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19 March 2020 | Story Opinion article by Prof Hussein Solomon | Photo Supplied
Hussein Soloman
Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor: Political Studies and Goverance

The world celebrated International Women’s Day on 8th March 2020. Such symbolic days, however, seem to have little effect on the actual status of women in the world as a recent United Nations report notes. Despite strides towards greater gender equality, the world body notes there is not a single country which has achieved gender equality. Moreover, 90 percent of men and women hold some bias against females. The statistics are alarming: 50 percent of men thought they had more rights to a job than women, and a third of respondents in 75 countries felt it was acceptable for men to hit women. In China, 55 percent of respondents felt that men make better political figures. Even in what used to be regarded as the bastion of liberal democracy, the USA, 39 percent agreed with the statement that men make better political leaders than women.

Participation of women in the labour force

Disappointing as these figures are, there is hope if one considers how patriarchy is being overcome in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. It is here where patriarchy first developed between 3100 B.C and 600 B.C. It is also the region which has experienced the least gender progress in the world. The figures are incontrovertible. Given the widely held view that women belong in the domestic sphere focusing on keeping house and child-rearing, there are low rates of participation of women in the labour force. Only 24 percent of women in the MENA region are employed, whilst the figure for their male counterparts is 77 percent.  Moreover, according to a report of the International Labour Organization, young women with higher education have a slim chance of entering employment than their less-educated male counterparts. This has negative consequences for the household economy and the economy at large, and it perpetuates greater dependence male family members (husbands, fathers, brothers) -patriarchy, built as it is on vertical power relations, is further entrenched.

The absence of women in positions of power is glaring in the MENA region, as is their absence in governance which is made possible by patriarchal attitudes.  According to the Arab Barometer the majority of respondents believe in limiting the role of women in society. Within the home, 60 percent believe that the husband should be the final decision maker in matters impacting the family. Moreover, only a third of the Arab public believe that women are as effective as men in public leadership roles.

Resisting marginalisation

Whilst the marginalization and oppression of women is a sad truism of MENA countries, this should not be the norm. Patriarchy was constructed and can be deconstructed. The challenge for feminists then is to actively resist their marginalization in conjunction with other progressive players and to utilize the tectonic changes underway in the Middle East – from the penetration of the internet, to making common cause with progressive forces in society to open up the democratic space. Democratic space in this sense does not only mean the fight for the ballot but also emancipation in every sense – including freedom from patriarchy. There is reason to believe that some of this is beginning to happen in the region.  Consider, for instance, how Morocco’s rural women in an effort to access land from conservative tribal authorities, formed action committees called Sulaliyyates. These challenged tribal authorities and women’s subordination in the family and the work place.

There is reason to believe that women’s experiences in mobilizing against authoritarian regimes in the region have resulted in a new consciousness on their part. They see the connection between their own oppression and the need for emancipation of the broader society. When women took to the streets against Al-Bashir in Sudan it was their awareness of how fuel shortages and inflation brought on by corrupt and inefficient governance were increasing household food security. Following the July 2019 agreement between the military junta and the alliance of opposition parties, there was an effort to force women back into the home to play their “traditional” roles. However, women have remained politically engaged and mobilised – decrying everything from the persistence of sexual harassment to demanding the prosecutions of those involved in wrong-doing from the Bashir era.

Social justice and gender equality

Women activists are also pushing back on the streets of Tehran, Ankara and Algiers. In Tehran, women’s’ grassroot movements are calling on Islamic Republic to fulfil their promises of social justice and gender equality. Their resistance to patriarchy has taken the form of disobedience, refusal, and subversion. Initially their activism sought to reform the rule of the mullahs within the prevailing system spurred on by a reformist president – President Khatami - who demonstrated greater receptivity to gender equality. In the past two years women’s groups in Iran increasingly called for the end of Iran’s post-1979 system of governance as they view such theocracy as antithetical to the cause of gender emancipation. In Ankara, feminists have taken on domestic violence by forming the Purple Roof Women’s Shelter Foundation in an effort to collectively fight abuse in the family.

Meanwhile, in Algiers, women have been at the forefront of the protest movement against the establishment or what Algerians term a “Le Pouvoir” – the cabal of generals, businessmen and politicians of the ruling party which govern this North African country. For 19-year old Miriam Saoud, it was seeing the back of this political elite that impoverished ordinary Algerians through their corrupt practices. For 22-year old political science student Amina Djouadi, it was about real political representation for male and female citizens. Whilst the presence of this younger generation of women makes sense given the fact that half of Algeria’s population is below thirty years of age, who bear the brunt of unemployment - older women have also been on the Algerian streets. Elderly Nissa Imad was also on the streets protesting. All five of her children are unemployed. Explaining her presence against the barricades she defiantly states, “I am here for the young, for our kids. There’s nothing for the young generations. No jobs and no houses. They can’t get married. We want this whole system to go”. It is clear from the narratives of these women that they see the connection between their daily lived experiences of disempowerment and marginalization, and the broader structural causes, and therefore are actively seeking the end of the patriarchal and oppressive political and economic order.

Changing attitudes

Despite the MENA region having the largest gender gap of all regions in the world, there is hope too. Attitudes are changing and becoming less patriarchal - the Arab Barometer starkly demonstrates this, where 75 percent in the MENA region support women’s access to tertiary education, 84 percent believe that women should be allowed to work in the labour force, whilst 62 percent believe that women should be allowed into political office. What accounts for these progressive attitudes? First, there seems to be a generational divide with younger people (which comprise the majority in the MENA region) holding less patriarchal views. Second, with access to tertiary education, those holding post-secondary qualifications are less discriminatory in their attitudes than those without post-school qualifications. The momentum for a post-patriarchal MENA region is therefore increasing.

