UFS History


The UFS has become a respected, well-known institution since its founding in 1904.

For close to 120 years, it has grown to become a multi-campus university contributing to local, national, and international knowledge production, remaining relevant in a challenging and ever-changing higher education landscape.  


- Founded as Grey University College (GUC)
- First Rector: J Brill
- Language medium: English (1904 is the date when the university became a separate tertiary institution. Grey College, the school from which it developed, was founded in 1855.)

- First Senate established
- Main Building completed
- First men’s residence, House Abraham Fischer, completed
1911 - First subject taught in Dutch
- First intervarsity
- Faculties of Science and Arts established
- Prof DF Malherbe became first professor of Afrikaans
- Language medium: English and Afrikaans

1919 - First women’s residence, President Steyn, completed
- Second Rector: JD Kestell 
- Recruitment campaign for financial survival

- Reitz dining hall built
- First ‘Rag’ festival
1925 - Commencement of evening lectures
- Third Rector: GM Hofmeyr
- Fourth Rector: DF Malherbe
- GUC adopted a Christian Afrikaans character

1930 - Number of departments: 22
- Fifth Rector: RB Saayman
- Campaign for 50/50 Afrikaans/English language medium
1935 - Renamed University College of the Orange Free State (UCOFS)
- Faculty of Commerce established 
- Irawa student newspaper launched
- Faculties of Law, Education, and Social Sciences established

1946 - Sixth Rector: H vd M Scholtz 
- University adopted a Christian-National character
- Growth phase started with a major building programme and fundraising

- Dual-medium instruction phased out in favour of Afrikaans only
- Renamed the University of the Orange Free State (UOFS)
- First honorary doctorate awarded: GLP Moerdyk (DLitt)
1953 - Die Bult publication launched
- Library building built (later Johannes Brill Building)

- Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences established
- Faculty of Agriculture established
1959 - Seventh Rector: PWG Groenewoud

1962 - DF Malherbe Hostel built (later Villa Bravado)
- Agriculture Building and Emily Hobhouse Hostel built
- Theology Building built
- Odeion and West Block built
1967 - Eighth Rector: B Kok (Students: 4 440)
- Growth phase started with new buildings and hostels, roads on campus, and sports facilities

- Faculty of Health Sciences established
- Idalia Loots became first female professor

- CR Swart Building completed

1973 - George du Toit Administration Building completed
- Flippie Groenewoud Building completed
- Karee Hostel Pedal Prix launched
- Callie Human Centre and Stabilis lecture halls completed
1976 - Ninth Rector: WL Mouton
- Medical Faculty Building completed (later Francois Retief Building)
- More than 90 separate university departments

- Sello Ishmael Mokotjo became first black undergraduate student at UOFS
- First black postgraduate students admitted
- Benedictus Kok Student Centre completed
- ‘Mooimeisiesfontein’ developed

1980 - Faculty of Theology established
- UOFS-Sasol Library Building completed
- Wynand Mouton Theatre completed
- FARMOVS clinical research facility founded
- Shimla Park sports facility completed
- Simon Mdluli first black recipient of PhD
1989 - Tenth Rector: FP Retief
- Chancellor: JS Stegmann
- Odeion String Quartet founded
- Language Policy: parallel-medium education (Afrikaans and English)
- First black Council member: Prof Benito Khotseng
- First coloured Council member: Rev Kiepie Jaftha

1996  - Chancellor: WL Mouton
- Eleventh Rector: SF Coetzee
- Transformation started to gain momentum
- Faculty of the Humanities established
- Chancellor: Winkie Direko
2000 - Turnaround strategy implemented to achieve financial sustainability
- Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences established

- Renamed University of the Free State (UFS)  
Honorary doctorate: NR Mandela (late former South African President – LLD)

2003 - Twelfth Rector: FCvN Fourie
- Qwaqwa Campus incorporated
- Increased academic depth
- Thakaneng Bridge completed
- First female SRC President: Anchen Laubscher 

2004 - South Campus (former Vista University Bloemfontein Campus) incorporated
- Centre for Business Dynamics launched
- Centenary Complex completed

- Central Student Representative Council (CSRC) established, representing students from all three university campuses
- UFS aligned key areas of academic and research efforts with national priorities
- First black female director appointed: Mrs Refiloe Seane
- Biggest construction contract in history of UFS – refurbishing and extending Chemistry Building

2007 - Comprehensive transformation plan approved
- UFS Council approved racial integration of residences with overwhelming majority
- Closure of controversial Reitz Hostel after defamatory anti-integration video; establishment of Institute for Diversity in its place
- Faculty of Education established
- Thirteenth Rector: J Jansen
- UFS Choir won International Music Festival Competition in Prague
- Extensive building projects launched on Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa campuses
2010 - Development of a new brand for the UFS 
- Drive to make campuses more accessible for people with disabilities
- Sculptures-on-campus initiative launched, featuring works by leading local artists
- Kovsies crowned USSA Tennis Champions


