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Brenda Gourley awarded honorary doctorate by the UOC
Brenda Gourley, former Vice-Chancellor of the Open University, UK, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC). In her acceptance speech, she stressed how important it is to ?share our knowledge, share our technology, share our insights into learning ... to reach the people who need education and development so badly, wherever they may be?. The event was presided over by UOC President Imma Tubella, FUOC Council President Josep Vilarasau and UOC General Secretary Lloren Valverde.

Gourley believes that “the open educational resource movement is a marvellous step in the right direction” in terms of making education accessible. She believes that it is necessary to “exploit the potential of the new technologies and embrace the education opportunities now rendered possible by them … What we have invented in this new technology enables us to communicate with more people than ever before” and now “we have the means for education for many, many more people”.

In short, Gourley wants to “redefine what it is to be a scholar and ... what we expect of our students at every level”. Indeed, she believes that we need to take into account those initiatives arising from within university communities themselves “that could act on the change agenda”. In her opinion, a highlight among these initiatives is that known as “‘service learning’ – a movement which seeks to engage students in real work in the communities”.

To drive initiatives such as these forward, Professor Gourley believes that “as educators we have a critical role in fostering, supporting, encouraging and, above all, equipping our students with the values and skill-set necessary”.

Professor Gourley’s professional career

Professor Brenda Gourley was Vice Chancellor and CEO of the Open University in the United Kingdom from 2002 to 2009. Before that she occupied the same position at one of South Africa’s largest universities, the University of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). She had also been Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Management and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University, thus combining an academic career with a career in academic management ranging over thirty years through momentous changes in her own country and in higher education.

Professor Gourley’s interests include higher education strategy and trends, and the impact of technology, the world of open and distance education, leadership, ethics and the role of universities in their communities in particular. She is a founder member of the Talloires Network of universities involved in civic engagement and remains on its Steering Committee.

She continues to champion the Open Educational Resource movement and is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Open Education Foundation and ensured that the Open University was the first British university to make a large selection of its educational resources freely available on the web. It remains an exemplar. She is also a great supporter of the role of higher education in promoting social justice and finding a sustainable way out of poverty.

She holds and has held a range of positions on boards and trusts, serving two terms of office as Chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and two terms of office on the Board of the International Association of Universities. She has held many other posts around the world. She has numerous publications in books, journals and periodicals and is a frequent speaker at conferences and gatherings all over the world.

In recognition of her work in the field of higher education, she has received a number of honorary titles and distinctions including those from the University of Nottingham (1997), Richmond University (2004), the University of Abertay (2004), the University of Quebec (2007), the University of Pretoria (2008), and the Open University of the Netherlands (2009). She has also been awarded an honorary doctorate from Allama Iqbal Open University, Pakistan, (2007) in recognition of her eminence in the field of distance education and distinguished service to humanity; and an Honorary Fellowship of the Open University of Israel (2008) in recognition of her commitment to broadening access to higher education, among other distinctions. She spends here time between Brighton in the UK and South Africa. She is also a Fellow of Tisch College at Tufts University in Boston.


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