This article was written by Prof Hussein Solomon, Senior Professor: Political Studies and Goverance 

News Archive

UFS Official Opening, 6 February 2004 (Centenary Year)

From good to great: firming up the foundations for a great, robust university – for the next 100 years
Prof Frederick CvN Fourie, Rektor
Toespraak tydens Amptelike Opening van UV, 6 Februarie 2004 (Eeufeesjaar)

Geagte mnr Volsteedt, regter Hancke, prof Retief, bestuurslede, personeel van die hoofkampus, Vista en Qwaqwa, studente, Grey-seuns, lede van die simfonie-orkes:

A week ago, on 28th of January 2004, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of this higher education institution.

It was a tremendous and joyous occation, and a stunning scene which we will never forget: the mixture of this grand, majestic building with the modern, metal stage frame, rotating search lights, coloured smoke and throbbing music of DNA strings, hundreds of staff members, thousands of dancing students, and a 100 square meter cake with 100 candles.

It was something to behold and remember all your life. It was a great party.

Today, at the official opening of this Centenary Year, is a time to reflect on what it means to be 100 years old as a university.

What does one say of the 100th celebration of the birth of a university? How does one assess such a period? Let us consider:

  • What the institution started out as
  • What the institution is
  • What the institution can be

Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came,
there are no limitations to where you can go.
African-American novelist James Baldwin (1924 - 987)

The procession of this morning, in splendid colourful academic robes, from our roots in Grey-College to this main building, symbolises the journey from the past to the present.

I will try to give you my my amateur historian’s analysis of the past 100 years: how this university came about, how it developed, how it matured.

I hope to highlight some themes that highlight the development of a real, high quality university in the Free State – and give us a firm basis for reflecting on the task we face now, on laying the foundations for the next 100 year.

Before I present this analysis, let me briefly try to characterize key phases in the development of the UFS. Roughly speaking one can identify four quarters in this century, with the last quarter being broken up in a few sub-periods.

1.      HISTORIESE OORSIG: die vier fases

1.1       DIE AANLOOP:

Alles hiervan het begin net na die totstandkoming van die Republiek van die Vrystaat in 1854. Grey-Kollege is pas daarna, op 13 Oktober 1855, gestig deur sir George Grey. Na 1890 het Grey-Kollege ook seuns begin voorberei om die intermediêre BA-eksamens (toegang tot 2e jaar van BA van University of the Cape of Good Hope) af te lê.

Pres Reitz het hom vroeër al duidelik ten gunste van ‘n eie universiteit uitgelaat, en daar was talle versoeke uit die gemeenskap om Grey so uit te brei dat Vrystaatse kinders nie weggestuur hoef te word nie.

Pres MT Steyn pleit by sy inhuldiging ook vir ‘n eie universiteit vir die Vrystaat, en gee met ‘n vurige pleidooi vir ‘n eie instelling wat studente in eie taal (Hollands) kan onderrig (en nie Engels nie), belangrike momentum aan die droom.


(1904 – 1927)           (Eerste kwarteeu)

Op 28 Januarie 1904 vind die geboorte plaas toe die eerste 6 studente stilweg ingeskryf vir die BA graad (aanvanklik toegeken deur die University of the Cape of Good Hope), met dr Johannes Brill, toe rektor/skoolhoof van Grey-Kollege, ook as die eerste rektor van die Grey Universiteitskollege (GUK).

Die vakke wat toe aangebied is, was:
Klassieke tale (Latyn & Grieks); moderne tale (Nederlands, Duits, Engels)
en dan ook:
Skeikunde (Chemie)
Plant- en Dierkunde
(Natuurwetenskappe is eers in 1918 as ‘n aparte fakulteit gekonstitueer.)


  • Onderrig het aanvanklik in ‘n klein tweevertrek geboutjie (wat later verskuif is na hierdie kampus, en nou naby huis Abraham Fischer staan) plaasgevind. Studente bly in die Grey-Kollege seunskoshuis.
  • Hoeksteenlegging van Hoofgebou op 19 Desember 1907 (dag van uittrede van Brill). Manskoshuis (later Abraham Fischer Tehuis oftewel Vishuis) se hoeksteen­legging deur Abraham Fischer (Eerste Minister van die Oranjerivierkolonie) op dieselfde dag.
  • Trek na nuwe geboue in middel 1909. Pres Steyn-dameskoshuis in 1919 betrek

Dus: 1904 – 1920: Eerste en mees basiese vakke ingestel, eerste dosente aangestel, eerste Senaat saamgestel, eerste Raad (1910), eerste geboue.

Máár steeds slegs ongeveer 100 studente in 1920. Klaarblyklik was hier nog nie ‘n lewensvatbare, sterk instelling nie. In hierdie stadium was die GUK “… nie die verpersoonliking van ‘n kragtige, vooruitstrewende, groeiende instelling waarheen ouers graag hul kinders vir tersiêre opleiding sou wou stuur nie” – geen vaste rektor (na dr. Brill se uittrede het voorsitters van die Senaat waargeneem tot met die aanstelling van ds Kestell as tweede rektor in 1920), finansieel in die knyp, geen vooruitgang en groei. Dus word Vrystaatse kinders steeds eerder na ander universiteite gestuur.

Ds JD Kestell: rektor 1920 – 1927

  • “… help versukkelde, arm, klein universiteitskollege finaal vestig”
  • Nuwe finansiële koers:
    • Studentewerwing by skole (reis rond in Vrystaat)
    • Samel fondse in by kerke, banke, ens.
    • Verkry jaarlikse skenking van Bloemfontein stadsraad (vanaf 1911)
    • Eerste suksesvolle finansiële draaistrategie (!)
  • Oortuig Afrikaanse én Engelse ouers om hulle kinders na die GUK te stuur
  • Nuwe geboue: Reitzsaalkompleks 1923 hoeksteenlegging (deel van eerste Kermis – voorganger van die Jool)
  • Aandlesings om werkende studente te help; taalvaardigheids­kursusse in Engels; oorbruggingskurssue in wiskunde en wetenskap.
  • Wel 420 studente teen 1927
  • Groot armoede onder studente, gelapte broeke ens.

