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20 January 2021 | Story Andre Damons | Photo Supplied
From the left; Dr Philip Aghoghovwia, Dr Brian van Soelen and Dr Mikateko Mathebula.

Three early-career academics from the University of the Free State (UFS) have been selected for the prestigious Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) Future Professors Programme (FPP) to become a new cohort of South African professors across the disciplines.

Dr Mikateko Mathebula, Senior Researcher in the Centre for Development Support, Dr Philip Aghoghovwia, Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, and Dr Brian van Soelen, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics, have been selected for the 2021/22 cohort in the first phase of the FPP.
The academics applied for the programme through the office of Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research. 

Honoured to be part of the programme

Dr Aghoghovwia says he is honoured to be part of this prestigious programme, as its assessment process is rigorous. “I cannot say I expected it; any rated researcher with high-quality work could have got into the programme. I am extremely delighted that I was selected.” 

According to Dr Aghoghovwi, the news of his selection came as a pleasant surprise, as he had received no further communication after he applied for the programme. 

“I expect to take advantage of the opportunities and to take on the responsibilities that this prestigious programme provides. In addition, I hope to interact productively with peers and specialists and to avail myself of the best practices involved in producing high-quality and high-impact research that will add value to South African academy, society, and beyond.”

Programme will help propel career

Dr Mathebula still cannot believe she had been selected and was surprised when she heard the news. Says Dr Mathebula: “I knew I was nominated, but I thought the chances of being selected were slim. I feel very fortunate and grateful. I am especially grateful for the continued support and mentorship provided by Prof Melanie Walker.” 
Dr Mathebula says she is excited about what she will learn from the programme, which will help propel her career in the right direction. She is also looking forward to sharing the lessons learned with her colleagues in the Higher Education and Human Development Research Programme group). 

FPP brings together group of cross-disciplinary academics

Dr Van Soelen says he was hopeful that he would be selected, but he did not think it was guaranteed as the programme attracts many applications.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join the programme. This is a very exciting opportunity, and I am looking forward to participating in it. I was part of the UFS PSP programme that ran at the UFS, and that was a very rewarding experience. The help and support I received through the programme were exceptional,” says Dr Van Soelen. 

The FPP brings together a cross-disciplinary group of academics and aims at developing academic and leadership excellence. He hopes that this programme will open up new collaboration opportunities, foster new research projects, and develop the skills needed to significantly contribute to academia, both in South Africa and internationally, says Dr Van Soelen. 

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