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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

SARChI Chair on disease resistance and quality in field crops awarded in UFS Department of Plant Science
2016-02-01

Description: SARChI Chair  Tags: SARChI Chair

Prof Labuschagne

A South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) chair has been awarded in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS). The chair will be headed by Prof Maryke Labuschagne, and will focus on crop quality breeding and disease resistance in field crops.

The disease resistance research by the chair will be headed by Prof Zakkie Pretorius. The disease resistance breeding will be a continuation of the internationally-acclaimed wheat rust research that Prof Pretorius has been conducting during his career.

The quality breeding will focus on crop protein quantity and quality as well as on iron, zinc, and beta carotene biofortification of staple crops such as wheat, maize, and cassava.

Prof Labuschagne believes that food security is one of the key factors for stability and prosperity on the continent. Her research and that of her students focuses on the genetic improvement of food security crops in Africa, including such staples as maize and cassava. “These crops are genetically improved for yield, drought tolerance, disease, and insect resistance, as well nutritional value,” she said.

Last year, one of  Prof Labuschagne’s PhD students, Bright Peprah, received an award for $473 000 from the competitive Program for Emerging Agricultural Research Leaders (PEARL) of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for his project on improving the beta-carotene content in cassava.

Prof Labuschagne also received the prestigious ‘Continental Lifetime Achiever Award’ from Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government Programme (MIW) last year for her commitment and continuous contributions to food security. She is an NRF-rated researcher, and author or co-author of over 160 articles in accredited journals.

Research Chairs have been designed by the Department of Science and Technology, together with the National Research Foundation, to attract and retain excellence in research and innovation at South African public universities. 

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