Message from Prof Elna Buys, HOD

In 2017 the University recommended the merger of the departments of Food Science and Consumer Science to combine their respective strengths, namely the strong research focus and reputation of relevance and local impact of an extensive postgraduate programme of Food Science, and the excellent undergraduate programmes with strong linkages and relevance to their industry of Consumer Science, while maintaining the focus of the strong textile programme.

The new Department of Consumer and Food Sciences has a very strong research-based postgraduate programme.  Students from across sub-Saharan Africa, many of them university lecturers, come to UP to study Food Science and Consumer Science at masters and doctoral level.  Current postgraduate students originate from Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Lesotho and Uganda, as well as South Africa.  Over the years, the Department has fostered research collaborations with a number of local and international institutions. Our graduates are making an impact at universities in Africa, Canada and the United States, and are leaders in the South African food, hospitality and clothing industry.

The formation of the new department will enact the vision of the University of Pretoria in line with the 2025 strategy.

History of the Department of Food Science:

The Department was founded in 1920 as the Department of Dairying, with HB Davel as the first Head of Department. Its founding was made possible through a sponsorship of the Union Castle Shipping Line. A Dairy Research Institute was founded in 1922 and was situated in the Department of Dairying. In 1957, Dr S H Lombard was appointed as second Head of the Department of Dairying. He was promoted to Professor in 1959. During the late 1960s the name of the Department was changed to Dairy Science.

In 1980 the training in the Department was extended to cover the broader field of food science and the name of the Department changed to Food Science with Prof Lombard as Head of Department. On his retirement at the end of July 1992, Prof J R N Taylor was appointed as Head of Department until the end of May 2001.  Prof A Minnaar succeeded Prof Taylor as Head of Department, and in 2012 Prof EM Buys took over the headship of the department.

The four-year BSc (Agric)degree programme in Food Science has been in existence for many years.  From 1980 to 1993 a four-year BSc(Agric) degree programme in Food Science was presented with specialisation in either dairy technology, plant products technology or meat technology.  Honours, master’s and doctoral degrees were also offered in Food Science.  In 1993 the curriculum of the four-year BSc (Agric) programme was redesigned to provide a full programme in Food Science, plus the courses in all the major food processing technologies: dairy, meat, cereals and fruit and vegetables. This broad-based training equipped students optimally for employment in the modern, horizontally-orientated food industry.  In line with this curricular redesign, the programme was renamed BSc (Agric) Food Science and Technology.

In 1995 two new study programmes were introduced: a three-year curriculum for the BSc degree in Food Science for students who wished to study for a biological sciences degree but wanted a strong component of career-orientated specialisation, and a four-year curriculum for the BInst(Agrar) degree in Food Production and Processing for students interested in the developmental aspects of food production and processing.  Both study programmes included honours and master’s programmes.

These developments were followed in 1997 by a regional MSc programme in Food Science and Technology for the SADC-region, presented jointly by the Department of Food Science and the CSIR. This regional MSc programme was officially sanctioned by SACCAR, the Southern African Centre for Co-operation in Agricultural Research and Training.

In 2001, the curricula of all the study programmes were redesigned to conform to SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) requirements.  At this time a new BSc study programme in Nutrition and Food Sciences was also introduced to provide graduates with skills to understand and apply the nutritional requirements of humans to meet the needs of developed and developing communities in South Africa. This program was discontinued in 2013 and replaced with a new BSc Nutrition program. In 2005, we celebrated our 25th year of existence as a Department of Food Science.

History of the Department of Consumer Science:

Career choice is undeniably one of the greatest determinants of an individual’s future: it influences one’s sense of self-fulfilment which determines satisfaction in the work place, and impacts on financial well-being and independence, as well as one’s ability to optimise opportunities to progress in the workplace. Consumer Science offers unique study programmes where students are provided the opportunity to convert their passion into a profession. Furthermore, each of the specialisation areas equips a student to deal with everyday decisions that individuals, families and communities are confronted with. Students develop a scientific manner, ability to reason, as well as an appreciation for the value of research in terms of the future. Graduates are fortunate to pursue a multitude of career choices and are highly successful in their selected careers.

The programme offerings in the Department are multidisciplinary and incorporate fundamentals from disciplines such as marketing and business management, as well as microbiology and physiology. The study programmes currently offered in the Department are the result of extensive interaction with stakeholders over time to verify the focus and relevance of study programmes, as well as the content and structure of modules in terms of the needs of potential employers in a global market place. In accordance with the vision of the University of Pretoria, research is a primary concern in the Department and is incorporated from an early stage in all study programmes to foster a culture of scientific enquiry and to encourage furtherance of studies up to doctoral level.

The four-year, full-time B Consumer Science study programmes offered by the Department includes options to specialise in Clothing Management, Food Retail- or Hospitality Management which can be furthered to a master’s level (two years additional study) or PhD (three years). A BSc Food Management study programme is also offered. Growing student numbers indicate the popularity of the study programmes. Postgraduate programmes attract local as well as international applicants and the associated research is carefully designed and coordinated within specific focus areas to increase the impact of research, the potential to present the research at international forums, to publish internationally, and to obtain funding.

Published by Gertruida Erasmus

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