Prof Dhanarajan honoured for lifelong contribution to ODL

The International Council on Open and Distance Education (ICDE) bestowed Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Dr Gajarai Dhanarajan with the biennial ICDE Prize for Excellence for Lifelong Contribution to the field of open and distance learning (ODL).

Prof Dhanarajan is the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Wawasan Open University, a former President of the Commonwealth of Leanring (COL), and the founding and former Vice Chancellor of WOU.

He received the prize at the 25th ICDE World Conference on Open and Distance Learning held from 16-18 October 2013 in Tianjin, China. The conference was attended by over 700 participants from 40 countries. The winners were selected by an independent international jury appointed by the ICDE Executive Committee.

Prof Dhanarajan with his award.

Prof Dhanarajan with his award.

The jury, in a eulogy read by Brenda Gourley, former Vice Chancellor of Open University UK and a member of the International Advisory Board of WOU, noted that Prof Dhanarajan started his dedication to ODL when working at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and while there he started his mission of developing distance education programmes in an astonishing number of countries. “He became the highly successful head of what is now known as the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK), went on to become the President of the Commonwealth of Learning with the specific mandate of supporting, enhancing and promoting open learning in the member states of the Commonwealth – a task he discharged with distinction.”


Remarking that most people with such accolades would have retired to a quiet life, the jury said that Prof Dhanarajan however took on yet another challenge, which is to establish a new university, WOU, and become its first Vice Chancellor. Prof Dhanarajan has also presented at conferences and written not only on ODL “but about access, learning paradigms, building knowledge societies, open educational resources, educational policy, leadership, quality assurance and much more”.

Posing with friends at the ICDE conference.

Posing with friends at the ICDE conference.

“Indeed there can be no other person who has worked in so many countries, published so widely and addressed so many audiences, over so many years, so successfully and with such dedication to the cause of open and distance learning as Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Dr Gajaraj Dhanarajan. To the list of fellowships, honorary degrees (from universities in five continents) and prestigious titles, it is with great pleasure that the ICDE adds its tribute to this extraordinary man.”

In accepting the prize, Prof Dhanarajan stated that his journey of slightly over four decades into ODL was shaped by colleagues who worked with him in USM, OUHK and COL. “I want to thank all of these people who supported me these 40 years; this prize is theirs; I am merely accepting it on their behalf.”