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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 extends footprint abroad
2015-12-14

In its constant pursuit of research excellence, the UFS has this year performed well in mainly two areas.

Apart from the research done by the UFS on national level, e.g. the involvement of its researchers with the SKA telescope, the pioneering work they do with the satellite tracking of giraffes, as well as research on trauma, forgiveness and reconciliation – to name but a few of the research areas, the university also has a research focus abroad.

Japan, Europe, America and Botswana. These are just some of the places where academics from the university are involved in research abroad.

Japan

Dr Dirk Opperman, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, and Carmien Tolmie, a PhD student in the same department, visited the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Onna, Japan, during November and December 2014. During the visit, experiments were performed in the Microbiology and Biochemistry of Secondary Metabolite Unit of Dr Holger Jenke-Kodama.

This formed part of a larger NRF-funded project on carcinogenic toxins produced in certain Aspergillus fungi. These fungi infect food and feedstuff and are a big concern in developing countries because it may lead to severe economic losses. The research ultimately aims to find inhibitors to block the production of these fungal toxins.



Europe and America

In 2012, an international network was established in the frame of the FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IRSES programme, called hERG-related risk assessment of botanicals (hERGscreen). The South African group included Dr Susan Bonnet and Dr Anke Wilhelm, both from the UFS Department of Chemistry.

Extracts from more than 450 South African plant species have been investigated systematically to assess the potential cardiotoxic risk of commonly consumed botanicals and supplements. The idea of the project, funded by the European Commission, is to identify safety liabilities of botanicals.

Other international partners included the University of Innsbruck, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, University of Basel, University of Vienna, University of Florida, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina.

Botswana


A memorandum of understanding was signed between the UFS and Botho University in Botswana in September 2015, which will be valid for three years.

The agreement, includes student and staff exchange programmes, collaborative research, teaching and learning and community engagement activities, sharing of results, and PhD/ MPhil guidance.

Young researchers

Another research focus of the UFS is the development of its young researchers. In 2015, the UFS has delivered 13 Y-rated researchers. Ten of the researchers are from the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and three from the Faculty of the Humanities. Three of them received an Y1 rating from the NRF.

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