The Value of New Technology and Collaboration in Extending Capacity and Widening Participation

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF5 Sub-theme: Governance and social justice // How does one bring about major change in a university? Traditionally the best universities have depended on individual creativity, often working within a relatively autonomous institution. Modern economies and state funding put change that comes in this kind of structure under strain, and the increasing use of modern technologies can have the same effect. Economies of scale and adherence to Government plans can lead to change which is of a unitary kind and very much driven from the top, with the risk that individual creativity is stifled. // The drivers for the project we are describing and discussing in this paper are the commitment in two universities in different continents – the UK Open University and the University of Delhi - to excellence in teaching and to a desire to widen effective participation in Higher Education. These commitments go alongside a belief that technology can empower the learner and the teacher. The need in both the countries in which the universities operate is significant as the nature of business, industry and communications changes, but is comparatively greater in India. As India further modernises its economy the government aims to raise participation in Higher Education from around 11% to 15%, requiring in headline terms the creation of 84 lakh of students. Much of this growth is envisaged as coming from the private sector, but through this project and – for example – the partnership struck earlier this year with the Confederation of Indian Industries Delhi University has shown its eagerness as an already large Central University to play a leading part. // The project is one of the embodiments of the UK-India Educational Research Initiative (UKIERI), project supported at Prime Minister level in the UK and India and designed to strengthen partnerships between the UK and India. We come before you then as perhaps the only paper that acknowledges UKIERI Project funded by the British Council, the UK Department for Education and Skills (DfES), Office of Science and Innovation, the FCO, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, GSK, BP, Shell and BAE for the benefit of the India Higher Education Sector and the UK Higher Education Sector. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the funding bodies. As importantly the project has support from staff at all levels of the two universities, and we want here to acknowledge particularly the commitment of our two Vice-Chancellors, Professors Brenda Gourley and Deepak Pental. In all this we want to emphasise the value of ‘exchange’ in the partnership – there has been an exchange of staff but most importantly there has been an exchange of ideas and an exchange in intellectual challenges. // Finally, and to return to the theme of the opening paragraph, the ‘method’ of the project has involved piloting a process which facilitates and engages those who will be most effected by the change in the design of that change. In a parallel way the project has been developed within the ethos of ‘open source’ and more specifically to take advantage of The Open University’s ‘OpenLearn’ (See and the use in both The Open University and the University of Delhi of Moodle based virtual learning environments. // Paper ID 314