Teen 1927 (einde van die eerste kwart): Eerste nederige mylpale van kritiese massa en volhoubaarheid bereik te midde van ‘n armoedige Vrystaatse gemeenskap en studentekorps.



1.3       TWEEDE FASE: 1927 – 1950      (Tweede kwarteeu)

  • Depressietye PLUS  Tweede Wêreldoorlog
  • Stryd van Nat vs Sap
  • Spanning binne Senaat, tussen Senaat en Raad, tussen Raad en studente
  • Taal- en politieke stryd te midde van politieke opkoms van NP
  • Eerste aansoeke om toelating van swart studente in 1945 oorweeg en afgekeur
  • Doelbewuste Afrikaanse rigting (Christelik-nasionaal), veral na 1948
  • Ekonomies-knellende fase, armblanke-vraagstuk impakteer op personeel en studente
  • Baie stadige groei: slegs 573 studente in 1940



  • Basiese stel fakulteite voltooi en versterk deur byvoeging van sleutel-beroepsfakulteite:
  • Fakulteit Handel 1937 (hoewel handelsvakke, bv. Ekonomie, reeds sedert 1919, ander vanaf 1928)
  • Fakulteit Regte 1945
  • Fakulteit Opvoedkunde 1945
  • Verdere ontplooiing van die basiese wetenskappe in Lettere en Wysbegeerte, o.m. Afrikatale, Romaanse en Semitiese Tale, Aardrykskunde, Staatsleer, Siel­kunde, Sosiologie, Volkekunde, Bybelkunde, Musiek, Kuns, Drama, Biblioteek­kunde, Liggaamlike Opvoeding, ens.
  • Natuurwetenskappe: Toegepaste Wiskunde; Aardkunde/Geologie word bygevoeg
  • Biblioteek al beter

Teen 1950 (tweede kwart):  Stigting van vernaamste basiese en beroepsgerigte fakulteite voltooi.

Sosiaal-politieke dimensies:

  • MT Steyn standbeeld onthul 1929 (tydens 25-jarige fees van GUK)
  • UKOVS naam: 1935 (voorheen GUK)
  • Veral beinvloed deur leiding van rektor DF Malherbe: 1929 – 1934 – kampvegter vir Afrikaans
  • Ook rektor Saayman 1934 – 1939 (ten gunste van tweetaligheid)
  • WO II: verdeelhede tussen personeel en studente
  • Na-oorlogs: Rektor Van der Merwe Scholtz (1946 – 1958).


1.4       DERDE FASE: 1950 – 1976         (Derde kwarteeu)

  • Ingelui en gestempel deur verkryging van onafhanklikheid as universiteit op18 Maart 1950.
  • Naam verander na UOVS
  • Rektore: Van der Merwe Scholtz; Groenewoud: Benedictus Kok
  • Hooggety van Afrikaner (en blanke) selfvertroue en heerskappy, min interne spanning (eerste tekens van spanning wel in vroeë 1970s in studentepolitiek)
  • Klaarblyklik was dit vir personeel sowel as studente relatief eenvoudige, onge­kom­pliseerde tye getipeer deur kommerlose studentepret, groeiende voor­spoed in die blanke en Afrikaanse gemeenskap, goeie werksvooruitsigte vir afge­stu­deer­de studente.
  • Studentegetalle gaan 1000 te bowe in 1950; 2000 in 1960; 4000 in 1970, 7000 in 1975.
  • Duidelike ‘volksuniversiteit’ op Christelik-nasionale grondslag, onlosmaaklik in­gebed in die dominante politieke bedeling en denkrigtings van daardie tyd: afsonderlike ontwikkeling, apartheid.
  • Akademiese fokus op onderrig, en veral ter voeding van ‘n groeiende staatsdiens- en onderwyskorps (veral in 1950s en 1960s).
  • Navorsing wel meer en meer teenwoordig, maar nog nie ‘n integrale deel van die lewe van elke akademikus nie, nie wydverspreid of regtig diep nie.
  • Verdere beroepsgerigte fakulteite gestig, belangrike mylpale vir die Vrystaat provinsie:
  • Landboufakulteit (gestig 1958; landbougebou in 1963 ingewy)
  • Mediese fakulteit (in vennootskap met die Provinsie): gestig 1969; eerste studente in 1971)
  • Verdere koshuise: Kestell, Emily Hobhouse, Reitz kamerwonings, ens.; ook die latere groot groep ‘nuwe’ koshuise van die Kok-era
  • Heelwat nuwe akademiese geboue (bv. Landbougebou, Odeion, CR Swart-gebou, Biologie-gebou; Mediese Fakulteit-gebou)
  • Uitbreiding van sportfasiliteite en –afrigting.


DUS: Teen 1976 (derde kwart) was die vernaamste boustene van ‘n medium-grootte universiteit (onder 8000 studente) alles in posisie (fakulteite, genoeg koshuise, geboue, sport en kultuur).

Voortdurende maar ongekompliseerde groei, veral na1965, sonder veel finansiële beperkings.

Op die oog af is die ideaal van volwaardige, onafhanklike universiteit in hierdie tyd verwesenlik (…maar dalk nie werklik so volledig nie…)

In daardie stadium is die UV ‘n suiwer blanke universiteit, met primêr Afrikaans­sprekende studente en personeel.


