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Whilst universities in the UK consider how to survive in “the current economic climate”, digital technology and Open Educational Resources is making a huge contribution to the developing world:

Widening access to higher education is one of the great global challenges of the 21st century. Higher education is the key to creating the educated and skilled workforces that developing countries need to grow their economies and to ensure a better life for their citizens, but existing higher education systems and institutions effectively exclude large numbers of the world’s population.

Given the scale of the demand, it is not logistically or economically feasible to build and staff enough traditional bricks-and-mortar universities to bring one within the reach of every aspiring student in the developing world. So we need to make a radical shift and move away from the current model of higher education, which we have inherited from the 19th and 20th centuries, and towards new systems that reap the benefits of 21st-century technologies.

To get an idea of what the future could be like, we can look at what is already happening. In Africa today, a revolutionary programme called Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (Tessa) has been made possible by the internet. Operated by a consortium of national and international educators, at its core is a bank of teacher education resources, created by a team of specialists and made available online as open educational resources that support teacher learning in the classroom. Tessa has reached more than 400,000 primary school teachers in nine African countries since 2005.

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