REPORT ON VISIT TO THE COMMONWEALTH OF LEARNING (COL)
I paid a visit to the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) on 15th July 2009 on my way back from the World Conference on Higher Education. The visit was extremely successful in re-connecting the Commonwealth of Learning and the University of the South Pacific and identifying and agreeing areas of future collaboration.
RE-ENGAGING WITH COMMONWEALTH OF LEARNING
The University of the South Pacific and the Commonwealth of Learning used to have very close relations in the past going back to the days when the first President of the Commonwealth of Learning was the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, the late Dr. James Maraj. In recent times, these links have not been strong and it will be true to say that in the last 5 years or so these links had virtually disappeared. One of the purposes of this visit was to re-engage with the Commonwealth of Learning. I had been able to link up with the Sir John Daniel at the UNESCO conference but the visit gave me an extended opportunity to meet other staff and to discuss issues at length.
I gave an hourís presentation to the President, Vice-President and Senior Staff on the current activities of the University, the reforms that have been undertaken, the turnaround in the universityís finances and most importantly on the new strategic plan and our focus for future activities. In making the presentation, I was interested in highlighting areas in which we would be particularly interested in collaborating with COL. I was fortunate that the entire senior staff of Commonwealth of Learning was available for the presentation and I had a very good opportunity to meet all of them subsequently.
As a result of our discussions, we have agreed that COL and USP will collaborate more strongly in the future. To enable that to happen we agreed that:
- The University of the South Pacific and the Commonwealth of Learning would collaborate more not only for activities in the Pacific region but also across the commonwealth. I reminded COL that USP covers almost a quarter of the Commonwealth membership, and that between USP and UWI, the two regional universities cover more than half of the Commonwealth.
- An MOU be developed between the University of the South Pacific and the Commonwealth of Learning.
- The Commonwealth of Learning will undertake a review of flexible and distance learning at the University of the South Pacific. The first review of distance learning at the University of the South Pacific was conducted by COL and this proposed review offers an opportune time for COL to re-engage with USP. We are very pleased that Sir John Daniel, the CEO and President of Commonwealth of Learning, and one of the most renowned educators and educational innovators in the world, has agreed to lead the review, which is expected to get underway later this year or early in 2010. The other two reviewers will be mutually agreed upon later.
- The University of the South Pacific will nominate a contact person for interaction with the Commonwealth of Learning on matters relating to the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC).
- USP will have discussions with COL about USP joining the consortium for the Commonwealth MBA and MPA.
The Commonwealth of Learning is one of the most important educational institutions in the world. The University of the South Pacific serves nearly a quarter of the membership of the Commonwealth and together with the University of the West Indies serves more than half of the Commonwealth. Given these, it is important that USP play a larger role across the Commonwealth and collaborate more closely with Commonwealth institutions like the Commonwealth of Learning and the University of the West Indies. This visit gave both the Commonwealth of Learning and USP an opportunity to become more familiar with current developments and future plans of each other.
I am very pleased that there is determination both on the part of Sir John Daniel and on my part as Vice-Chancellor to ensure much closer collaboration in future between our two institutions.
Professor Rajesh Chandra