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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

Qwaqwa Campus’s Teaching and Learning Champs scoop up award
2014-10-24



Dr Elize Smuts (right) proudly displaying the UFS Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award. Equally ecstatic, is Qwaqwa Campus’s CTL Manager, Fred Mudavanhu.
Photo: Thabo Kessah
Action research to improve classroom practice and student success rates, recently received a boost when the Qwaqwa Campus’s Teaching and Learning (TL) Champions were honoured with the prestigious UFS Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award. The award was in recognition of the team’s efforts to enhance professional development and was accompanied by a R50 000 prize that will be utilised to further encourage and develop a scholarly culture on the Qwaqwa Campus.

“An active learning community has developed over the past four years, which led to the creation of a scholarly forum for sharing problems, experiences and new knowledge”, revealed Dr Elize Smuts, who has been the pillar of strength in the development of TL Champs.

“This”, Dr Smuts said, “has continuously motivated the group to persevere in challenging and often under-resourced circumstances.”

 “Over a four-year period, 44 projects were undertaken, many with great success. Thirteen scholars participated in a pilot of CLASSE (Classroom Assessment of Student Engagement) in 2013. This survey, contextualised by staff from the Centre for Teaching and Learning, was a first in South Africa,” said Dr Smuts.

“The team undertook extensive literature reviews and attended numerous workshops on principles and practices of good teaching, research and writing. The two summarising booklets they prepared from two publications (How Learning Works: 7 Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching and Student Engagement Techniques) in 2013, will serve as guides and inspiration for the larger academic community of the UFS for many years.”

Since the formation of this team, TL scholars have presented 25 papers at 12 national and two international conferences.

“Taking into consideration that it is not easy to get an abstract accepted for presentation, these are impressive achievements,” Dr Smuts said.

“Some of the immediate results of scholars engaged in this project, include improved student success rates averaging 20% compared to only 8% improvement by academics who are not part of the project.”
 
“In 2013, one TL scholar reported student success rates that increased by 29%; another reported 80% on average; and another reported an increase from 65% to 95% in a class bigger than previous years.”

In congratulating the team, Centre for Teaching and Learning’s (CTL) Prof Annette Wilkinson said that she was very proud of the team.
 
“The team’s dedication and growth in scholarly practice – amidst challenging circumstances – are in my mind, the outstanding features of the project. I am very proud of the entire team”, said Prof Wilkinson.

The two presentations at international conferences were delivered by Ms Lea Koenig at the 32nd Annual Conference on the First-Year-Experience in Orlando, Florida and by Dr Elize Smuts in North Carolina. Both of these were presented in 2013.


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