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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 

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 awards degrees at autumn graduation ceremony

The University of the Free State’s (UFS) autumn diploma and graduation ceremony took place this week in the Arena on the South Campus in Bloemfontein (formerly known as the Vista Campus). This arrangement has been made because of the large-scale renovations to the Callie Human Centre on the Main Campus.

Friday, 24 April 2009
Faculties of Health Sciences, Law and Theology Diploma ceremony

Law student’s achievement excels 80%
Four Law students obtained the LLB degree at this year’s autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS) summa cum laude and were awarded the Moritz Bobbert Medal. They are from the left: Lezelle Olivier (80%), Albert Nell (91%) and Amanda du Toit (83%). LiFeng Chien were absent during the photo.

UFS awards degrees at autumn graduation ceremony
Today 331 students and five doctorates in the Faculties of Health Sciences, Law and Theology received their qualifications at this year’s autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS). Michael Molahloe (left) and Mamokete Ntholeng both received their LL.B. degrees in the Faculty of Law.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

This year’s autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS) was held on the South Campus. From the group of students that received their qualification from the Faculty of Law, is from the left: Janine Jonson, Anneska van der Spoel, Andrea Coetzer, and Jo-Mari Visser.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

Students in Nursing receive their degree
A group of students from the Faculty of Health Sciences received their B.Soc.Sc. degree at this year’s autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS). At the occasion were, from the left: Ruth Beukes, Basetsana Panana, and Dipontsheng Tsolo.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

UFS Faculty of Health Sciences awards degrees
Liezl Swanepoel (left) and Heide van der Merwe received their BSocSC degrees at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) autumn graduation ceremony.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs


Thursday, 23 April 2009
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences & Chancellor’s Dinner

UFS awards unique doctorate
Dr Rodney Douglas, who had never obtained any formal undergraduate qualification, this week received a Ph.D. in Geography and Geology during the autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS). The name of his thesis is “A new perspective on the geohydrological and surface processes controlling the depositional environment at the Florisbad archaeozoological site”. He had four papers published in journals that were related to his thesis. He obtained his South African Museums Association Diploma in Biology in 1988 and his M.Sc. in Environmental Biology at the University of Natal, Durban in 1992. He was accepted as a Master's degree student at that university based on research that he had conducted on, amongst others, the diets of reptiles. He has been working at the Department of Herpetology at the National Museum, Bloemfontein since 1984, where he holds the post of Principal Museum Scientist and Head of Department.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

Chancellor’s Dinner: UFS honours doctoral students
Last night, the University of the Free State (UFS) honoured students who had received their Ph.D. degrees at the autumn graduation ceremony this past week, at the Chancellor’s Dinner. A total of 25 doctorates were awarded during the respective ceremonies. Attending the occasion were, from the left: Dr Annemarie Kühn, Ph.D. in Chemistry, Prof. Jeanet Conradie, Department of Chemistry at the UFS and Dr Kühn’s promoter, Prof. Teuns Verschoor, Acting Rector of the UFS, Prof. Corene de Wet, Department of Comparative Education and Education Management at the UFS, and Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer of Umalusi and former head of the Free State Department of Education who received a Ph.D. in History. Prof. De Wet is Dr Rakometsi's co-promoter and the late Prof. Leo Barnard, former Head of the Department of History at the UFS, who passed away at the beginning of April 2009, was his promoter.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

Mrs Annemarie Kilian, Mr Willem Kilian (BSc. Hons) and Prof Stephanus Kilian
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

Mr Jaco van der Merwe, Mr Renico Pretorius and Mr Rion Terblanche (all BSc. Quantity Survying)
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

Ms Mamakoanyane Amelia Shata (BSc. Genetics and BSc. Hons. Plant Molecular Biology) and Mrs Maente Adelinah Shata.
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

Mr Maurice Ambrose and Mr Owen Monk (both BSc. Quantity Survying).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

Ms Tobeka Mehlomekhulu (Lecturer: Department of Geography), Mr Neo Mokgosi (BSc. Hons. Genetics) and Ms Nwabisa Mehlomekhulu (BSc. Hons. Food Science).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

Mr John Mdane, Mr Fana Mdane (BSc. Information Technology) and Mrs Agnes Mdane
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

Mr Kevin Vermaak (BSc. Hons. Geohydrology) and Ms Michelle Steenkamp (BSc. Hons. Geology).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe


21 April 2009
Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences

Prof. Magda Fourie's daughter graduates
Nadia Fourie, daughter of Prof. Magda Fourie, former Vice-Rector: Academic Planning at the UFS and now Vice-Rector: Teaching at Stellenbosch University, received the B.Com. Law degree.
Photo: Lacea Loader