1.5       VIERDE FASE: 1976 – 1989        (Vierde kwarteeu se eerste deel)

  • Mouton-era en eerste deel van Retief-era
  • Begin van politieke onstabiliteit en oorgang, Soweto-onluste, drie-kamer parlement, noodtoestand, Rubicon-toespraak, UDF, ens.
  • Ekonomies ook moeiliker tydperk, na die oliekrisis en die begin van hoë inflasie, Staat se finansies begin knyp
  • Universiteit relatief geïsoleer, nie net buitelands, maar ook in SA (begin wel buite Vrystaat beweeg, bv. Noord-Kaap inisiatiewe)
  • Navorsingsbasis begin beduidend groei, veral in natuurwetenskappe
  • Teologie-fakulteit gestig (1980/81)
  • Sasol-biblioteek gebou
  • Eerste versigtige transformasiestappe deur rektor Retief
  • Eerste swart nagraadse studente (1978) en swart voorgraadse studente (1988)
  • Begin van era van multikulturaliteit
  • Begin van finansiële probleme en rasionalisasie


1.6       VYFDE FASE:           (Vierde kwarteeu se tweede deel)

(a) 1989 – 1996

  • Tweede, meer ingewikkelde deel van die Retief era
  • Multikulturaliteit as groot uitdaging, strukture gevestig (MK-komitee)
  • Instelling van PMO, veeltaligheid in onderrig
  • Studentegetalle bly staties op ongeveer 9000
  • Groei in swart studentegetalle na 36% in 1995
  • Eerste senior swart personeel (bv. Benito Khotseng)
  • Veel erger finansiële probleme, rasionalisasie in veral Lettere en Wysbegeerte, mismoedigheid onder personeel
  • Naam verander na UV/UFS


(b) 1996 - 2004

  • Coetzee era, eerste jare van Fourie
  • Demokrasie en transformasie, aanvanklike spanning tussen studente-groepe, groot studentetransformasie-deurbrake (prof Coetzee)
  • Modernisering van bestuur en inspraak
  • Konsolidering van fakulteite (Geesteswet; Nat- en Landbou)
  • Finansiële krisis en verdere rasionalisasie,
    gevolg deur
  • Draaistrategie word geloods begin 2000 (groot finansiële verligting)
  • Innoverende nuwe onderrigprogramme, e-leer
  • Professionele bemarking en strategiese kommunikasie
  • Dramatiese groei in studentegetalle: van 10 000 in 2000 na meer as 23 000 in 2003/4
  • Herinvestering in kampusfasiliteite en toerusting
  • Herinvestering in personeel; beduidende verhoging in vergoedings­vlakke bokant inflasie
  • Internasionalisering en akademiese rypwording (navorsing)
  • Herstrukturering: inkorporering van Qwaqwa kampus en Vista Bfn.


2.      Key themes in 100 years of academic growth towards being a fully-fledged University

2.1       Relasie met samelewing en sosiaal-politieke omgewing: onvermydelik

Oorsigtelik: ‘n sigbare direkte relasie met groot politieke wendings:

  • Grey-Kollege gestig net na Republiek van die Vrystaat (1954)
  • GUK gestig net na ABO
  • Onafhanklikheid vir UOVS net na 1948 (Nasionale Party oorwinning)
  • Oop en multikultureel veral na 1994

UV se ontstaan vind plaas in die tydperk net-net na die verwoesting van die ABO, ‘n tydperk van die skepping van ‘n nuwe na-oorlogse samelewing, Engelse en Afrikaners en Basotho saam in die Vrystaat (te midde van groeiende tekens van ontluikende Afrikaner nasionalisme). Dit kon nie anders as om ingewikkeld te wees nie, byvoorbeeld:

Die Rebellie en WO I: skep verdeeldheid op die kampus

  • Afrikaners, steun Rebellie
  • Engelse, steun Regering
  • Neutrale groep

(…maar geen werklike konflik op die kampus self nie.)

Dit sou verder neerslag vind in die tydperk voor en tydens WO II: Nasionaal-Sosialistiese invloede, verdeelhede tussen personeel en studente gegiet in die stryd van Nat vs Sap, Smuts vs Hertzog (beïnvloed ook rektorskap, prof IS Fourie slegs waarnemende rektor, word daarna nie rektor, geen rektor tydens die oorlog).

Na 1950 en veral in 1960s relatief stil, min politieke spanning tussen groepe (baie homogene kampus).

1980s: Tekens van matige spanning op die kampus, bv. tussen konserwatiewe, liberale en ‘linkse’ personeel (asook in studente­geledere) – maar nooit erg of ontwrigtend nie.

1990s: Growing political tension, tension in Council between Rector and conserva­tive Afrikaner members; racial tensions, especially in residences, exam disruption in June 1996, etc., BUT these were largely handled by the success of the trans­forma­tion negotiations of 1996-7, and the new jointly-designed residence placement policy. (Stability and harmony after that, no serious tensions on campus at present.)

DUS: Gereeld tydperke van onsekerheid en ontwrigting in 100 jaar, spanning tussen groepe personeel en/of studente, maar instelling het telkens ongeskonde deur dit gekom.

Dit sê iets van die krag van ‘n hoër onderwysinstelling en universiteit om voort te gaan te midde van politieke verskille tussen studente en tussen personeel.

  • Sê dit ook iets van die mense van die Vrystaat,van  ‘n gees van versoening en verdraagsaamheid? (Kyk hieronder.)

Nogtans bly ‘n openbare, staatsbefondsde universiteit altyd afhanklik van en kwes­baar vir politieke strominge en veranderende owerheidsbeleid. Sy ontwikkeling kan nooit los daarvan staan nie.


2.2       Finansiële onsekerheid en die strewe na volhoubaarheid

Die funderende belangrikheid van finansiële sekerheid is deurgaans ‘n sterk tema.

