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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

We must rise again, says Dr Luescher
2016-05-04

Description: 2016 05 04 Dr Luescher sml Tags: 2016 05 04 Dr Luescher
Dr Thierry Luescher, Assistant Director of University of the Free State Directorate for Institutional Research and Academic Planning, was one of the guest speakers at the first TEDxUFS event of the year on the Bloemfontein Campus. Here he is explaining where the #movements started, and how to change the way we think. Photo: Marli du Plessis.

The student protests, known as the #MustFall movements, started on 9 March 2015, when students protested in a well-rehearsed manner at the Cecil John Rhodesstatue at the University of Cape Town. After this protest, students all over South Africa started their own movements from #OpenStellies to #SwartsMustFall, the latter happening on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in March 2016. But, as Dr Thierry Luescher, Assistant Director of UFS Directorate for Institutional Research and Academic Planning, says: “We shall soon run out of #MustFalls. Maybe it is time that we rise again.”

The first TEDxUFS was held on Friday 15 April 2016 at the New Education Building on the Bloemfontein Campus of the UFS. Dr Luescher shone light on the way we look at hashtag movements. At the conference, he was one of the guest speakers who shared their perspectives on the theme of #ImpossibleIsNothing. The others were Ndumiso Hadebe, and Fezile Sonkwane.

Changing angles

No matter what the issue, whether it is on a campus or not, the same reaction can be expected by all: they burn things to get attention. In retrospect, this is our political culture. This is what we have been told to do if we need answers. There is a much faster and cheaper way to attract people’s attention: the hashtag movements, says Dr Luescher.

Stop the fire

He argues that we should stop burning down buildings and vandalising properties. What we need is people with intellect to use their words. We, as students, have to take back our voice. We need to stop this self-pitying, and take a stand.

Students have the power to change lives. We would be able to reach as many as 1.4 million people with our tweets or instagram accounts. According to Dr Luescher, the time for violence has come to an end.

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