Distance education in international perspective : the British Open University and prospects for establishing an Egyptian equivalent
This study is concerned with the scope of distance education and tries to provide a framework for the establishment of an Egyptian Open University in the light of the Open University of the United Kingdom. The scope of distance education dealt with, represents the historical background and the literature related to it. Some special attention is paid to the economic aspects of distance teaching, and a survey of international perspectives on distance higher education. These sections are in the form of a descriptive analysis, and provide background and context for the Egyptian decision-makers for purposes of comparison and support. The British Open University system is then selected for study due to the fact that it is the most remarkable innovation in this field, and is respected in many countries. It is because of this that the empirical section of the study, undertaken in Egypt, is based on the British Open University system. This way, the possibilities of applying a similar system for Egyptian higher and continuing education can be judged. Questionnaires were devised by the writer and administered to the academic staff at 11 Egyptian Universities, directors of radio and television educational broadcasts, and the National Council for Research and Technology have been examined to see the extent to which the UKOU model is acceptable and applicable in Egypt. The outcome proved to be positive. Some clear conclusions derived from this positive outcome. For instance, with respect to the proposed Egyptian Open University, the results of the questionnaire show that undergraduate and associate students courses should be the only programmes in the first phase of its establishment; General Secondary School Certificate holders and their equivalents should be admitted; admission policy should not consider the total marks in G.S.S.C. examination; teaching staff appointments should be on the basis of excellent academic experience, and ability in designing courses on a distance teaching basis with evidence of written materials and books; Course texts should be distributed with other printed materials by the local study centres after receiving them from the proposed University H.Q. - to avoid some disadvantages of the mail delivery; the course team approach is favoured as its functioning at the UKOU shows it to be a suitable approach for preparing courses and materials; the Radio and Television role in teaching must be central to the new institution but some organising operations, especially the times of broadcasting and the role of the third channel at the Egyptian Television, need to be carefully rephased so as to cover all the locations of Egypt; Tanta City should be selected to be the H.Q. as it is located in the middle of the Nile Delta; public finance is the best way of supporting the proposed university, though some support could be given either by central government or locally. Finally it could be said that the international evidence of widespread distance education experience and development at a tertiary level justifies the idea of the establishment of an Egyptian Open University, and that much of the structure and operation of the British Open University would be a desirable and applicable model.