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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

State of our campuses: UFS closes campuses until Friday 28 October 2016 to readjust academic programme
2016-10-13

The senior leadership of the University of the Free State (UFS) has carefully analysed all the risks facing the university in the current national crisis in higher education, which includes the possibility of losing the academic year. The university management has been engaged in back-to-back meetings with the student leadership, South African Police Service (SAPS), and other stakeholders over the past two days in an attempt to ensure the safety of all parties, and normalise the academic functioning of the UFS.  Unfortunately, we have been unable to arrive at an agreement about the resumption of the academic year regardless of the timing of the government response to students’ demands. This is further complicated by the fact that the university has received notice of intention of an  interdict to reopen with immediate effect.

Taking all of this into account, the senior leadership of the UFS has decided as follows:

  1. The UFS will not be shutting down for the remainder of 2016. The Bloemfontein and South Campuses will, however, be shutting down from Thursday 13 October 2016 until Friday 28 October 2016. These two weeks will be used for crucial and complex arrangements to be put in place to readjust the academic calendar and ensure that all students can complete their studies.
  2. The academic arrangements are focused on organising alternative modes of delivery of our programmes to support student learning. Academics will be working on readjusting their course materials for this purpose.
  3. The Bloemfontein Campus and the South Campuses will be closed for undergraduate and honours students. Administrative and academic staff will be working, as well as master's and doctoral students.
  4. Students in residence will have to vacate their rooms by 12:00 on Saturday 15 October 2016. Students who need help in this regard must please contact +27 51 401 2001 or send an email to hotline@ufs.ac.za.
  5. Arrangements will be made to accommodate international, master's, and doctoral students.
  6. The specific information about academic programmes will be communicated to students by their respective faculties as it becomes available.

The senior leadership wants to restate its commitment to free education as well as its willingness to stand together with students and other public universities to impress on government the urgency to decide on a time frame for the roll-out of free higher education for the poor and missing middle. During these two weeks the UFS will meet with the leadership of Universities South Africa to coordinate collective action in this regard.

 Consistent with this commitment the UFS leadership will roll out a series of activities to inform and educate students and the general public on different models and experiences of providing free higher education. 

 The UFS is deeply concerned about the possible securitisation of our campus as a way of solving this crisis.

 The UFS condemns in the strongest terms violence as a methodology to achieve ends in the context of a democratic state.We are, as always, committed to providing quality education and a conducive environment for learning.

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