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02 May 2018 Photo Charl Devenish
South Campus UAP celebrates 27 years of access to education
Mr Francois Marais, Prof Kalie Strydom, Prof Daniella Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Prof Francis Petersen, Dr Nthabeleng Rammile (Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council), and Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS).

More than 27 years ago, international funding from the Human Sciences Research Council and Anglo American was put to an unusual use for that time. Prof Kalie Strydom’s research unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) was tasked with reviewing how institutional missions would change in the new South Africa. Prof Strydom worked closely with surrounding communities in Bloemfontein to develop a bridging course which would help students who showed potential to access tertiary education, although they did not meet the requirements. His vision brought to birth the University Access Programme (UAP), as it is known today, which is hosted on the UFS South Campus, and is still providing unique access to higher-education institutions in South Africa.

People with a passion for human development
March 2018 saw the 27th anniversary of this remarkable initiative, which has given a second chance to over 18 000 students. Special guests at the event included Prof Strydom, Mr Francois Marais, and representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training and Investec’s corporate social investment office.

Dr Sonja Loots, researcher in the UFS Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), singled out two key individuals in the formation of the UAP: Prof Kalie Strydom, who initiated the programme, and Mr Marais, who has been Director of the UAP since its inception. Dr Loots highlighted one of the driving forces behind Prof Strydom’s perseverance, vision, and determination with the UAP by quoting from an interview with him for an upcoming book on student access and success. He said, “It was a decision based on principle … to be part of the solution to a better country.”

Access and success still an issue today
In his presentation on the “Importance of Access”, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, pointed out the vital role of access in South Africa, especially the value it offers for the betterment of the country’s people. However, he said that student success is also an issue, and institutions need to be accountable for it. Quoting Prof John Martin of the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Engineering, “We must be flexible on access, but robust on success.” Only by “closing the loop” in this way, can the UFS and other higher-education institutions ensure a valuable contribution to the economy of the country.

News Archive

Heart-valve studies receive international recognition
2017-07-11

 Description: Heart-valve studies  Tags: Heart-valve studies  

Prof Francis Smit, Head of the Department of
Cardiothoracic Surgery at the UFS, and Manager of the
Robert WM Frater Cardiovascular Research Centre, with
Kyle Davis, Mechanical Engineer at the centre.

Photo: Rulanzen Martin

Three heart-valve studies which have been developed at the Robert WM Frater Cardiovascular Research Centre at the School of Medicine at the University of the Free State (UFS) were recently presented in Monte Carlo at the conference of the prestigious global Heart Valve Society (HVS).

These studies are all headed by Prof Francis Smit, Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the UFS, and Manager of the Robert WM Frater Cardiovascular Research Centre.
Prof Smit says the HVS is a combination of the former heart-valve societies of Europe and the US. “Studies on heart-valve disease, heart-valve-related products and operations, as well as the design and development of new valves were presented. There are both clinical and development divisions.

He says the study in which the hemodynamics of their redesigned mechanical poppet valve was compared to a commercial bi-leaflet mechanical heart valve, was named as the best poster presentation in the experimental valve development and numerical flow dynamics division. The study, which was presented by Kyle Davis, mechanical engineer at the centre, competed against some of the best heart-valve research units in the world.

The redesigned valve, based on the 1960s Cape Town poppet valve, has the potential to provide a low-cost solution for mechanical heart-valve replacement. It is possible to produce the titanium ring with 3-D printers and is, together with the silicon poppet valve, extremely inexpensive compared to current mechanical valve-manufacturing processes.
The advantages of this valve over current mechanical valves is that, due to the effective and laminar flow characteristics, as well as the simple locking mechanisms, there is a reduced chance of valve thrombosis, and the need for anti-clotting drugs is therefore limited.

It was also confirmed that the new valve more than meets the published FDA (Federal Drug Agency) requirements, which determine the minimum standards of valves for human use in the US.

The redesigned valve also has a very low platelet activation impact, which is responsible for platelet thrombosis and leads to valve thrombosis or strokes. This valve is another heart-valve project by the centre, which is also in the process of evaluating a tri-leaflet polyurethane valve developed by them.


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