Seventeen Years of Delivery of Open and Distance Education by The Open University of Tanzania (OUT) in East Africa and Beyond
AbstractThis paper narrates the evolution of The Open University of Tanzania (OUT) since approval by Parliament in 1992, its establishment in 1993 and operationalisation in 1994. The paper shows that OUT has grown tremendously from being simply a national institution into a strong and vibrant university with an international status, serving students from the east and central African regions by 2011. The paper further discusses evolution milestones that OUT has witnessed during the seventeen years of its operation. As part of the major milestones, OUT has established twenty four Regional Centres that are supplemented by the four Coordinating Centres of Zanzibar, Pemba and as well as the two Kenyan Coordination Centres located within Nairobi and Nakuru premises of the Egerton University in Kenya. Three more regional Centres will be inaugurated in July in the envisaged new regions of Njombe, Katavi and Simiyu. In terms of academic programmes, OUT currently offers 20 undergraduate degrees, 3 certificates, 4 diplomas, 2 postgraduate diplomas, 20 masters and 5 PhDs. In order to strengthen the quality assurance of the academic, discourse in teaching, research and consultancy services as well as security and confidentiality of examination matters at The Open University of Tanzania, the Directorate of Examinations Syndicate was established in 2008 to oversee all activities regarding administration of examinations and processing of students results and awards. The quality assurance unit that was established in 2009 is also due to be elevated to a full fledged directorate. Moreover, in order to ensure the culture of strategic planning is consistently cultivated, nurtured and sustained, OUT has over the last six years conducted 12 six monthly review workshops. In an effort to ensure that the strategic planning culture is embraced in the hearts and minds of staff, OUT has since the academic year 2008/09 piloted and adopted the Open Performance Review and Appraisal System (OPRAS) in order to improve objectivity of the annual review process. This has necessitated the abandonment of the old annual confidential review forms used by most east African universities. The paper ends by highlighting the main prospects and challengesthat OUT has faced over the last seventeen years of delivery of ODL education as well as the
manner in which it has sought to exploit any emerging opportunities apart from facing the challenges head.