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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

Breeding of unique game requires a balance between conservation and sustainable use
2014-05-20

 

Game bred for qualities such as unconventional hair colour or horn quality, may on the long term have unexpected consequences for biodiversity and game farming.

This is according to the inaugural lecture of Prof Paul Grobler from the Department of Genetics at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Prof Grobler feels that the consequences of selective breeding should be examined carefully, as there is currently much speculation on the subject without sound scientific information to back it.

“At the moment, colour variation invokes much interest among game farmers and breeders. Unusual colour variants are already available in different game species. These unusual animals usually fetch much higher prices at auctions compared to prices for the ‘normal’ individuals of the species.”

Examples of these unusual variants are springbuck being bred in white, black or copper colours, the black-backed or ‘saddleback’ impala, and the gold-coloured and royal wildebeest.

A black-backed impala was recently sold for R5,7 million.

“Based on genetic theory, good reason exists why these practices need to be monitored, but one should also take care not to make the assumption that selective breeding will inevitably lead to problems,” warns Prof Grobler.

Grobler says that negative characteristics in a species can sometimes unwittingly be expressed during the selection process for a unique colour. “It is seen, for example, in purebred dogs where the breeding of a new race sometimes brings underlying genetic deviations in the species to the front.” He also believes that some of these animals may not be able to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

“However, one should also look at the positive side: because of the good demand for game, including unusual variants, there is much more game in South Africa today than in many decades. Balance should be found between the aims of conservation and the sustainable utilisation of game.”

Research at the UFS’s Department of Genetics is now trying to establish the genetic effects of intensive game breeding and predict the impact on biodiversity.

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