Finansies was ‘n ernstige inhiberende faktor in die uitbreiding van die GUK in die eerste paar dekades.

  • Een rede: in 1917 is wetgewing aanvaar waarvolgens die Staat nie langer totale verpligting vir finansies van GUK aanvaar het nie – die begin van ernstige finansiële probleme vir die jong universiteits­kollege.

Rektor Kestell doen daarna groot fondsinsameling en bemarking, behaal suksesvolle nuwe finansiële koers.

Eerste mylpale van kritiese massa en volhoubaarheid dus eers bereik na die sukses­volle finansiële draaistrategie van rektor Kestell.

Staatsubsidie in 1928 verlaag plus Stadsraadsbydrae verlaag oor persepsie van GUK se beweging na eentaligheid.

  • Early example of political “steering”?

Vanaf Depressie tot na WOII: armoede van studente en ekonomiese knelling beperk groei en ontwikkeling van die UV en sy personeel.

Na onafhanklikwording in 1950 was daar vir ‘n paar dekades nie ernstige finansiële probleme nie, en is veral kapitaalbesteding (geboue) stewig gefinansier deur die Regering. Die akademie kon relatief kommerloos bestaan en gedy.

  • Dit was deel van die goue fase van die Suid-Afrikaanse ekonomie, met ‘n hoë goudprys en ekonomiese groei, ens.

Die dalende subsidiebasis en finansiële swaarkry van die UV in die laat 1980s en veral die 1990s – toe finansiële benoudheid so erg was dat dit bykans al was waaraan mense gedink het – was nie goed vir die akade­miese hart van die UV nie. Te min beweegruimte, te min kreatiwiteit, te min kritiese denke – te min ‘suurstof’.

Die sukses van die Draaistrategie het dit alles begin omkeer, en nuwe ruimte geskep vir akademiese verdieping en akademiese investering.

Dit alles toon die noodsaaklikheid van ‘n sterk finansiële basis sodat ‘n universiteit waarlik as universiteit kan groei en funksioneer, en nie heeltyd noustrop trek en wurg nie.

  • Dit is ‘n noodsaaklike voorwaarde vir die bestaan van ‘n goeie universiteit.

For the record, let us note and celebrate the achieve­ments of the last 5 years with regard to financial sustainability:

  • The Turnaround Strategy now is history: all its goals were reached in half the time, and exceede thereafter.
  • R60 m reached within 18 months, R105 m by 2003, R115 m by 2004 (the target year for the original R60 m).
  • Cumulatively, R380 m extra funds have become available for investment in facilities, equipment, staff and strategic initiatives.
  • Staff remuneration and benefits were pushed up by an extra R50m+ in the past 3 years
  • The average renumeration level of staff was increased by 15,5% more than inflation in the last 3 years: 2004 remuneration levels are 37,6% higher than at the end of 2001, whilst the cost of living (CPI) is 22,1% higher. The goal set by Manage­ment in November 2001 to significantly redress backlogs that have developed in the 1990s, has been met.


2.3       Equity, diversity, compassion

For a very long time (since 1950s) the UFS was part of a social-political system which systematically excluded black and ‘coloured’ people from certain universities. Only many decades later – since 1978 – would this constraint on the ‘fullness’ of the University be lifted, with full access and ‘openness’ attained in the 1990s.

Die GUK was wel van die begin af inklusief t.o.v. geslag (gender).  

  • Dames in 1911 op SVR (dus nooit enige uitsluiting op grond van gender.)
  • Die UV was ook in die laat 1960’s van die eerste instellings om gelyke salarisse vir gelyke werk in te stel vir vrouens en mans.

Van die begin af die instelling besorg oor mense in armoede, wat met gelapte klere moes universiteit toe kom, sonder geld. Die Groot Depressie en die armblanke­vraagstuk het albei direkte impak gehad op die personeel en studente van die UKOVS.

  • In die 1990s is soortgelyke skemas ingestel om arm studente (meestal swart) te help om hul drome om aan ‘n universiteit te studeer, waar te maak.
  • Ook nou word groot moeite gedoen, onder meer by Qwaqwa en Vista, om te verhoed dat finansiële uitsluiting van talentvolle kinders plaasvind.

Van die begin af was die GUK/UKOVS/UV besorg om studente se beperkte taal­vaardighede in die akademiese taalmedium te verbeter:

  • Eerste dekades: taalvaardigheidskursusse vir Hollands en Afrikaans­sprekendes wat nie Engels magtig was nie, met lesings wat aanvank­lik slegs in Engels aangebied is.
  • Later die oorgang na dubbelmedium, met lesings in Afrikaans sowel as Engels, om die diversiteit van daardie dekades te hanteer.
  • Onlangse verlede: taalvaardigheidskursusse weer eens ingestel (en nog meer in die toekoms as deel van nuwe taalbeleid).

Die UV moes ook deurentyd die probleme van taaldiversiteit en -voorkeure hanteer. In die eerste dekades het Afrikaanssprekendes hul bv. as gemarginaliseer by hul “eie” inrigting ervaar; alles is in Engels aangebied.

  • 1918: Besluit om Afrikaans toe te laat by eksamens; DF Malherbe eerste professor in Afrikaans; helfte van vakke toe in Afrikaans aangebied (d.w.s. dubbel­medium)
  • Dertigerjare: Taalstryd (en politieke stryd te midde van politieke opkoms van NP), gevolg deur eentaligheid (Afrikaans).
  • 1990s: instelling van PMO en geleidelik volledige tweetaligheid in bestuur en administrasie (nuwe taalbeleid van 2003), sensitiewe hantering van taaldiversiteit, ook SeSotho op beperkte skaal.

[In this we must recognise the example of Grey-College, which for many years has shown how to make a parallel-medium teaching model work, in a spirit of mutual respect for different languages groups.]

