Professor Asha Kanwar is one of the world’s leading advocates for learning for sustainable development. She was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in 2012, becoming the first woman to head a Commonwealth intergovernmental organisation.
She first joined COL in 2003 as the Education Specialist: Higher Education and Policy, later serving as Vice President for six years. Prior to COL, she worked in Africa as a senior consultant in open and distance learning at UNESCO’s Regional Office for Education in Africa (BREDA) in Dakar, Senegal. During this assignment, her task was to promote and co-ordinate open and distance learning in Sub-Saharan Africa and she was instrumental in placing it at the centre of ministerial deliberations and the agenda for the development of education in Africa. The West African initiative led to the establishment of an ODL Resource Centre at BREDA and later to the development of a regional Centre of Expertise at the National Open University of Nigeria.
Professor Kanwar received her undergraduate, Masters and Master of Philosophy degrees from the Panjab University in India. She was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in 1986 at the University of Sussex and was a Fulbright Fellow for post-doctoral research at Iowa State University, where she was later invited to teach. Professor Kanwar’s engagement with distance education began in 1988 when she joined Indira Gandhi National Open University as a Reader. She later became Professor and Director of the School of Humanities and was appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University from 1999 to 2000.
Professor Kanwar has received five honorary doctorates, including one from the Open University, UK, and most recently Wawasan Open University in Malaysia. She has over 30 years of experience in teaching, research and administration, as well as several books, research papers and articles to her credit. A recipient of several awards and fellowships, including the International Council for Distance Education Prize of Individual Excellence in 2009, Professor Kanwar was elected as a member of the ICDE Executive Committee, effective September 2015, for a four-year term.