University of the Free State

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The University of the Free State (Afrikaans: Die Universiteit van die Vrystaat or UVS) is a South African university, situated in Bloemfontein. (Acronym: UFS), formerly also known as the University of the Orange Free State (UOFS) or Universiteit van die Oranje Vrystaat (UOVS).

Both the university and the students are still colloquially referred to as Kovsies.


In 1855 a school for boys was established in Bloemfontein by Sir George Grey. Called Grey College it was the third oldest school in the country, and the first in the interior. At the beginning of the 20th century, the mandate of the school was extended to higher education in the then Orange River Colony. Six (B.A.) students were taken in on 28 January 1904 and the the first two students graduated in 1905. A year later the tertiary institution became known as the Grey University College (GUC) and shortly thereafter, the school and college parted ways.

By 1907 the number of students had grown to 29 and the lecturers to ten. In 1910 the Parliament of the Orange River Colony passed legislation declaring the GUC an official educational institution in Arts and Sciences.

In the beginning the main thrust at the GUC was towards English and lectures were mainly offered in English, though the very first department of Afrikaans was founded there in 1918, under the guidance of D.F. Malherbe.

By the late 1940s however Afrikaans had become firmly established as an academic language and it became the official language of instruction at the university and the name was changed to the Universiteits Kollege van die Oranje Vrystaat ("University College of the Orange Free State") and later became widely known as UKOVS, even when another name change - to the Universiteit van die Orange Vrystaat ("University of the Orange Free State") occurred on 18 March 1950, to signal that the South African Parliament had finally declared it a fully fledged, independent university.

Over the following decades this university developed strongly,to become became an institution of higher learning to be reckoned with, not only in South Africa, but also outside the country’s borders.

In 1993 the UOFS became a parallel-medium institution, offering lectures in both English and Afrikaans and in February 2001 it was renamed the University of the Free State (UFS), to reflect the character of the university and its environment after 1996.

Drama and Theatre Studies at the UFS

In the early years the GUK Dramatic Society offered opportunities for dramatic performances, with D.F. Malherbe a leading figure in these productions. He not only wrote a number of plays for them, but also directed and performed in some of the productions. This interest in drama by the Afrikaans department would continue and feature strongly in the courses offered by Gerhard J. Beukes(who also wrote numerous plays) The English department too encouraged theatrical work, with the work of Robert J. Wahl putting a notable emphasis on such work in the 1960s.

In 1966 the UOFS Drama Department was founded with Jo Gevers appointed as first head.

The founding of a Department of Communication Studies later enhanced this focus on the performing arts.


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