The Commonwealth: A Common Culture?

By Richard Maltby; Peter Quartermaine | Go to book overview

9: HILARY PERRATON
The Commonwealth of Learning

There is a particular reason why the invitation from the editors to contribute a progress report on the Commonwealth of Learning to this anthology of Commonwealth cultural explorations could not have been more appropriate.1 It was at Exeter that the inquiry into Commonwealth co-operation in distance education and open learning, which was to result in the Commonwealth of Learning, was first revealed. That revelation had not been entirely foreseen. However, Professor Ramphal decided to build upon the happy coincidence of the occasion of his public lecture at the University and the impending announcement of his appointment of a Commonwealth Expert Group on Distance Education chaired by Professor Asa Briggs, Lord Briggs of Lewes, to inform members of the University and the local media about what was afoot. In a real sense, therefore, the Centre for American and Commonwealth Arts and Studies of Exeter University had a part in the launching of the plans for the Commonwealth of Learning. This note on progress will, I hope, show how far those plans have advanced in the 18 months or so since then.

It is the firm expectation of the 48 Commonwealth member countries, acting through the Commonwealth Secretariat, that the Commonwealth of Learning, an entirely new Agency to promote co-operation in distance education, will very shortly be set up. The plans for the new Agency were approved in principle by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Vancouver in late 1987. In the first half of 1988, a working group chaired by Dr John Daniel, President of Laurentian University of Sudbury in Canada and an international authority on distance education, looked at ways and means of promoting Commonwealth co-operation along lines sketched out by the Briggs Report, Towards a Commonwealth of Learning. As a result of the work of these two groups, and of the political backing received from Commonwealth countries, it is hoped that by the end of 1988 the legal steps will be taken

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