Wawasan Open University’s standing as one of Asia’s leading open distance learning (ODL) institutions was boosted at the 24th Annual General Meeting of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) held in Hanoi when WOU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Wong Tat Meng was unanimously elected as President of the Association for a three-year term from 1 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2013. He takes over from Prof Dr Tian Belawati, Rector of Universitas Terbuka Indonesia, as the 8th President of AAOU in January 2011.
Prof Wong remarked: “As a relatively new member as well as a small open university, it is a great honour for us to be elected into the leadership position of this well established and globally respected 24-year-old organisation whose membership includes 17 ‘mega’ Universities (>100,000 students) and with three of these actually having more than 2 million students each.” Prof Wong has been involved in AAOU activities since 1993 when he was attached to the Open University of Hong Kong. He had previously served as the Association’s Secretary-General from 1999-2002.
Formed in 1987, the AAOU is the umbrella organisation for Open Universities in Asia. It is a 62-institutional member organisation, with member institutions spread across the Asian continent. Apart from the 46 Full Members, there are also 16 Associate Members comprising ODL institutions from Europe, Africa, Oceania and America. The total student enrolment of AAOU member institutions in 2010 exceeded 12 million.
Six other member institutions were also elected to serve on the Executive Board (EB) during Prof Wong’s term of office. These are: Open University of Japan, Open University of China, Korea National Open University, Open University of Hong Kong, Open University Malaysia and Hanoi Open University. In addition, Payame Nur University of Iran and the Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning of India were co-opted into the EB to ensure representation from the South Asia and West Asia geographic regions.
As President of the Association, WOU will also be hosting the AAOU Secretariat and managing its website as well as handling the editorship and publication of the AAOU Journal. Prof Wong has appointed School of Education, Languages and Communications Dean Prof Dr Malachi Edwin Vethamani to serve as the Secretary-General of the AAOU during his term of office while School of Science and Technology senior lecturer Ishan Abeywardena will manage the website. The AAOU Secretariat will be physically located in the Homestead Building of WOU’s Penang Campus.
The symbolic change of the leadership of AAOU was executed through the ‘handing over of the AAOU flag’ by outgoing AAOU President Prof Tian Belawati to president-elect Prof Wong at the closing ceremony of the 24th AAOU Annual Conference hosted by Hanoi Open University at the Melia Hotel, Hanoi.