2011 - UFS received World Universities Forum Award for Best Practice in Higher Education
- UFS doctors made history by implanting special new aortic valve
- UFS School of Open Learning established on South Campus – opening up access to higher education studies
- Postgraduate School launched – bringing research-based education in line with national priorities
- No Student Hungry Project launched

2012 - UFS 101 core curriculum programme launched – focusing on aspects of citizenship and entrepreneurship for all students
- Shimlas Rugby celebrated 100 years
- UFS launched Schools Partnership Programme to turn ineffective schools into institutions producing outstanding results
- International Studies Group (ISG) established for high-calibre postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows

2013 - UFS selected as one of four South African universities to benefit from a multimillion dollar programme of the US-based Kresge Foundation
- Clinical Skills Simulation Unit opened by Faculty of Health Sciences
- UFS became first African manufacturer of eye-tracking devices
- UFS Naval Hill Planetarium – first digital planetarium in sub-Saharan Africa, opened
- UFS recognised as leading higher education institution for students with disabilities
- SARChI Research Chair awarded: Solid State Luminescent and Advanced Materials (Prof Hendrik Swart)
- SARChI Research Chair awarded: Higher Education and Human Development (Prof Melanie Walker)

2014 - UFS Internet Broadcast Project, providing assistance to school learners, won international award
- Kovsie student Elzane van den Bergh crowned Deaf Miss South Africa
- Kovsie medical student Rolene Strauss won Miss World title
- UFS NRF research funding doubled from previous year

2015 - UFS offered SA’s first master’s degree in Social Cohesion and Reconciliation
- Centre for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) launched
- Kovsie student Wayde van Niekerk won gold in 400 m in IAAF World Championship
- Robert WM Frater Cardiovascular Research Centre opened

2016 - SARChI Research Chair awarded: Disease Resistance and Quality in Field Crops (Prof Maryke Labuschagne)
- SARChI Research Chair awarded: Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Pathogens (Prof Felicity Burt)
- UFS giraffe conservation research project featured in National Geographic documentary ‘Last of the Longnecks’

2017 - Fourteenth Rector: F Petersen
- Language of instruction changed to English
- Prof Abdon Atangana published highest cited Math paper in the world

2018 - Solar charging stations launched as part of wide-ranging sustainability measures on all three campuses
- Pharmacology student Innocensia Mangoato won prestigious Women in Science award
- Cardiac simulation laboratory added to the UFS’ expanding medical simulation technology
- Centre for Teaching and Learning playing leading role in academic advising nationally

2019  - Agribusiness Transformation Programme launched to develop black emerging farmers and agri-entrepreneurs
- Kovsie alumna Karla Pretorius named best netball player in the world
- Kovsies Multilingual Mokete launched
- Kovsie tennis team crowned best student team for ninth year in a row

2020 - Global COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdown instated in South Africa; UFS adopted online/blended approach to learning and teaching 
- #NoStudentLeftBehind initiative launched, using advanced data analytics to ensure student participation in online learning
- Prof Willem Boshoff, Senior Professor in Department of Fine Arts, received A2 rating from National Research Foundation (NRF)
- Africa’s largest microscope facility for undergraduate students established at UFS
- First virtual graduation ceremonies
- SARChI Research Chair awarded: City-Region Economies (Prof Ivan Turok)

2021 - Prof Maxim Finkelstein, Outstanding Professor in Department of Mathematical Statistics and Actuarial Science, received South Africa’s first A-rating in Probability, Statistics and Operations Research from the NRF
- Dr Matteo Grilli (Political History), affiliated with the UFS International Studies Group, was awarded a top P-rating from the NRF
- Prof Melanie Walker (Higher Education and Human Development) was awarded an A1 rating by the NRF for a second time
- Academy for Multilingualism established
- UFS alumna and staff member Louzanne Coetzee won silver and bronze medals at the Paralympics
- UFS Netball team crowned Varsity Netball champions

2022 - UFS ranked among world’s best universities in Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings
 - Launch of African Languages Press, promoting preservation of marginalised African languages
- Prof Abdon Atangana ranked as South Africa’s top mathematician
- Department of Nuclear Medicine successfully treats advanced stage prostate cancer
- Department of Pharmacology and FARMOVS conduct first SAHPRA-approved clinical trial of plant-based treatment for COVID-19 
- Innovative UFS Science Education facility opened, enabling creative scientific interaction 

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