Tan Sri Dato’ Emeritus Professor Gajaraj Dhanarajan
Emeritus Professor Gajaraj Dhanarajan (“Raj”) Chairman, Board of Governors at Wawasan Open University is a Malaysian
national and obtained his PhD in biology from the University of Aston in Birmingham, UK. His career, stretching over
45 years, has seen him helming two universities in Hong Kong and Malaysia. From 1995 to 2004, he was president of
the Commonwealth of Learning, an inter-governmental agency. He is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading
advocates and experts on open and distance learning, for which he has served as a consultant for the World Bank,
the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank and the Inter-American and Caribbean Development Banks.
He holds honorary doctorates from ten universities in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and North America.
Title: Has Open Distance Learning [ODL] outlived Its value and purpose?
The idea of open access to higher education was borne out of a social desire and a political necessity to provide
education to large numbers of adults beginning with a turbulent post war Europe of the fifties and sixties and later
in the newly independent and emerging countries of Asia and Africa. The purpose of such a provision, during that
period and until very recently, was fairly clear and the expected values realised in many jurisdictions – both in
the developed and developing world. As we pass the midway point of the second decade of the 21st century [ some 45
years after the founding of the British Open University ] many in the world of higher education are asking if there
is indeed still a need for dedicated ODL provisions, like the mega universities, in an era of the MOOCs where with
the benefit of newer technologies, hundreds of thousands of citizens can be provided access at anytime, anywhere and
at almost no cost by individuals and smaller multi purpose institutions. The presentation will explore if the time
is over for a provision like ODL to be of value to nations big and small, rich and poor, advanced and emerging.