Van die begin af ‘n besorgdheid vir studente met akademiese agter­stande, in die vorm van oorbruggingskursusse in o.m. wiskunde en wetenskap in die eerste dekades.

  • This would be repeated in the 1990s and at present, e.g. the successful Career Prep and extended programmes offered at the various campuses of the UFS.

Major changes occurred in the 1990s, and especially in the last six or seven years, in which the transformation of the student body (part of the success of PMO) and increasing financial and academic constraints of especially black students required and brought forth a high degree of sensitivity, compassion and flexibility in the handling of these challenges by management and staff.

  • Exemplary model of multiculturalism and diversity management

Key staff support projects such as the Grow your own Timber project (notably the Mellon Foundation PhD-project) have tremendously aided several aspiring young black academics in their careers. However, serious constraints remain, inter alia due to the difficulty of finding, attracting or retaining black academic staff. At this point the issues of staff transformation and Employment Equity still are important challenges.

All in all, the compassionate handling of poverty, language and cultural diversity, and adjustment problems of students was a key element of the development and success of this institution (despite the many decades of official exclusion on the basis of race).

2.4       Restructuring of Higher Education / Regional role

First elements can be said to be the UFS reaching out into Namibia and especially the Northern-Cape, special initiatives to serve the latter in early 1990s.

Restructuring itself is a relatively recent theme, post-1994, especially since latter part of 1990s. Incorporations, part of the National Plan for Higher Education, designed to address distortions and inequities in the HE system due to the policies of the apartheid era, as well as the HE needs of a developing society.

Qwaqwa and Vista Bloemfontein were incorporated in 2003 and 2004 respectively, providing the basis for a bolder and more extensive regional engagement role to be played by the UFS, without many of the complexities and political tensions present in the preceding decades with their (racially) fragmented and numerous HE institutions, which inhibited optimal regional co-operation and engagement.


2.5       Quality, excellence and scholarship

The last theme relates to the development of the academic core of the university.

Iets belangriks om raak te sien, is dat die eerste vakke wat ingestel is, die basiese wetenskappe was (in sowel geesteswetenskappe as natuur­wetenskappe).

  • Vir die eerste 40 jaar was dít die universiteit/kollege: die basiese wetenskappe in twee basiese fakulteite – die fondament en soliede kern van enige ware universiteit.
  • Daarin lê ‘n belangrike tema oor die integriteit en ruggraat van ‘n baie goeie universiteit.
  • In die 1990s (veral na die verslag van die Komitee vir Akademiese Strukturering in 1996) is die rol van basiese wetenskappe weer eksplieit beleidmatig verskans, onder meer in die finansieringsmodel vir fakulteite.

Maar dan was daar ook die ‘tweede sirkel’ van ‘n moderne universiteit: die vestiging van die beroepsgerigte fakulteite (rondom die kern van die basiese wetenskappe en fakulteite). Hierdie fakulteite, en ook hul nasionale profiel, het in ‘n groot mate bygedra tot die groei en ontwikkeling van die UV as volwaardige universiteit.

Die laaste paar jaar is daar ook die ontwikkeling van die nuwe beleid oor samelewingsdiensleer (en –navorsing), waardeur ‘n verdere verryking van onderrig nagestreef word – en eksplisiet op ‘n wyse wat die funda­mentele rol van die wetenskap en kritiese denke erken en dit juis akti­veer in diens van die samelewing: samelewingsdiens en -betrokkenheid (‘engagement’) immer as universiteit.

‘n Verdere sleutelelement in die ontwikkeling van die UV as universiteit was die duidelike navorsingsverdieping, veral sedert 1976 (die Mouton-era), aanvanklik veral in die natuurwetenskappe. Na ‘n verdere gelei­delike navorsings­groei in alle fakulteite, was daar veral weer ‘n nuwe groeifase vanaf die laaste jare van die 1990s, ondersteun deur her­investering in navorsings­bestuur, -­strategieë, -insentiewe asook -toerusting. Dit lei onder meer tot ‘n beduidende groei in navorsings­uitsette.

‘n Laaste en waarlik belangrike ontwikkeling was die UV se groeiende interna­sio­nalisering vanaf 1990 en veral na 1994:

  • Dit verteenwoordig ‘n ware bevryding na ‘n tydperk van akademiese boikotte, veral in die geestes- en sosiale wetenskappe, toe akademici nouliks in buite­landse tydskrifte kon publiseer of buitelandse konfe­ren­sies kon bywoon. (Dit was veel minder die geval in die natuur­weten­skappe.)
  • Dit word gesien in toenemende internasionale blootstelling en same­werking, uitruilskemas vir personeel sowel as studente, skakeling in navorsing sowel as onderrig, toenemende buitelandse projek­befondsing (bv. die Mellon-projek) en internasionale vennootskappe.

Let us here recognise an important academic benefit flowing from the new political dispensation. The changes of the last 10 years have enabled the UFS to overcome one important remaining constraint, especially compared to universities like Wits and UCT: being mostly limited to one group of students, one group of staff, one group’s thinking, one group’s set of perspectives, and being very local and provincial (literally and figuratively), even parochial.

The last 10 years with its growing diversity in staff (both with regard to race and gender) have signficantly broadened the intellectual basis and richness of our thinking, our management deliberations, our policies, our interpersonal relations, our institutional culture, our results.

  • Adding the experiences, legacy and insight from Qwaqa and Vista will only give further momentum to this enrichment and maturing process.

And, as noted, the last 10 years has also enabled a significant broadening of intellectual horizons, growing international contact, African initiatives, SADC initiatives – thereby moving the UFS from a relatively constrained (parochial, provincial) intellectual frame of reference to an open, globalised, international frame of reference. This was an absolutely essential occurrence for the UFS to become a mature university. (Not parochial or provincial / insular / inward-looking / any more.)

