Diversity, inclusivity, and transformation are what sets the University of the Free State (UFS) apart from other institutions of tertiary education. It instils in graduates the values of attention to detail and precision, being meticulous, adherence to deadlines, being honest, ethical, and taking the ‘moral high ground’.
Graduates at the UFS are also introduced to high levels of dedication and commitment, irrespective of the task at hand; taking pride in producing work of high quality; having a non-discriminatory mindset; the ability to be team players or leaders (depending on what needs to be done); and demonstrating an understanding and consideration for society at large.
This is the view of Ashley Hay, a successful UFS alumnus who completed his honours (accepted through the Recognition of Prior Learning process) and master’s degrees (graduating cum laude) in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. Throughout his academic career, Hay has achieved good results and accolades such as Best Master’s Student, Best Master’s Dissertation, Best Research in Advanced Planning Practice, and also receiving membership of the Golden Key International Honour Society.
Today, he is employed by the Gauteng Provincial Government as Director: Land Use Management and Statutory Boards in the Office of the Premier and is in transition to a new branch called ‘Urban Planning’ under the Minister for Cooperative Governance, Urban Planning and Human Settlements.
He leads a team of professionals on spatial planning and land use management aspects, and particularly to monitor and support three metropolitan municipalities, two district municipalities, and six local municipalities in Gauteng. His achievements include the development of a policy document titled, Gauteng City Region Implementation Plan for SPLUMA, which was approved by the Provincial Cabinet Executive Council and endorsed by the Premier’s Coordinating Forum. At a previous place of employment, the uMshwathi Local Municipality, he was the author of one of the best Integrated Development Plans (IDPs), which received an award in KwaZulu-Natal.
Hay believes he was equipped with a set of values and skills to deliver services and to make a difference wherever he is. Not only through the resources and means available to him, but also with a high level of dedication to the general good of others – whether it is ordinary citizens or people who just need the very basics to uplift their livelihoods. “These basics should be forthcoming from the people’s government, which in turn implicates me among many other government employees,” he believes.
Hay says in the UFS Department of Urban and Regional Planning – from the administration team through to the lecturers and senior academics – everyone plays a role to instil a wealth of knowledge and expertise in students to understand and resolve societal problems. “It is the manner in which the course is conducted, the administrative facilitation, the steadfast pace of learning, as well as the personal attention to students, that have equipped us to later formulate solutions for everyday life challenges.”
He is convinced that these are the fundamental principles that graduates need to achieve academic excellence and make themselves employable in a competitive world.
Words that stick with Hay from his master’s classes, are those of the former Head of the Department, Prof Das Steyn, “Gain experience, build your capacity, and do something positive with the education you receive. Education is not what we teach you, it is what you do with it. Everyone gets the same degree, but some will fail with it and some will do something positive with it and make a difference”.
And UFS graduates distinguish themselves in the workplace.
“In my work environment, the UFS graduates I know and have worked with are dedicated, goal-orientated, and passionate about the discipline. We go the ‘extra mile’ irrespective and have been able to apply the knowledge we gained from university towards problem-solving and contributing to make society a better place for all,” says Hay.
He also believes that the university has strong leadership and dedicated staff who actively respects the country’s rich diversity, acknowledging that we are an all-inclusive society, and creating a learning atmosphere that is transformed towards democratic principles.