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29 January 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Francis Petersen speech
“We can create an institution that operates and lives in the times of embracing and celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and academic excellence by ensuring that students own their time at university,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

25 January 2019 marked the official welcoming of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) first-year students, as they moved into their respective residences and were warmly welcomed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. This day also marked the start of the registration process for first-year students.

According to first-year Psychology student Keisha Claasen, who moved into her residence earlier on 25 January, her first experience of the UFS was daunting but exciting, as she had never been in a similar environment. According to Given Gwerera, who dropped his son off at the Karee residence earlier the day, “the UFS is an institution with great culture and an overall good academic record.” He further explained that he trusts his son to make full use of the opportunities presented to him, as he has a cool head on his shoulders.

On the evening of 25 January, an eager group of millennials, joined by their parents, took the first sip from their cup of varsity life as they assembled on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus to meet the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, members of Rectorate, the deans of all faculties, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the UFS.

“2019 will be a year of continued change; the UFS is thrilled about the prospect of bringing about opportunities for adaptation and realignment to the future,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

He further explained that the university prides itself in moulding its students into well-rounded individuals who will develop into globally competitive graduates as required in a diversity of landscapes. Prof Petersen urged first-years to remain open to the technological developments that go with globalisation, because of its permanent effects on society today.

First-years were further advised to take advantage of the rich pool of academic research and knowledge that is characteristic of the university and is piloted by UFS scholars, by engaging with and learning from them.

The inspiring night concluded on a colourful note, as the audience enjoyed an artistic laser show in front of the Main Building. Caption:

“UFS academics conduct research that forces the world to take note,” said Prof Francis Petersen at the official first-year welcoming ceremony on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

Using sugar to make the world a sweeter place
2017-10-13

Description: Deepback sugar Tags: Sugarcane, Dr Deepack Santchurn, Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), Department of Plant Sciences 

Dr Deepack Santchurn, former PhD student in the
Department of Plant Sciences at the UFS,
and plant breeder in the  Mauritius Sugar Industry
Research Institute, with Prof Maryke Labuschagne, left,
Dr Santchurn’s study leader.
Photo: Charl Devenish



Besides it mainly being used for sugar production, sugarcane has emerged as an important alternative for providing clean renewable energy. Dr Deepack Santchurn, who works in the sugarcane breeding department of the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), believes if he could contribute towards a more environment-friendly and renewable energy through the use of sugarcane biomass, he would consider himself having made a great leap towards a better world. 

Sugarcane is mostly known and exploited for the sugar in its cane stem. According to Dr Santchurn it is not the only thing the crop does well. “Together with certain grasses, it is the finest living collector of sunlight energy and a producer of biomass in unit time. Sugarcane is now recognised worldwide as a potential renewable and environment-friendly bioenergy crop.” 

Significantly more bioenergy can be produced from sugarcane if the production system is not focused on the production and recovery of sucrose alone but on the maximum use to the total above-ground biomass. Diversification within the sugarcane industry is of paramount importance. 

He has been able to identify a few high biomass varieties that can be exploited industrially. One of the varieties is a commercial type with relatively high sugar and low fibre in the cane stem. Dr Santchurn explains: “Its sucrose content is about 0.5% less than the most cultivated commercial variety in Mauritius. Nevertheless, its sugar yield and above-ground biomass yield surpass those of the commercial varieties by more than 24%. The genetic gains compared to commercial varieties were around +50% for total biomass yield and +100% for fibre yield. Its cultivation is strictly related to bio-energy production and the extracted juice can be used as a feed-stock for ethanol and other high-value products.”

Dr Santchurn received his PhD at the UFS’s Department of Plant Sciences during the Winter Graduation Ceremonies in June this year. His study leader was Prof Maryke Labuschagne from the Department of Plant Sciences. 

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