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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

UFS Communication and Brand Management wins for the third time in the 2017 International Gold Quill Awards
2017-06-29

Description: 2017 International Gold Quill Awards Tags: 2017 International Gold Quill Awards

Lacea Loader, Director: Communication and Brand
Management and Leonie Bolleurs, Assistant Director:
Internal Communication in the same department.
The awards were presented at the Excellence
Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. on
Tuesday 13 June 2017.
Foto: Hannes Pieterse

The Department of Communication and Brand Management at the University of the Free State (UFS) has won two International Gold Quill Awards from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) for projects executed in 2016. “Winning two Gold Quill Awards put the entrant in the top ranks of the business communicators of the world,” said Ghrethna Kruger, IABC 2017 Quill Awards Chair South Africa.

The Department won Gold Quill Merit Awards for their entries of the publication, For such a time as this: A commemorative journey, and the communication process with prospective students through the Sound[W]right: UFS student tone and voice project.

Two Gold Quill Awards in 2017
This is the third time the department has received recognition by the IABC. In 2014, it received the Jake Wittmer Research Award, a Gold Quill Merit Award, and an Africa Gold Quill Award. In 2015 the department received an Africa Merit Award, Africa Gold Quill Merit Award, a Gold Quill Merit Award, and a Gold Quill Excellence Award. “I am very proud of the nine awards we have won over the past couple of years. Being recognised by a prestigious global association such as the IABC is a great honour. The fact that the UFS is the only tertiary education institution in the country to receive awards this year makes it even more special," said Lacea Loader, Director: Communication and Brand Management at the UFS.

With the 2017 IABC Awards the IABC has in total recognised 227 entries as world class, announcing 74 Excellence Awards and 153 Merit Awards. They represent a cross-section of public- and private-sector organisations, both large and small. This year there were 13 winners from South Africa compared to last year’s three winners.

Work reflects superior production values
Entries were evaluated against the IABC Gold Quill Awards criteria and IABC’s seven-point scale of excellence. Feedback from the IABC Gold Quill evaluators, on the publication, For such a time as this: A commemorative journey stated: “Exceptional effort and an excellent gift that celebrates your honoree and preserves school history. It demonstrates superior production values and strong images convey key messages.”

On the entry: Sound[W]right: UFS student tone and voice project, the IABC Gold Quill evaluators said: “This entry shows innovation, collaboration, persistence, generosity and strategic intent. They have accomplished much within a very limited budget, to the benefit of both the university and its students.”

“The Gold Quill Awards programme celebrates business communication’s best practices and the value professional, strategic communication programmes bring to an organisation’s bottom line, its brand and its reputation,” said Lynn Barter, ABC, MC, chair of the IABC awards committee. “Each entry is evaluated on its own merits against IABC’s Global Standard of excellence in communication. Winning a Gold Quill recognises exceptional work, innovation and creativity.

Taking communication to the next level
“Gold Quill winners represent a global community executing their responsibilities ethically and to the highest standards of the profession. These exemplary practitioners deliver high impact results for their organisations and clients, taking communication to the next level.”

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