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01 April 2024 | Story Lacea Loader | Photo Sonia Small
Prof John Klaasen, newly appointed Dean: Theology and Religion at the UFS
Prof John Klaasen, newly appointed Dean: Theology and Religion at the UFS.

The University of the Free State (UFS) has appointed Prof John Klaasen as Dean: Faculty of Theology and Religion from 1 April 2024. 

Prof Klaasen is Professor of Theology and has served two terms as Head of the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of the Western Cape. He also served as Professor in the Kjell Nordstokke Chair in Community Development at VID Specialized University in Norway and is Adjunct Professor at VID Specialized University. 

“With his vast experience and involvement in research projects – nationally as well as internationally – Prof Klaasen will make a significant contribution to the Faculty of Theology and Religion and the university in general. This will also be valuable in support of the university’s Vision 130, which is an expression of our strategic intent to position the institution towards 2034 when the UFS will be 130 years old,” says Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the UFS.

As a practical theologian, the intersection between praxis and theory has occupied Prof Klaasen’s research for the past decade. He has researched and published extensively within theology, community development, and narrative. Aspects such as narrative, embedded knowledge, participation, reconciliation, and the non-rational tradition of knowledge are some of the areas that occupy his research outputs.

He is involved in numerous international research projects, which include a COST project with 17 European institutions, a project on reconciliation processes with institutions in Canada and Nordic countries, an international initiative on community development with various institutions in Europe, and a NORPART initiative with Norway and Malawi.

Community engaged scholarship forms a central part of his research and work at the intersection of religion and social justice. Prof Klaasen is involved in various community development projects, including homes for the aged, lay training, water issues, and lay theological education.

His teaching is situated within a socially just pedagogy, which puts the students at the centre of knowledge production. This innovative way of knowledge production intersects students, teachers, and the lecture room within a dynamic space of contextualisation.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join such a prestigious institution and will endeavour to contribute to Vision 130 through commitment, innovation, trust, and ethical leadership – which represents the university’s commitment to be recognised by our peers and society as a top-tier university in South Africa, ranked among the best in the world,” says Prof Klaasen.

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