UNESCO Chair on Open Distance Learning (ODL)

Capacity Building and Sustainability

Capacity building

 The College of Education (CEDU), in which the UNESCO/Unisa Chair is housed, produces an estimated 50% of Unisa’s doctoral graduates. In the last five years, CEDU has also made a steady contribution to Unisa’s ODL research in the form of scholarly books, chapters in scholarly books, articles in international and Web of Science scholarly journals, and the presentation of research papers at national and international conferences. The CEDU production of ODL scholarship was done in collaboration with ODL practitioners and scholars at Unisa’s Institute of Open Distance Learning (IODL), as well as neighbouring universities such as the University of Pretoria (UP), and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

An initial cohort of six ODL master’s and four ODL doctoral students from South Africa and the Southern African region will be considered for co-supervision annually. The goal shall be to maintain the admission range of a similar cohort annually in order to ensure a sustainable pipeline of master’s and doctoral students that can be trained to provide the much needed critical mass of highly qualified ODL practitioners. Co-supervision arrangements with regional ODL institutions and practitioner institutions shall be pursued, established and consolidated with fellow ODL institutions such as, in particular, the South African Institute of Open Distance Education (SAIDE), the University of Pretoria’s Unit for Distance Education, and the University of Botswana’s UNITWIN/UNESCO Chair of Open Distance Learning (ODL). At the end of the five-year cycle an average of 20 doctoral and 30 master’s students should have been inducted in the chair’s programme and will be ready to be released into the higher education labour market.


A wide range of bilateral and multilateral collaborative partnerships at national, continental and international levels shall be forged within the framework of the UNITWIN/UNESCO programmes. They shall be driven through Unisa’s enduring relationship with South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF), which is the custodian of the country’s National System of Innovation (NIS); South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) (2017), which has recently developed the Policy Framework for the Provision of Open Learning and Distance Education in South African Post-school Education and Training.

The objectives of the DHET policy framework are:

  • Increased access to and success in learning through open learning in post-secondary education and training (PSET) institutions.
  • Increased access to learning opportunities through a National Open Learning System.
  • Collaborative capacity building to develop networks of high quality providers and learning support centres.
  • Equitable access to appropriate ICT as an enabler for teaching and learning.
  • High quality, shared teaching and learning resources available as open educational resources.
  • Recognition of prior learning and articulation.
  • Quality assurance of open learning in PSET, and
  • Cross-border distance education.

Further bilateral and multilateral collaborative partnerships shall be forged with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies; the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), which is the leading global membership organisation for open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning, and the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), which is Europe's leading institutional association in online, open and flexible higher education. The goal shall be to ensure that the UNITWIN/UNESCO/Unisa Chair derives maximum benefit from these organisations’ activities and programmes.

Transfer of knowledge

Transfer of knowledge will be carried out through:

  • Structured programmes of ODL weekly master’s and doctoral training seminars.
  • Structured programmes of research proposal writing/writing for publication retreats.
  • Joint ODL specific master’s and doctoral students’ conferences and colloquia.
  • Joint training of post-doctoral fellows.

Last modified: 2023/08/07