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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

Students receive hands-on crime scene investigation training
2016-09-02

Description: Crime scene investigation training Tags: Crime scene investigation training

Ntau Mafisa, a forensic science honours student
at the UFS, and Captain Samuel Sethunya from
the SAPS Crime Scene Management in
Bloemfontein.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

With murder and robbery rates on the rise, the Forensic Science Programme of the Department of Genetics at the University of the Free State is playing a key role in training South Africa’s future crime scene investigators and forensic laboratory analysts.

According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), murder and aggravated robbery rates for 2014/2015, as recorded by the South African Police Services (SAPS) have increased. Incidents of murder increased by 4.6% in the period from 2013/2014 to 2014/2015 and aggravated robbery increased by 8.5 % in the same period. The ISS is an African organisation thant enhances human security by providing independent and authoritative research, expert policy advice and capacity building.

Dr Ellen Mwenesongole, a forensic science lecturer at the Department of Genetics, said the university was one of a few universities in South Africa that actually had a forensic science programme, especially starting from undergraduate level.

Crime scene evaluation component incorporated in curriculum
As part of its Forensic Science Honours Programme, the department has, for the first time, incorporated a mock crime scene evaluation component in its curriculum. Students process a mock crime scene and are assessed based on how closely they follow standard operating procedures related to crime scenes and subsequent laboratory analysis of items of possible evidential value.

The mock crime scene forms part of a research project data collection of the honours students. In these projects students utilise different analytical methods to analyse and distinguish between different types of evidence such as hair fibres, cigarette butts, illicit drugs and dyes extracted from questioned documents and lipsticks.

Students utilise different analytical methods to analyse
and distinguish between different types of evidence.

This year, the department trained the first group of nine students in the Forensic Science Honours Programme. Dr Mwenesongole, who received her training in the UK at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, said incorporating a crime scene evaluation component into the curriculum was a global trend at universities that were offering forensic science programmes.

Department of Genetics and SAPS collaborate
It is important to add this component to the student’s curriculum. In this way the university is equipping students not only with theoretical knowledge but practical knowledge on the importance of following proper protocol when collecting evidence at crime scenes and analysing it in the laboratory to reduce the risk of it becoming inadmissible in a court of law.

The Genetics Department has a good working relationship with the Forensic Science Laboratory and Free State Crime Scene Management of the Division Forensic Services of the SAPS. The mock crime scene was set up and assessed in collaboration with the Crime Scene Management Division of the SAPS. Although the SAPS provides specialist advanced training to its staff members, the university hopes to improve employability for students through such programmes.

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