724 degrees were awarded during the ceremony of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences. Here are, from the left: Simon Serutla, B.Com. Accounting, Lourencia Hamuaka, B.Com. Honours in Financial Economics and Investment Management, Sunet Opperman, B. Accounting, and Yolandi Greyling, B. Accounting.
Photo: Lacea Loader

Students in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences graduated this week during the University of the Free State's (UFS) autumn graduation ceremony. Altogether 724 degrees were conferred. Here are, from the left: Marie-Louise Lombard, B.Com. Law, Adriaan van der Merwe, B.Com. Law and member of the Student Representative Council (Legal and Constitutional Affairs), Basanio Ncike, B.Com. Economics, and Richard Schooling, B.Com. Banking.
Photo: Lacea Loader

Center for Accounting honours top achievers
The Centre for Accounting at the University of the Free State (UFS) honoured the top ten students in the third-year B.Com. and B.Com. Hons. programmes respectively during this week's autumn graduation ceremony. Here are, from the left: Prof. Ronell Britz, Chairperson of the centre, Nils Kotze, first place in the B.Com. third-year group, and Madri Victor, first place in the B.Com. Hons. group; back: Prof. Hentie van Wyk, Programme Director: Accountant Training.
Photo: Stephen Collett

Accounting firms in Free State help with recognition of top achievers
Accounting firms in the Free State have contributed to a fund at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Centre for Accounting to give recognition to top achievers in the third-year programme for the B.Com. and B.Com Hons. degrees respectively this week. It is evidence of the good relationship that exists between the Centre and the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA), Free State. Here, from the left, are: Mr Pieter Clase, CoetzeeSmit Chartered Accountants, Mr Oswald Wentworth, KPMG, Mr Ettienne van Niekerk, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Herman Leach, Gobodo Inc. Chartered Accountants, and Mr Stefan Strydom, Havenga, Rossouw & Viljoen; front: Mr Ian Smit, Enslins Bloemfontein, Ms Thelma Crossman, Mazars, and Ms Daphline O'Brien, Ernst & Young.
Photo: Stephen Collett


20 April 2009
Faculty of Education, Faculty of the Humanities.

CHESD awards 15 masters degrees
A group of 15 students received the Structured M.A. (Higher Education Studies) of the Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development (CHESD) at this year’s autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS). This is the biggest group in the centre's history to be awarded master’s degrees, while four of the students received distinctions. Also of interest is that six of the 15 students already have doctoral degrees. At the occasion were, from the left: Dr Dipane Hlalele, Qwaqwa Campus, Ms Liesl Hoare, Central Univeristy of Technology, Welkom Campus (best achiever), and Dr Fanus van Tonder, Programme Director: Higher Education Studies and Research, CHESD. Ms Hoare received the Deans medal in the Faculty of the Humanities as the best master’s graduate student at the graduation ceremony. At the faculty’s prize function she also received the Kovsie-Alumni Trust award as the best M.A student in the faculty. She also received the CHESD Prize for the best achievement in the Structured M.A. (Higher Education Studies).
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

UFS awards degrees at autumn graduation ceremony
Five hundred and eighty six degrees and nine doctorates were awarded this week during this year's autumn graduation ceremony on the South Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) to students in the Faculty of the Humanities. At the occasion were, from the left: Nicola Bekker, Madré van der Merwe and Esté Scholtz. All three the ladies received the qualification B.A. Language Practice.
Photo: Lacea Loader

This year’s autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS) is held on the South Campus in Bloemfontein. Today a group of students from the Programme: Governance and Political Transformation in the Faculty of the Humanities received their qualification. From the left, front are: Dr Tania Coetzee, Head of the Programme: Governance and Political Transformation, and Mr Itumeleng Liba, Chief Operation Officer at CENTLEC; back: Mr Kennett Sinclair, Vice-Chairperson of COPE in the Northern Cape, Ms Nicole Joannou, Goldfields Business and Catering, and Mr Tembeni Lobe from Bloemfontein.
Photo: Lacea Loader

Some of the students who received their qualifications during this week's graduation ceremony of the Faculty of the Humanities were, from the left: Shu-Jung Chan, B.Mus. Hons., Brian Gxavu, B.Mus., and Mpolokeng Lepote, B.A. Media Studies.
Photo: Lacea Loader

UFS’s CHESD awards doctoral degree
Ms Mardi Delport (middle), Assistant Director: Media and Communications at the Central University of Technology received her Doctoral degree at this year’s autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State (UFS). The title of her thesis is: “An internal communication model for the Central University of Technology, Free State as a multi-campus institution”. With her are her promoter Prof. Driekie Hay (left), Vice-Rector: Academic Planning, and her co-promoter, Prof. Annette Wilkinson (right) from the Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development (CHESD) at the UFS.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs 

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