Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
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

‘Sola Scriptura’ — Does Scripture still reign as authority?
2017-02-21

Description: Theology Open Day Tags: Theology Open Day

Thania Labuschagne, Nico Oosthuizen, and
Suthea van der Westhuizen.
Photo: Supplied


Reformation 500: Sola Scriptura [scriptural authority] and contemporary conflicts of interpretation was the theme for the Faculty of Theology and Religion’s official opening and annual Open Day on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS). The faculty was recently renamed to be more inclusive of other denominations, as well as to be sensitive to the impact religion has on society, both in the past and presently.

In his welcoming address to first-year students, Prof Fanie Snyman, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion, said, “I hope that you indulge in the theological dish served to you, and that it will create in you a deep hunger to know more.”

One first-year, Neo Kgaje, had this to say, “I first wanted to do Archaeology, but then I decided to follow my calling as a missionary and study Theology. I would like to serve in my own community in Botshabelo.”

Thania Labuschagne, former chairperson of the Sola Gratia student association, said, “The annual opening is always very special for me. We become part of a family here.” Her message for first-years was, “Maintain your passion for what you do. Make sure of your calling, and everything else will fall into place.”

Prizes awarded
Prizes were awarded to several students who excelled in the previous year. The best third-year student in 2016 was Suthea van der Westhuizen; best fourth-year BTh student, Thania Labuschagne; and Nico Oosthuizen was recognised as the best Master of Divinity in the fifth year.

The Director of Shepherd Centre for spiritual leaders, Dr Gerhard Botha, awarded certificates for the completion of a 9-module short learning programme presented by the centre.

"May you hunger to know more"—
Prof Fanie Snyman, Dean of the
Faculty of Theology and Religion

Current affairs addressed through scriptural analysis
While acknowledging that the debates around the authority of Scripture are complex and not easily resolved, Prof Hendrik Bosman from the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University (SU) argued that it is an indispensable precept of Christian theology. However, it can no longer be taken as a given, since the authority of Scripture is increasingly vulnerable. He said, “Sceptic academics and critical theologians are challenging the more traditional ways of accepting the authority of Scripture.”

Prof Bosman highlighted the negative impact that certain claims of scriptural authority have had on the marginalised and vulnerable groups in society — “the suffering endured by people of colour, Jews, the LGBTQI community, and women due to prejudice and hatred. … [When reading the Bible], one must also be held accountable by the marginalised and the vulnerable in society.”

Prof Juliana Claassens (Faculty of Theology, SU) presented Beyond Revenge: Responsible Bible Reading Practices in a Traumatised Land. “As a community of believers who hold dear the principle of Sola Scriptura, what do we do with texts that revel in the downfall of the enemy and propagate revenge as a viable solution to the hurt and pain people are experiencing?”

Prof Claassens continued, “This question is particularly relevant given the deep wounds that many in this beautiful country of ours carry. … There is thus a real danger that expressions of violence survive and grow ever stronger with each utterance, until the violent ideas they propagate are considered to be normal.” Her recommendation? “Foster communities of care, focused on breaking down walls, instead of erecting them.”

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept