University of the Free State

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University of the Free State
Universiteit van die Vrystaat
Yunivesithi ya Freistata
University of the Free State shield.svg
and Afrikaans (until 2017–18-year period)
Former names
Grey College (1904–1906)

Grey University College (1906-1940s)
University College of the Orange Free State (1940s–1950)

University of the Orange Free State / Universiteit van die Oranje Vrystaat (1950–2001)
MottoIn Veritate Sapientiae Lux (In Truth is the Light of Wisdom)
TypePublic university
ChancellorDr Khotso Mokhele
Vice-ChancellorFrancis Petersen
RectorFrancis Petersen[1]
Location, ,
South Africa
CampusSouth Campus (Bloemfontein)

Bloemfontein Campus (Main Campus (informally))

Qwaqwa Campus (QwaQwa,Free State Province)
University of the Free State logo.svg

The University of the Free State is a multi campus public university in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State and the judicial capital of South Africa. It was first established as an institution of higher learning in 1904 as a tertiary portion of Grey College. It was declared an independent Afrikaans-language university in 1950 and the name was changed to the University of the Orange Free State. The university has two satellite campuses. Initially a whites-only precinct, the university was fully de-segregated in 1996. The first black university vice-chancellor was appointed in 2010. Oprah Winfrey was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2011.


The long-held dream of an institution of higher education in the Free State became a reality in 1904 when the Grey College first accepted matriculants for a full B.A. course. In 1906 the tertiary part of Grey College became known as the Grey University College (GUC), but shortly thereafter the school and college parted ways. In 1910, the Parliament of the Orange River Colony passed legislation declaring the GUC an official educational institution in the fields of the Arts and Sciences.[3]

Initially, the medium of instruction was English, but later this changed to be bilingual and included Afrikaans. The name was changed to the University College of the Orange Free State—the Afrikaans version of this name change is the source of the word used to this day to refer to students of the University ("Kovsies"). In the late 1940s, the medium of instruction was changed to Afrikaans. The University was declared a full-fledged, independent university in 1950, and the name was again changed to the University of the Orange Free State.

In 1993, it adopted a system of parallel-medium tuition. Today, all classes are offered in Afrikaans and English. Subsequent to the adoption in 1999 of a new university statute, the UFS entered a significant growth period. Today, the University of the Free State boasts more students than ever in its history.

In February 2001, the University's name changed to the University of the Free State, which was adopted to reflect the real character of the institution and its environment. In 2004, the University celebrated its centenary.


The main campus building

The university's Bloemfontein Campus is near the city centre. The university also has two additional satellite campuses. One is also situated in Bloemfontein, referred to as South Campus, and the other in QwaQwa that was, until 2003, part of the University of the North.

The University sports facilities cater for more than 20 sports, medical facilities and cultural activities, ranging from the political arena to outdoor life and the creative arts. It has a student centre, a student newspaper, the IRAWA and a campus radio station KovsieFm. In addition, students have access to a library The Sasol Library, as well as the Frik Scott medical library, a career and guidance centre, a student theatre and a computer centre.

Academic divisions[edit]

  • Economic and Management Sciences
  • Education
  • Health Sciences
  • Law
  • Natural and Agricultural Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Theology
  • University of the Free State Business School

Notable alumni[edit]

Main List: Notable Alumni of the University of the Free State

Notable staff[edit]


In 2010 Webometrics ranked the university the 9th best in South Africa and 2095th in the world.[4]

Racial integration, re-segregation, and controversy[edit]

After having previously been open only to whites, UFS admitted its first black students in the early 1990s, as apartheid in South Africa began to end.[5] Large majorities of students of all races supported racial integration of the housing facilities,[5] and for several years UFS was seen as a model integration project. However, in the mid- to late-1990s, blacks began to form a larger percentage of the student body (they are 85% of the population of the Free State province) and began to be less enthusiastic about continuing traditions from the white-only history of UFS.[5] After a 1996 riot, the UFS student residences became de facto re-segregated. Furthermore, as classes became offered in English as well as Afrikaans, classes also became segregated as whites favoured Afrikaans-language classes and blacks favoured English-language classes.[5]

Oprah Winfrey received an honorary doctorate in education from the university on 24 June 2011[6]

The university faced controversy in late February 2008 following a video made by four white students of the Reitz residence which was referred to as being a protest against racial integration on the campus. The real motive behind the making of the video is still debatable. The video depicted five black workers being subjected to various mock activities, including being forced to consume food which appeared to have been urinated on.[7] The video received coverage from both South African and international media and condemnation from most major political parties in South Africa, and led to riots and racial strife among students at the university. In riots that followed the video, threats were made against white students by protesting black students.[8]

The council of the university closed the Reitz hostel over the incident and the incident triggered a broader investigation into racism in education by the Department of Education (South Africa).[9]

The then-new Vice-Chancellor, Jonathan Jansen – a strong proponent of intellectual freedom[10] and the first black president of UFS[5] – was appointed and he has subsequently initiated a process for campus-wide racial integration among students which included inviting the four students to continue with their studies at the university. In 2010 The university was awarded the World Universities Forum Award for Best Practice in Higher Education which praised amongst other the racial integration and harmonisation of the student community.[11][12][13] On receiving her honorary doctorate from the university, Oprah Winfrey called the transformation of the university as "nothing short of a miracle" when referring to the incident and subsequent racial integration.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Archived 22 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine About the UFS. Retrieved 17 January 2010
  3. ^ "History of the University".
  4. ^ "Top Africa". Ranking Web of World Universities. Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e Eve Fairbanks, A House Divided, Slate, Published 24 June 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  6. ^ Oprah Winfrey is now a Kovsie! Retrieved 29 December 2011
  7. ^ "Outcry in SA over 'racist' video". BBC. 27 February 2008.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Education to probe racism News24
  10. ^ The (Self-Imposed) Crisis of the Black Intellectual: Jonathan Jansen's Wolpe lecture, Text of a public lecture by Jonathan Jansen
  11. ^ UFS receives an award from the World Universities Forum. Retrieved 29 December 2011
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ SA university receives international award. Retrieved 29 December 2011
  14. ^ Oprah hails SA ‘miracle’ Retrieved 29 December 2011

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°06′16″S 26°10′31″E / 29.10444°S 26.17528°E / -29.10444; 26.17528