All these academic developments where underpinned by a significant improvement in and upgrading of facilities:

  • High quality facilities, especially in the last three years, with physical planning being explicitly guided by academic planning and priorities.
  • High quality equipment (IT, library, science labs, etc), especially significant re-investment in the last three years.


3.      Oorsig en opsomming

Uit Grey, uit Vrystaatse bodem en vanuit ‘n arm Vrystaatse gemeenskap, van eerste huiwerige treë, van ‘n minimum aantal fakulteite en geboue tot ‘n breër spektrum basiese en beroepsgerigte fakulteite en geboue, van ‘n primêre onderrigfokus tot ‘n groter navorsings­gerigtheid, tot laastens die era van transformasie, finansiële draai, investering in kampusfasiliteite, akademiese en navorsings­verdieping, en veral internasionalisering en uitwaartse beweging – so het die UV in 100 jaar ‘n sterk, volwasse universiteit geword.

Some interesting ways to describe this entire journey:
From post-AngloBoer War to post-apartheid
From nothing to quite something / Van niets tot iets
Van sink tot sandsteen tot graniet
From Grey to gold.

Midde in al hierdie verandering, is daar die goue draad van die univer­sitêre ideaal, die universitêre saad wat wortel geskied het, gegroei het en ‘n sterk plant geword het met oop, geurige blomme en ryp vrugte.

Dit bevestig die belangrike waarheid van ‘n goeie universiteit: te midde van verande­ringe en groei en ontwikkeling, veranderende behoeftes, deur veranderende sosiale en politieke tye en finansiële krisis, moet dit altyd getrou bly aan die idee van die universiteit, die idee van wetenskap en ‘scholarship’.

  • Kontinuïteit en Verandering  (Continuity and Change)

In very dramatic fashion this history of the UFS signals how much a university can and often must change, but also that it does so amidst its continuity of existence as a university – as part of the centuries old and worldwide university tradition of critical reflection and scholarship. At the same time it signals that this University, like others in South Africa, always has and especially now has a significant role to play in shaping our new nation – it must always be part of society, part of the community, an engaged university – critical and engaged.

  • These two elements are dramatically captured by the two objects displayed here on stage: the Academic Gown, and the Basotho Blanket.

Note the ever-present commitment to overcome problems and constraints, to achieve the dream for the Free State: the spirit of commitment and ‘vasbyt’, of ‘never let go’, the determination to overcome obstacles, of timely and pre-emptive adjustment to new challenges and new needs. Let’s not lose that.


4.      2004: Waar staan ons nou? Waarheen nou?

As I noted above, the procession of this morning symbolises the journey from the past to the present, from humble beginnings to a strong, fully-fledged university, one of the top universities in South Africa - “from Grey to gold”.

But what are the steps we need to take to make us ready for the future?

Ek het al dikwels gesê: ons grootste taak en diens aan die samelewing, is om seker te maak dat die Vrystaat oor 10, 25 en 50 jaar ‘n baie goeie universiteit hier sal hê.

Ek wil tog hierdie tema effens verder neem. As ‘n mens so kyk na al die stampe en stote wat hierdie instelling moes verduur die afgelope 100 jaar, tesame met die geweldige uitdagings van Suid-Afrika as ‘n ontwikkelende land in Afrika, tesame met die groeiende mededinging van ander universiteite (binnelands sowel as buitelands), internasionale tendens in hoër onderwys en in onderwystegnologie, en die immer teenwoordige finansiële beperkings van die Staat, dan wil ek vra:



Die finansiële wroeging van die 1990s en die suksesvolle draaistrategie het een groot nadeel gehad: ons mag dalk dink dat finansiële volhou­baar­heid, wat ons nou vir eers bereik het, voldoende is om sterk te staan.

Steeds moet ons vra: Het ons nou die droom bereik van ‘n volwaardige, selfstandige universiteit?

    • Is ons waarlik volledig volhoubaar?
    • Is ons waarlik ‘n volwasse universiteit (veral in die konteks van die ouderdom, geskiedenis, diepte en profiel van leier-universiteite internasionaal)?
    • Wat is ons taak nou, teen die agtergrond van 100 jaar van bou en groei?
    • To borrow from the title of a recent management book: How do we get “from good to great…”?

The idea of a robust university

I want to put forward the idea of a robust university to guide our thinking and planning in this phase of our history. Although the term is sometimes understood, especially in a sport context, to indicate a tendency for rough play or bullying, I want to use it in its original sense, meaning: strong and vibrant, vigorous, able to withstand shocks and turbulant times, able to withstand competition and tough times (whether of an academic, financial, social or political nature).

If we want the UFS to continue to be a very good university, and to continue to grow and become a great university, we must work hard to ensure that it is a robust university in all respects.

A first dimension relates to quality and excellence in both academic and support service divisions. Therefore, the UFS must firstly be academically robust: high quality staff, solid intellectual and disciplinary depth, research integrity and research depth, low vulnerability in case of staff resignations.

  • Quality and excellence: never-ending quest for quality: like a mountain, ever higher, ever higher.
  • Innovation is the key to the quest for quality: innovation in teaching, innovation in research, always pushing the frontiers of knowledge, alwlays doing new things.
  • An unwaring commitment to independent thought and critical reflection, a true ingrained habit of intellectual independence, is the hallmark of an excellent university (and academic freedom).
  • Our task then is to promote and teach critical inquiry and under­standing and research.  Not the soft understanding that glides over questions of right and wrong, but the hard-won comprehension that comes from deep and critical inquiry and a relentless pursuit of a better understanding and a deeper grasp of issues.
  • A key element in this is the development of a strong cohort of excellent black intellectuals and academics, black staff who see a university career as their calling. Attaining this is a key challenge of our employment equity policy and plan.
  • We must be the employer of preference for the best black academics. We must be the employer of preference for the best white academics.

