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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

IRSJ marks five years of championing social justice
2016-08-12

Description: IRSJ 5 year Tags: IRSJ 5 year

Members of the Advisory Board of the IRSJ,
Prof Michalinos Zembylas (Open University
of Cyprus), Prof Shirley Anne Tate (Leeds
University, England), and Prof Relebohile
Moletsane (University of KwaZulu-Natal),
listen to a speaker on the programme.
Photo: Lihlumelo Toyana

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ) marked its fifth anniversary with a function on 27 July 2016 in the Reitz Hall of the Centenary Complex on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS). Earlier that day, the Advisory Board of the IRSJ, chaired by Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, hosted their annual meeting.

A new book was also launched, co-authored by JC van der Merwe, Deputy-Director at the IRSJ and Dionne van Reenen, researcher and PhD candidate at the IRSJ. It is entitled Transformation and Legitimation in Post-apartheid Universities: Reading Discourses from ‘Reitz’. The function featured not only reflections on the IRSJ, but a four-member panel discussion of the book and higher education in 2016.

The IRSJ came into being officially at the UFS in January 2011. Prof André Keet, Director of the IRSJ, said: “With a flexibility and trust not easily found in the higher education sector, the university management gave us the latitude and support to fashion an outfit that responds to social life within and outside the borders of the university, locally and globally.”

The IRSJ has not hesitated to be bold and
courageous in reforming ... traditional policies."

 

Prof Jansen went on to mention three things he finds appealing about the IRSJ: “Thanks to Prof Keet and his team’s vision and understanding of how important it is for students to have a space in which they can learn how to be, learn how to think, and learn how to contribute, the IRSJ has become a place where students can learn about things that they might not learn in the classroom. Second, it created, for the first time, a space where members of the LGBTIQ community could gather in one place. And third, it speaks to the intellectual life of the university, as evidenced by the research and publications produced over the past few years.”

Prof Jansen added: “The IRSJ will only be successful to the extent that we have safe spaces, courageous spaces, in which not only black students talk to themselves, but where black and white students talk together about their difficulties. If you’re entangled, you can’t get out of [that] unless you speak to the other person.”

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Prof Michalinos Zembylas of the Open University of Cyprus and member of the Advisory Board, said of the IRSJ: “The works produced by the institute in this short time have been valuable to this community and beyond, because they recognise the complexities of education, ... while pushing the boundaries of how to translate theoretical discussions into practical, everyday conditions. ... For example, the IRSJ has not hesitated to be bold and courageous in reforming some traditional policies in this university—remnants of an ambivalent past that reproduced inequality and disadvantage.

In reflecting on how the IRSJ came into being during her opening remarks, Dr Lis Lange, Vice-Rector: Academic at the UFS, said that it has always been “dedicated to transformation.” She added that it “gathered the energy and creativity of some of our most promising student leaders.” She concluded: “For me, the greatest success of the Institute, besides publications and local and international networks, is the fact that something that started in the margins is being asked today to come closer to the centre, to play a larger role in the structural transformation of the university.”

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