The Open Impact Conference in Kampala (13-14 December) forms part of The Open University’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. Professor Devendra Kodwani, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law explains why the conference is so important:

The OU has its main campus in the UK but we are a global education organisation promoting open and distance learning (or ODL) to people all over the world. We have many students and alumni in many countries across the African continent. This conference is very much an appreciation of the OU’s achievements in Africa due to our important partnerships with leading institutions such as Makerere University and the Association of Commonwealth Universities. It offers an opportunity for us to collaborate and co-create an ambitious vision for learning for the next 50 years and beyond with many delegates coming together from various parts of the continent and other places in the world.

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. Almost all higher education institutions in Africa are struggling with massively increased demand for their services. Some challenges include poor access and equality (especially for girls, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds); inadequate quality and relevance for Africa’s dynamic economies; insufficient research and knowledge transfer beyond local contexts; and weak, or sometimes non-existent, qualification accreditation and verification systems.

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. With projections showing that the region’s population is poised to double by 2050, as well as actually getting younger as opposed to ageing, most of Africa (as well as South Asia) has the highest growth prospects globally for basic services such as education. In view of all this, ODL is one of the most important strategic solutions to examine for African governments and universities. We anticipate an explosion in ODL models that are better positioned to rise to the challenge. This conference will examine some of these models and aims to create a collaborative space in which to refine them further over the coming years.

Want to learn more?
You can see the full conference programme and find out more on the OU's Business School page.