University of the Free State

IT HAD been Boers trekking away from British rule in the Cape Colony who, in the mid-19th century, had established the Orange Free State. As time passed, their capital town of Bloemfontein had attracted many English speakers and institutions as well. Grey College, an English School for boys, had been established in the 1850s, and it was Grey College that brought higher education to the Orange Free State for the first time. In 1904, a group of six matriculants registered for a full BA degree course, with lectures being administered in a two-roomed building in the school grounds. By 1910, student numbers at what was called the Grey University
College had risen to 29, with 10 lecturers. In 1918, the first Afrikaans professor was appointed to the staff, but it was not until 20 years later that Afrikaans ousted English as the official teaching medium. The college achieved its status as an independent university in 1950 as the University of the Orange Free State.

During the sixties, seventies and eighties, the university experienced steady growth as a white Afrikaans university, with a Faculty of Medicine being added in 1969 and a Faculty of Theology in 1980. By 1993, the university had reintroduced English in parallel with Afrikaans as increasing numbers of black students began to be admitted. In 2001, the name of the institution was shortened to University of the Free State, and two years later the QwaQwa campus in Phutaditjhaba, formerly administered by the University of the North (now Limpopo) over 500 km away, was placed under the control of the University of the Free State.

The university – described as ‘democratic and diverse’ – offers programmes through its six faculties: Economic and Management Sciences; Health Sciences; Humanities; Law; Theology; and Natural and Agricultural Sciences – and maintains high standards in terms of postgraduate studies and research. Nearly 600 accredited research publications, including 64 books, were published in 2007.

Facts and Figures  at a Glance1

The University of the Free State had 22,886 contact students and 1,798 distance students enrolled in 2007. The number of full-time and part-time students was not available. Of the student body, 22,802 were South African citizens, 1,533 from other SADC countries, and 183 from non-SADC countries (Actual data, 2007).

Table 1: University of the Free State - Summary of Enrolment Numbers (Actual data, 2007)2


Number of students enrolled per level of study

Major Field of Study

Total Number of Students (Headcount)

Under- graduate degree/ diploma Post-graduate degree/ diploma Masters Degree Doctoral Degree Other qualifications (short courses, certificates etc.)
Science, Engineering & Technology 4,655 2,769 5 832 239 453
Business, Management & Law 6,502 4,303 1,298 341 44 258
Humanities and Social Sciences 11,031 7,310 271 879 298 1,365
Health Sciences 2,496 1,588 262 351 38 248
TOTALS 24,684 15,970 1,836 2,403 619 2,324

 Source: University of the Free State questionnaire response

Table 2: University of the Free State: Academic and Research staff (Actual data, 2007)

Major Field Of Study

Total Number (headcount)

Science, Engineering & Technology 410
Business, Management & Law 166
Humanities and Social Sciences 366
Health Sciences 121
Other (Agricultural Resources) 20
TOTALS 1,083

Source: University of the Free State questionnaire response

[1] All data presented in this section is headcount data.
[2] There is some discrepancy in total numbers of students. This was queried with the UFS and is a result how students are allocated to different CESM categories. It was not possible to correct these discrepancies.