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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

Dean of Law appointed for second term as acting judge in the Free State High Court
2017-02-17

Description: Prof Nicholson  Tags: Prof Nicholson

Prof Caroline Nicholson, Dean of the Faculty of Law

The Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof Caroline Nicholson, has been re-appointed by the Judge President of the Free State High Court, Judge Mahube Molemela, to serve a full term in 2017 as an acting judge. This will be her second term, as she served in the same position in early 2016, and it is such, a testament to her outstanding work. Her re-appointment is a source of pride not only to the University of the Free State, but the city of Bloemfontein, and the region as a whole.

Since taking up the position of Dean in 2015, Prof Nicholson has demonstrated exceptional leadership, and continues to take great strides in developing the Faculty’s internal and external programmes. “I am delighted that the University has facilitated my taking advantage of this opportunity. During this term, I will be exposed to a diversity of legal matters both civil and criminal, some of which I was not exposed to during my previous acting period. The exposure to the practical aspects of the law from the perspective of the Bench will inform my decisions regarding curriculum review and development, at a time when the faculty is actively engaged in ensuring that curriculum content is both relevant and context-appropriate,” said Prof Nicholson.

She adds that her appointment as acting judge will strengthen the Faculty’s positive relationship with the legal profession and, especially with the Bench. It will also benefit the Faculty, its staff and students.  In 2015, the Faculty partnered with the International Association of Women Judges (Free State Chapter), to host a dinner, which will be hosted again this month. The association brought to the fore new ventures into the involvement of women judges in an advisory capacity and sharing of expertise. In 2016, members of the association began to enact this role.

Judge Molemela and Judge Azhar Cachalia of the Supreme Court of Appeal accepted appointments to the Advisory Board of the Free State Centre for Human Rights. Judge Khalipi “Jake” Moloi of the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein, gave trial advocacy tips to teachers, coaching the Schools Moot Court Competition. Prof Nicholson said: “It is hoped that more opportunities will arise to increase interaction between students and the judiciary, both are eager for this to happen. I am also learning a great deal and am once again enjoying the collegial and supportive environment that my colleagues create at the High Court.”

Prof Nicholson holds an LLD from University of South Africa, and has published several research articles in accredited journals, with a special interest in Family Law and children’s rights.

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