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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

Plant eco-physiologist finds effective solutions for crop optimisation
2016-07-24

Description: Orange trees Tags: Orange trees

The bio-stimulant was tested on
this citrus. This is the first time
that the product has been tested
on a crop.

In a time characterised by society facing increasing population growth, food crises, and extreme climatic conditions such as drought, it is essential for farmers to integrate science with their work practices in order to optimise crops.

Role of photosynthesis and plant sap data

By knowing how to use photosynthesis and plant sap data for determining plant health, fast and effective solutions could be established for the optimisation of crops. This technique, which could help farmers utilise every bit of usable land effectively, is the focus of Marguerite Westcott’s PhD study. She is a junior lecturer and plant eco-physiologist in die Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State.

Westcott uses this technique in her studies to prove that a newly-developed bio-stimulant stimulates plants in order to metabolise water and other nutrients better, yielding increased crops as a result.

Agricultural and mining sectors benefit from research

The greatest part of these projects focuses on the agricultural sector. Westcott and a colleague, Dr Gert Marais, are researching the physiology of pecan and citrus trees in order to optimise the growth of these crops, thus minimising disease through biological methods. Field trials are being conducted in actively-producing orchards in the Hartswater and Patensie areas in conjunction with the South African Pecan Nut Producers Association (SAPPA) amongst others.
 
The principles that Westcott applies in her research are also used in combination with the bio-stimulant in other studies on disturbed soil, such as mine-dump material, for establishing plants in areas where they would not grow normally. This is an economical way for both the agricultural and mining sectors to improve nutrient absorption, stimulate growth, and contribute to the sustainable utilisation of the soil.

Description: Pecan nut orchards  Tags: Pecan nut orchards

The bio-stimulant contributes to the immunity of the plants.
It was tested in these pecan nut orchards (Hartswater).

Soil rehabilitation key aspect in research projects

“One of two things is happening in my research projects. Either the soil is rehabilitated to bring about the optimal growth of a plant, or the plants are used to rehabilitate the soil,” says Westcott.

Data surveys for her PhD studies began in 2015. “This will be a long-term project in which seasonal data will be collected continuously. The first set of complete field data, together with pot trial data, will be completed after the current crop harvest,” says Westcott.

 

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