Connections June 2010

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Upon the retirement of Shri R.P. Agrawal from government service, Ms. Vibha Puri Das, Secretary for Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development, has been nominated as the Government of India’s new representative on COL’s Board of Governors. As a major funder of COL, India is entitled to a representative on the Board. 


Mr. Stephen CuttsMr. Stephen Cutts of the United Kingdom has been appointed to the newly created Commonwealth Secretariat post of Assistant Secretary-General for Corporate Affairs. Most recently the Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Strategic Planning and Evaluation Division, Mr. Cutts has also served as Director and Head of Office of the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Executive Director for INSEAD’s Africa Initiative. As Assistant Secretary-General, Mr. Cutts has responsibility for the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Finance and Administration Division, Strategic Planning and Evaluation Division and Human Resources Section/Division. 


The University of South Africa (UNISA) conferred the degree of Doctor of Literature & Philosophy (honoris causa) on COL President Sir John Daniel at its convocation in Pretoria in May. Addressing new graduates, Sir John spoke about “UNISA’s Unique Academic Odyssey”, saying “No university in the world has faced a more challenging trajectory than UNISA in the last two decades.” Sir John’s address is online at

Mr. Paul WestMr. Paul West, COL’s Director of Knowledge Management and Information Technology, left COL at the end of May to return to South Africa, taking up a position at the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). Mr. West is now leading the development of SAQA’s Career Development Multi-Channel Helpline, which will bring educational and career guidance services and resources to all South Africans, especially those located in remote areas. The service centre is expected to grow to handle about one million enquiries per year, in 11 languages, through a variety of technologies.

Mr. West came to COL in August 2001 from the Centre for Lifelong Learning at Technikon SA, in South Africa, where he was Director. At COL, he managed the development of systems to harness internal knowledge assets and the wealth of knowledge that is being created throughout the Commonwealth and the world. He has been an outspoken advocate for the use of open source software, open education resources, Web 2.0 technologies and “cloud” services, and has helped to clarify issues around the interpretation and use of Creative Commons copyright licenses. He also led the establishment of the Virtual University for the Small States of the Commonwealth initiative.

COL President Sir John Daniel commented: “Paul will be sorely missed. As well as ensuring that COL operates with state-of-the-art IT and Knowledge Management systems, his strategy for developing the VUSSC has been brilliant. He has a tremendous talent for helping people do things they didn’t know that they were capable of doing.”  



CEMCA Gender Research Recognised
(L to R): Dr. Pema Sandup and Dr. Rekha S. Sen receive the award for Best Research Paper from Professor Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University and chief guest at the IGNOU Convocation, Professor S.K Joshi, former Director General, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

A research study that explored gender in open and distance learning authored by Dr. Rekha S. Sen, Reader with the School of Continuing Education at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Dr. Pema Sandup, Programme Officer at COL’s regional agency in India, the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), won the Best Research Paper award for systems-based research at IGNOU’s 21st Convocation in March.

“Revisiting gender in open and distance learning – an independent variable or a mediated reality?” studied the perspectives of learners and counsellors associated with five IGNOU programmes. It explores the impact of gender on learning through distance mode, how support structures address the specific needs of women, gender perspectives in content and issues relevant in the present-day context. The paper was published in Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, Volume 4,
Issue 2, June 2009.