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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

Expansion to Physics building officially opened on Bloemfontein Campus
2016-05-06

Description: New Physics building  Tags: New Physics building

The newly-opened addition to the Physics Building on the Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Charl Devenish

An extension to the Department of Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS) was officially opened on the Bloemfontein Campus on 20 April 2016.

“This started off about five years ago when we were talking about not having enough room for large classes. Prof Matie Hoffman suggested that we build a large lecture room on our parking space,” said Prof Hendrik Swart, Professor in the Department of Physics as he addressed guests at the official opening ceremony.

“A year later, we received a Sarchi Research Chair [South African Research Chairs Initiative] on Advanced and Luminescent Materials. We needed more office and laboratory space. The two ideas were combined and presented to the university’s senior management,” he added.

When the university was founded in 1904, Prof James Lyle was appointed to head up the Physics and Chemistry departments. Five years later, a single room was allocated for the Physics laboratory in the main building upon its completion. In 1947, the old Physics building was designed and constructed. Fast forward 69 years, the department has reached another milestone. Facilities accommodated by the expansion include a new telescope for astrophysics experiments, a basement for storing old equipment, as well as a sliding trap door which allows heavy goods to be elevated into the building from the ground floor. The telescope is one of the many unique features of the building given its capacity to expose graduate students to the basic techniques of radio astronomy, especially in light of the fact that the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) project which is in progress.

“Our department is extremely strong at this stage, and a bright future lies ahead,” said Prof Koos Terblans, the Head of Department. The opening also served to celebrate the 103 publications achieved by the department last year.

Dr Lis Lange, Vice-Rector: Academic is proud of the heights reached by the department to date. “The Department of Physics is undoubtedly one of the jewels in the crown of our university, and we are very proud of its developments. Universities are built on legacies, and they are also about change, which is what this department has been demonstrating.”

The expansions to the building with its top-class facilities, was constructed at a cost of R25 million – an infrastructure grant courtesy of the Department of Higher Education and Training.

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