It must also be managerially and administratively robust: high quality support and manage­ment staff and processes, systems integrity, ingrained professionalism and service culture, low vulnerability in case of staff resignations.

  • We must be the employer of preference for the best black administrators and managers. We must be the employer of preference for the best white administrators and managers.

Secondly, it must be financially robust: sound financial management, sufficient reserves to absorb shocks, sound investment in the core business, sound remuneration and staff practices.

  • As noted above, this year signals the end of the Turnaround Strategy (also given the new funding framework of government).
  • New challenges: to optimise our functioning amidst a new and complicated funding framework which tries to contain government funding of higher education and frowns upon growth and initiatives such as distance learning and e-learning.
  • Luckily we now also have a much more modern, efficient, strategically-targeted and stream-lined budgeting and financial management system.

Thirdly, the UFS must be robust in its management of diversity and equity: solid and sound relations between diverse groups, strong commitments to live in mutual respect, strong common values to underpin an equitable, diverse workplace and student community, a firm campus consensus on what kind of university society we want to be.

  • The current project on institutional culture, or also called the UFS ‘social contract’ project, is a key element in attaining this firm consensus and social robustness.
  • This also is a task for the students: you are the generation that will shape the emerging new South African society. Use the opportunities offered by this campus to engage without your fellow student from a different economic, cultural or language background. Shape the values of your own future society. Talk about it. Analyse it, through the night if necessary, as only students can.
  • We must all remember: the quest for justice is never-ending, a real journey to find and treasure those values that we all should live by.

In doing that, let us not forget the advantage, and privilege, of doing this in the Free State, whose people have shown a persistent disposition towards reconciliation and moderation. This tradition is priceless, and was created inter alia by great leaders of the past centuries:

  • King Moshoeshoe, who was the original nation-builder and who (in the 19th century) first shaped an undivided and cohesive society amongst the Basotho in the central parts of South Africa.
  • President MT Steyn, who was the great reconciliator and facilitator of a hundred years ago, also fighting for language and cultural equality.

Also recognise, most recently, the reconciliatory role of post-1994 premiers Lekota and Direko.

Fourthly, the UFS must be robust in its regional role and regional engagement, playing a strong leadership role to meet the needs of a poor and developing society, vigor­ously playing its role as an engaged university, a university serving society, but also doing that in a way which builds a solid understanding within that society of the intrinsic nature and role of the university as well as the proper role that a university can play in a developing society.

  • In this, the Qwaqwa and Vista campuses, together with other initiatives, present enormous possibilities, especially in partnership with other insitutions like Technikon FS, the Provincial Government, the Mangaung Municipality, and other local governments.

Lastly, the UFS must be robust in its national and international role, based on a well-informed international frame of reference, having a vibrant and energetic outward thrust, strongly projecting its expertise in niche areas into the scientific, industrial and policy arenas.

  • Leadership in science and scholarship
  • Leadership in community service learning and research
  • Leadership in academic innovation
  • Leadership in financial management and management innovation
  • Leadership in transformation, in nation-building and diversity management (such as with the ‘social contract’ or ‘value contract’ process)
  • Above all: We must never (again) be parochial or provincial (insular / inward-looking), since that attitude spells the intellectual death of any university.


Another way to understand robustness, is to say that it requires that the University be sustainable not just financially, but also academically and administratively, in its management of diversity and equity, in its regional engagement, and in its national and international leadership role.
  • Robustness – and greatness – requires sustainability in all respects.


Hierdie vyf aspekte , wat presies ooreenstem met die strategiese prioriteite wat die Uitvoerende Bestuur onlangs geïdentifiseer het vir 2004-2006,  is dus waarlik die bou­stene van ‘n ware, volwasse, sterk, robuuste, uitwaarts-gerigte leier-universiteit in SA en Afrika.

TO reiterate this point: the five strategic priorities of the UFS for this and the next years, i.e.

  • quality and excellence;
  • equity, diversity and redress;
  • financial sustainability;
  • regional co-operation and engagement, and
  • an outward thrust, nationally and internationally

are the building blocks of being and remaining a true, mature, strong, robust, outward-oriented leader-university in South Africa and Africa.

We owe it to the Free State and its people to be such a robust, leading university. This is what the UFS wants to be and must be.

Dit is ons taak en ons plig om elke dag hard te werk om so ‘n universiteit te wees.

That is how we will get “from good to great”.

Let’s do it. Together.


Fakkel-seremonie / Torch ceremony

Om hierdie amptelike opening af te sluit, vra ek nou die drie viserektore om die drie fakkes – die Eeufeesfakkels – aan te steek.

Met hierdie fakkels, hierdie vlamme, verbind ons ons opnuut tot drie groot beginsels van hierdie Universiteit, beginsels wat ons gedra het deur ons geskiedenis, en beginsels wat ons immer moet koester in ons gesamentlike toekoms.

With these torches, these flames, let us commit ourselves anew to three major principles of the University, principles that have carried us throughout our history, principles that we must always cherish in our joint future:

The FLAME of quality, excellence, scholarship and critical inquiry:
(Die vlam van gehalte, uitenemendheid, kritiese denke)

The FLAME of justice, equity, tolerance, compassion, and engagement
(Die vlam van geregtigheid, billikheid, verdraagsaamheid, deernis en betrokkenheid)

And lastly:

The FLAME of Faith, as encapsulated in the university motto:
(Die vlam van geloof)
In Deo Sapientiae Lux
In God is the Light of all Wisdom
In God is die Lig van alle Wysheid

Now please stand for the singing of the University Anthem and thereafter the National Anthem.

Staan asseblief vir die sing van die Universiteitslied en daarna die Volkslied.


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