The Council of the University of the Free State (UFS) unanimously approved the re-appointment of Prof Francis Petersen for a second five-year term as Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, as from 31 March 2022 to 1 April 2027. The decision was made during Council’s second scheduled meeting for the year, which took place virtually on 18 June 2021.
“Prof Petersen’s first term was characterised by exceptional leadership and the Council has significant appreciation for the work that he has done and his accomplishments to date. Since his appointment on 1 April 2017 and under his leadership, the UFS has excelled in a number of key areas,” said Dr Willem Louw, Chairperson of the UFS Council.
Excellence, inclusivity, innovation, academic freedom, a particular focus and emphasis on critical enquiry, social responsiveness, integrity, and humaneness have been the value trademarks by which Prof Petersen operates. Early in his term – through a well-structured, thought-through, and consultative approach – he produced the strategic framework for the UFS for the period 2018 to 2022, the key performance areas of which have been implemented in most cases or are nearing completion.
“Prof Petersen has put forward a compelling set of drivers for his second term and indicated that he specifically intends to focus on and elevate the teaching and learning, research and internationalisation, and engaged scholarship portfolios of the university. On behalf of the Council, I wish him all the best with the second term and look forward with great expectation to what he and his executive team will achieve to further advance the UFS nationally and internationally,” said Dr Louw.
“I am humbled and honoured by the expression of confidence in me; it is a privilege to continue leading one of the greatest universities in the country on its new journey. I will continue to do my utmost to build a strong institution that belongs to everyone, and want to thank our staff, students, and valued stakeholders for their continued support,” said Prof Petersen.
The UFS’ achievements during Prof Petersen’s first term include the implementation of an Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP) (towards social justice); the UFS Strategic Plan (towards expanding the scope of transformation); the Vice-Chancellor Strategic Projects (towards a high-performance institution); the institutional Risk Management Committee (towards risk management and risk philosophy); and the institutional Multi-Stakeholder Group (towards an inclusive institutional culture).
Further highlights include the development of differentiated research, internationalisation, and innovation strategies for the UFS; the development of Project Caring in the domain of the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice; facilitating an institutional governance project; development of a strategy and plans for a Centre for Digital Scholarship; the development of proactive relationships with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS); and the establishment of a Reputation Management Forum to assist in improving the reputation and profile of the UFS.
Prof Petersen’s vision for his second term includes the continuation of the ITP, with a primary focus on the social justice imperative and ensuring the completion of all the deliverables; using the sustainable development goals (SDGs) as basis of the response as to how the UFS will affect society positively; using digitisation as key focus in determining how the academic project will be delivered, supported and how it is interfacing with the external environment; raising the external profile of the UFS through alumni, foundations, donors, and strategic communication as critical drivers; and to continue participating and further advancing national and global discourses.