria to support a conference in January, which will highlight opportunities to promote access and success at South African universities.

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