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29 January 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Francis Petersen speech
“We can create an institution that operates and lives in the times of embracing and celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and academic excellence by ensuring that students own their time at university,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

25 January 2019 marked the official welcoming of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) first-year students, as they moved into their respective residences and were warmly welcomed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. This day also marked the start of the registration process for first-year students.

According to first-year Psychology student Keisha Claasen, who moved into her residence earlier on 25 January, her first experience of the UFS was daunting but exciting, as she had never been in a similar environment. According to Given Gwerera, who dropped his son off at the Karee residence earlier the day, “the UFS is an institution with great culture and an overall good academic record.” He further explained that he trusts his son to make full use of the opportunities presented to him, as he has a cool head on his shoulders.

On the evening of 25 January, an eager group of millennials, joined by their parents, took the first sip from their cup of varsity life as they assembled on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus to meet the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, members of Rectorate, the deans of all faculties, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the UFS.

“2019 will be a year of continued change; the UFS is thrilled about the prospect of bringing about opportunities for adaptation and realignment to the future,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

He further explained that the university prides itself in moulding its students into well-rounded individuals who will develop into globally competitive graduates as required in a diversity of landscapes. Prof Petersen urged first-years to remain open to the technological developments that go with globalisation, because of its permanent effects on society today.

First-years were further advised to take advantage of the rich pool of academic research and knowledge that is characteristic of the university and is piloted by UFS scholars, by engaging with and learning from them.

The inspiring night concluded on a colourful note, as the audience enjoyed an artistic laser show in front of the Main Building. Caption:

“UFS academics conduct research that forces the world to take note,” said Prof Francis Petersen at the official first-year welcoming ceremony on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

UFS sets trend for higher education institutions
2005-09-21

The University of the Free State (UFS) offers more service-learning courses than any other higher education institution in the country and has the highest number of students enrolled for these service-learning courses.

This was the research findings on higher education institutions conducted between 2001 and 2004 by the Joint Education Trust (JET) into service-learning courses. These are courses which seek to integrate service to the community into the academic core of higher education institutions.

The results of this research indicated that the UFS is one of the few higher education institutions in South Africa that have made progress in integrating community engagement into the mainstream academy.

According to the findings 2 233 students at the UFS participated in service-learning courses supported by JET, while 858 students at the University of Transkei (UNITRA), 636 students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and only 600 students at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) participated in service-learning courses.

In total there were 6 930 students participating in service learning courses supported by the JET at 10 institutions throughout the country.

The research also found that out of a total of 182 service-learning courses supported by JET countrywide, the UFS had the highest number of such courses at 42, followed by WITS with 28, the University of Kwazulu Natal with 26, UWC 24 and UNITRA with 22.

Nationally, most of the service-learning courses at higher education institutions are offered in the human sciences (62), followed by health sciences (37), education (26), agriculture (14), and economic sciences (11).

According to leading academics, service-learning is a credit-bearing, educational exercise in which students participate in an organised service activity that meets identified community needs and helps the student to gain a deeper understanding of course content and a sense of civic responsibility.

Reacting to the research findings, the Rector and Vice-chancellor of the UFS, Prof Frederick Fourie, said the university feels strongly that there should be integration of service-learning into the academic core of the institution.

“Through service-learning modules the UFS can give expression to its role of service to the community as an institution of higher learning, producing quality graduates who understand the communities in which they will have to function for the rest of their lives,” Prof Fourie said.

According to Mr Jo Lazarus, the project manager of the Community-Higher Education – Service Partnership (CHESP), which falls under the JET, a number of institutions have identified community engagement as a strategic priority and have allocated significant resources from their central budget towards its implementation.

Mr Lazarus said most students have an overwhelmingly positive attitude towards service learning.

“A large percentage of students surveyed indicated that their service-learning course helped to improve their relationship skills, leadership skills and project planning abilities. As significant is the fact that these courses also benefited them in terms of their awareness of cultural differences and opened their eyes about their own cultural stereotypes,” said Mr Lazarus.

“The key challenge still hampering the integration of service-learning as a core function of academic activity is that some institutions still see service-learning as an add-on, and nice-to-have activity,” he said.

According to Mr Lazarus higher education must demonstrate social responsibility and commitment to the common good by making available expertise and infrastructure for service-learning as a form of community engagement.

Media release
Issued by:  Lacea Loader
   Media Representative
   Tel:  (051) 401-2584
   Cell:  083 645 2454
   E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
   20 September 2005

 

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