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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

UFS hones focus to nurture world-class research - Business Day
2006-02-10

 

Sue Blaine
THE University of the Free State plans to concentrate academic study in five areas to strengthen its status as a research institution, the university said yesterday.

The Bloemfontein-based university will focus on areas it classes as development (economics, health, literacy and other human activities) and social transformation — an analysis of how South African society is changing from a philosophical and political viewpoint.

The other three research areas are new technologies, water resources and security, and food production and security.

“It makes sense to concentrate the university’s human resources, infrastructure, financial resources and intellectual expertise,” said university rector and vice-chancellor Prof Frederick Fourie.

The move introduces a style of research that matches international trends.

Universities in Canada, Britain and Australia are setting up their research departments in this way.

In SA, the universities of Stellenbosch, the Witwatersrand, Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal have embarked on similar strategies.

Fourie gave the example of his alma mater, the US’s Harvard University, whose Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centre is an example of “clustering” on a larger scale.

The centre is a collaboration with Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Museum of Science, Boston, and universities in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Japan.

Fourie said the modern research world was so diverse and complex that no university could cover all bases so it was better to establish areas of expertise that made it different from its peer institutions.

Having scientists and researchers work in teams meant certain issues could be researched and developed in a multidisciplinary manner. “I think it’s the only way in which any university can excel. This will help SA become world class in selected areas,” Fourie said.

It is in chemistry that the cluster model has already had its most visible results, with a slice of the university’s on-campus pharmacological testing company Farmovs, established in the 1980s, sold to the US’s Parexel International.

The company is one of the largest biopharmaceutical outsourcing organisations in the world, providing knowledge-based contract research, medical marketing and consulting services to the global pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, according to Biospace, an internet-based company providing resources and information to the life science industry.

President Thabo Mbeki, in his state of the nation address last Friday, committed government to allocating more resources to research, development and innovation, and increasing the pool of young researchers in SA.

He said government would “continue to engage the leadership of our tertiary institutions focused on working with them to meet the nation’s expectations with regard to teaching and research”.

The university used to be home to several A-rated scientists, who are considered by a peer review, conducted by the National Research Foundation, to be world leaders in their fields, but had lost them to other institutions. Fourie hopes to lure them back, and with them postgraduate students and funding for their work.

“At universities where you get a star researcher they tend to attract people and funding; if they leave they take that with them,” he said.

Fourie said R50m would be spent on the project, with some already spent last year and the last disbursements to be made next year.

There is R10m in seed money to gather experts and improve equipment and infrastructure, and R17m has been invested in chemistry equipment and staff.

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