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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

Innovation the focus of 28th Sophia Gray Memorial Lecture
2016-09-06

Description: Stratford furniture design Tags: Stratford furniture design

Stratford never lost his passion for designing
furniture. Pictured here is some of his furniture
exhibited at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum.
Photo: Francois van Vuuren: iFlair Photography

Al Stratford, designer, inventor and architect, presented the 28th Sophia Gray Memorial Lecture on 25 August at the Reservoir at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein. The event, hosted by the Department of Architecture at the University of the Free State, was also the opening of an exhibition of Stratford’s work.

In his career of 40 years, Stratford has patented many products and won several awards in industrial design and architecture. He is known in South Africa for his development of innovative building technology such as the Winblok Precast Concrete Window System. In 2009 and 2010, he also served as president of the South African Institute of Architects.

The title of his lecture was: Reductive Innovation in Architecture. Throughout his career, Stratford endeavoured – through his designs and inventions – to apply the principle of “reduction” to the building material he used and technology he examined.

Stratford designs and builds smart buildings
Stratford says a home is the paradigm of self-expression. His career as architect started with the building of five houses in Gonubie, near East London. Everything he knew about architecture at that stage, he had taught himself by reading on the subject at the local library. Later on, he achieved great heights in his career by designing and building, among others, the Stratford Guesthouse; the sustainable and resourcefully designed campus buildings for the University of Fort Hare (an institutional building not utilising any electrical air-conditioning); the Edenvale Baptist Church; and a community hall.

His technology is widely used in the building industry

“The arrogance in me gets humiliated when I
see what other people and God has done.”


His technical drawing skills, acquired at an early age during his training as motor mechanic, are still practised years later, particularly in his inventions. Stratford is the inventor of technology commonly used in the building industry today. Of these, the Winblok window system which he patented in 1981, is one of his best known patents. The use of these windows is characteristic of many of the buildings he designed and built. Other technology he invented and patented, includes the Winstep stairs, the Windeck flooring system, and the StratFlex furniture technology.

Furniture designs win him awards
He likes to quote architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: “A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is easier.” Stratford started designing and manufacturing his own furniture and never lost this passion. In 2013, he won the Innovation Award at the Design Indaba for his “flat pack” furniture technology.

The humble Stratford – designer, inventor, industrialist, and architect – says he is simply playing around with God’s creation. “The arrogance in me gets humiliated when I see what other people and God has done.”

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