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28 November 2022 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Melanie Walker
Prof Melanie Walker is one of two NRF A1-rated scholars at the UFS.

The Higher Education and Human Development (HEHD) research group under the leadership of Prof Melanie Walker has grown to become a pocket of academic excellence and innovation at the UFS. “The group’s research positions universities (if ‘reimagined’) as potentially powerful sites for achieving human development by challenging the status quo and entrenched interests and inequalities,” Prof Walker notes. 

HEHD researchers draw substantially on the capability approach, which offers a contribution to higher education in South Africa, primarily because it derives from a normative framework that places human flourishing as its primary goal, chiming with the country’s transformation goals.

Prof Walker is an internationally acclaimed researcher and academic and one of three A-rated National Research Foundation (NRF) scholars at the UFS. In 2021, she was elected as the first president of the international Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA) from the Global South. Back then, Prof Walker said the UFS already had a strong research presence within the HDCA, and her group was known for its work in African higher education. The HDCA brings together academics who generate ideas and research on human development.

The research group, which was founded by Prof Walker, is an embodiment of the quality and of the impact elements of the institutional narrative of the UFS. The HEHD is now happily based in the Centre for Development Support within the UFS Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.

Top-tier research outputs from HEHD

The outputs of the HEHD research group have a far-reaching impact, given the nature of its national and international affiliated researchers, students, and collaborators. Members of the group have published 19 peer-reviewed books since 2013, and since 2016, the HEHD has graduated 20 PhDs whose research focuses on diverse aspects of higher education and capabilities across the sub- Saharan region. A range of international examiners in the USA, the UK and Europe attest to the quality of the HEHD’s doctoral graduates.

“I am immensely proud of the quality of the research and collective ethos of our graduate students and our researchers and, as importantly, the substantive focus on human development and social justice in and through higher education in Africa,” Prof Walker says. “As Professor Tristan McCowan and others have noted, this group is quite unique internationally,” she continues.

Projects and research collaborations

The numerous institutional and national and international research collaborations are also testament to the interdisciplinarity of Prof Walker’s academic approach. Various recent and current projects attest to this, for example, the recently completed Miratho project on inclusive higher education learning outcomes for low-income rural youth with Birmingham and Nottingham.

Some of the the book titles that have been published by HEHD members past and present, on display on the wall in the Benito Khotseng Building on the Bloemfontein Campus. (Photo: Anja Aucamp) 


A further current example is the project under the Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF) with Bristol and Rhodes led by Dr Mikateko Mathebula, and a new edited book underway with Alejandra Boni and Diana Velasco (Spain) on higher education and reparative futures.

 
Furthermore, national collaborations such as the project with colleagues in the Centre for Development Support at the UFS and the University of Pretoria, which will be investigating the sustainable (ecologically and socially), developmental South African university and justice facing university futures from a variety of stakeholder 
perspectives.

This research project is informed by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, because achieving them cannot be done without the contributions of higher education institutions.

It is thus evident that under the leadership of Prof Walker, the HEHD research group is now established as one of the finest research groups at the UFS and contributes actively to the research and academic excellence at the university.

News Archive

Graduates should make a difference as leaders and be agents of change
2017-06-22

Description: Mid-year graduation read more 22 June 2017 Tags: Mid-year graduation read more 22 June 2017

More than 5 000 degrees will be conferred over six days
and eleven ceremonies at the UFS mid-year graduation
ceremonies.
Photo: Johan Roux

Livestream of Graduation Ceremonies

“Make the choice to make a difference as the leaders of the future.” These words of Dr Susan Vosloo, Cardiothoracic Surgeon and member of the University of the Free State (UFS) Council, echoed the call to graduates on the first three days of the UFS mid-year graduation ceremonies. The ceremonies are taking place in the Callie Human Centre on the Bloemfontein Campus from 19 to 26 June 2017.

Dr Vosloo, also an alumna of the UFS, was one of six guest speakers at the biggest set of graduation ceremonies in the university’s history. A spirit of excitement is part of the festivities, as a total of 5 258 degrees will be conferred over six days in eleven ceremonies. The graduation week will conclude on 26 June 2017, when 460 master’s and doctoral degrees will be conferred – 72 of these are doctoral degrees.

Stand up and be counted
Dr Vosloo urged the graduands at the afternoon session on 19 June 2017 to stand up and be counted. “What we need are leaders who treasure integrity, dignity, accountability, transparency, and who will focus on the common challenges which we all face today.”

Dr Khotso Mokhele, UFS Chancellor, also encouraged the graduates to be agents of change who shouldn’t conform to the current system. “Decide that it is your country and that you will decide what it should be. Then it will not be the corrupt experiment which the current government turned it into. We wish you well. Go and be the agents of transformation.”

Ambassadors of the UFS
Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, asked the graduates to make a contribution: “Be excellent ambassadors of the UFS, and make the UFS, your families, and our country proud by your strong, innovative, ethical, and excellent contributions.” He was the guest speaker during the morning and afternoon sessions on 20 June 2017.

He also said that they should never forget the supporting role others played in their success, whatever form it took.

Do it for those who fought for SA
Justice Connie Mocumie, Judge of Appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal, encouraged the graduates to go out and contribute to the development of the country. She was the guest speaker at the morning and afternoon ceremonies on 21 June 2017.

“It is important for you to continue being experts in your area of expertise,” she said.

“Today is the beginning of better days to come. Do it for the legacy of those who fought for our country in pursuit of a better South Africa.”

Dipiloane Phutsisi, Principal and Chief Executive Officer of the Motheo TVET College in the Free State, said everyone is destined for greatness. “In the words of Dr Martin Luther King: Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” She was the guest speaker at the morning session on 19 June 2017.

Click here to see a list of Deans’ and Senate medals awarded.

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