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Open Impact Conference aims to increase access to higher education in Africa

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The Open Impact Conference in Uganda is an appreciation of The Open University’s achievements in Africa over the last 50 years. These are due to important partnerships with leading institutions such as Makerere University and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) which are the other two lead partners for this inaugural two-day conference on Friday (13 December) and Saturday (14 December).

The conference, which forms part of the OU’s 50th anniversary celebrations, has attracted some 150 delegates from various parts of Africa and the rest of the world, offering an opportunity to collaborate and co-create an ambitious vision for learning for the next 50 years and beyond.

Although the OU has its main campus in the UK, we are a global education organisation promoting open and distance learning (ODL) to people all over the world. We have many students and alumni in many countries across the African continent.

Only a small amount (12.1%) of African youngsters are currently being educated at university, compared to more than two-thirds (68%) in Europe as a whole. And even if you are a new graduate, your chances of securing a stable, fulfilling job are low; in Uganda, for example, fewer than 20% of university graduates find a serious job with the rest remaining in the parental home or taking on non-graduate work. This needs to change for Africa to prosper.

Professor Devendra Kodwani
Executive Dean of the Business and Law Schools

Professor Kodwani is attending the conference, ‘Extending the frontiers of access to higher education in Africa: strategies for leveraging online and distance learning programs’, at the Hotel Africana in Kampala, together with colleagues from the Business School and the wider University.

The OU-wide project, involving the Stakeholder and Alumni Engagement team in the Business and Law Schools as well as the OU’s International Development Office, Development Office and Business Development Unit (BDU), has been led by academic Dr Charles Mbalyohere, a Lecturer in Strategic Management. The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) is another partner.

Almost all higher education institutions in Africa are struggling with massively increased demand for their services. Projections show that the region’s population is poised to double by 2050, as well as actually getting younger as opposed to ageing, which means most of Africa (along with South Asia) has the highest growth prospects globally for basic services such as education.

A dramatic five-fold growth rate in internet access (from only 5% in 2005, to 24% in 2018), allied with the increased use of mobile phones in recent years, is starting to overcome the historic serious technological barriers against ODL in most African countries. We anticipate an explosion in ODL models that are better positioned to rise to the challenge, and we believe this is one of the most important strategic solutions to examine for African governments and universities.

Professor Devendra Kodwani

Further details, including a conference overview with welcome messages from conference partners and the full programme, are available here.

Also watch an advert to promote the conference which has been produced for Uganda television