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29 May 2019 | Story Elize Davids
Prof Petersen at National Press Club
Prof Petersen with members of the Press Club’s National Executive. From the left are: Reynold Thakuli, SANPARKS; Willem van de Putte, Saturday Star; Ntando Makhubu, Pretoria News (Chairperson) Jos Charle, Pretoria News and Lisa Dewberry, Freelance Communications Specialist.

The South African National Press Club recently hosted the University of the Free State’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, at a gathering of national media representatives and communication specialists in Pretoria. Following a recent, widely publicised opinion article about the importance of the youth vote, Prof Petersen reflected on the period following the national elections of 8 May 2019, sharing his insights from a higher-education perspective.

“The role of the modern university has shifted”, said Prof Petersen, as he outlined five things the UFS was actively pursuing through its Strategic Plan and Integrated Transformation Plan.

New Knowledge

The UFS will develop a new knowledge (research) industry. For South Africa to yield economic growth, it must support the growth of small and medium enterprise. The institution has an active role to play in yielding this new knowledge as reflected in its recent launch of the Agribusiness Transformation Programme with Standard Bank; Applying our knowledge in the Natural and Agricultural Sciences and Business; we will equip and empower 25 black commercial farmers in addressing food insecurity.  The annual Thought-Leadership Series during the Vrystaat Arts Festival in July 2019 will also address economic growth, entrepreneurship, and employment.

Practical Application 

“Once we have trained people for the economy and have delivered research, we must ensure that our knowledge is appropriately disseminated technical academic papers need to be converted to something useful, appropriate, and practically applicable”, he said. 

Public Discourse 

Creating a platform to address controversial issues in our society is what defines the UFS as a thought leader.  As demonstrated by the recent Gangster State Book Discussion by author Pieter-Louis Myburgh hosted by the Business School, the institution continues to demonstrate its’ commitment to intellectually engage society through public discourse. 


The institution actively pursues interesting projects that will shift the thinking of general society, government and industry. “These address our response to transformation, informs strategic planning, and shapes our values as we create a new university citizenship – a transformed society of inclusivity and belonging,” he said. 

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