ICDE Prize of Excellence winners



This article is a work in progress. ICDE members and community are very welcome to contribute to this article with corrections, additional  information, anecdotes and illustrations.

ICDE rewards outstanding achievement in open and distance education through the Prize of Excellence award for both individuals and institutions.

Current and former ICDE Prize of Excellence winners are:



Institutional Prize for Excellence:Open University of China.  
Open University of China won the Institutional prize for its leadership but also its outstanding contributions to the field of open and distance education.



Institutional Prize for Excellence: The African Virtual University (AVU)
The African Virtual University (AVU) was acknowledged for achieving remarkable success in delivering e-learning programmes to 57 countries. Despite limited resources, and working with network partner universities, it has educated students across cultural and linguistic barriers.  

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Lifelong Contribution to the Field: Professor Olugbemiro Jegede: The founding vice-chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria and former secretary general of the Association of African Universities.


Individual Prize for Excellence: Dr Irina Smirnova: Head of the department for international projects at Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics.
She was honoured for her academic leadership at regional, national and global level. She has been involved in a wide array of international projects focusing on the role of ICT in advancing open and distance learning. 


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Individual prize: Dr. Don Olcott, Jr. Professor of Educational Leadership and Open and Distance Learning University of Maryland University College, USA. 
Dr. Donald Olcott has played an important role in developing collaborative approaches to transnational open and distance education. As leader of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education from 2007-2010, Dr. Olcott served as an advocate for the use of open and distance learning in transnational higher education and founded the first global forum on Transnational Education, held in Malaysia in 2009. During this same period, he chaired the Board of Directors of the United States Distance Learning Association, in which role he encouraged collaboration with national associations on four continents, including an ongoing collaborative partnership between USDLA and EDEN. For this work, he was recognized as an EDEN Fellow in 2010.

Dr. Olcott recently completed an extended consultancy as Head of Strategic Planning and International Engagement with the Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates. He has also served as an external consultant with the UK Open University and as an adjunct professor with the University of Maryland University College and the University of New England, Australia.

The jury concluded that "Dr. Olcott’s career exemplifies his commitment to the spirit of borderless collaboration that is the hallmark of open and distance learning in the Information Age".

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Lifelong Contribution to the field:

Emeritus Professor Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Ph.D, Chairman, Board of Governors and former CEO and Vice Chancellor of Wawasan Open University, Penang, Malaysia. 

The jury noted that Profesor Dhanarajan has worked to develop 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, and 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. He established a new university (Wawasan Open University) and became its first Vice Chancellor.

Profesor Dhanarajan has presented and written not only on open and distance learning, but on access, learning paradigms, building knowledge societies, open educational resources, educational policy, leadership, quality assurance and much more. "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 Professor Data’ Gajaraj Dhanarajan", noted the jury members.

Prof. Dr. Yilmaz Buyukersen, Lord Mayor of the city of Eskisehir and former Rector of Anadolu University, Turkey.

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Yilmaz Buyukersen provided the inspiration and the drive to start Anadolu University (AU) in the 1970’s and laid the foundations for this institution to become one of the largest distance-teaching operations in the world. In 1971, he started research on the use of communication technologies in education and on the inclusion of distance learning methods into the Turkish education system. ‘The Open Education Model for Turkey’ project, which he developed in 1973 was put into practice all over the country. In the 1970’s, he founded Turkey’s first Film and Television Graduate School. His interest in media, theatre and the fine arts continued throughout his career.

He was appointed Rector of the AU in 1982 and then reappointed in 1987. Dr Buyukersen is also a renowned sculptor, who transformed the campus of AU into one of the most beautiful and aesthetic locations in the country. During his tenure, he laid a great deal of emphasis on programmes for and about children and adults with disabilities. His contribution to promoting teaching and research in the Fine Arts, shows his holistic approach to the development of the AU community. Under his leadership, AU continued to grow into a mega university, offering educational opportunities to hundreds of thousands of learners. "The AU became a shining example of what distance education could achieve for many new open universities in the developing world", write the jury in their grounds for making the award.


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Prize for Lifelong Contribution to the field: Helmut Hoyer, former Rector of the FernUniversität, Germany.
In its grounds for selecting Prof. Hoyer, the jury noted that he has worked indefatigably throughout his career to facilitate the development and acceptance of open and distance education in German speaking countries and beyond. Prof. Hoyer is seen as an important promoter of and actor in ODE by ICDE members and has given significant support and assistance to ICDE as an organization. The jury wished to acknowledge his "impressive contribution for the cause of ODE globally". 

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Individual Prize: Fred Mulder, UNESCO Chair in OER and ICDE Chair in OER.
The jury noted that Prof. Fred Mulder’s work has made a significant and visible contribution to the OER movement in Europe. Prof. Mulder has also worked to ensure a close connection between ICDE’s OER ambitions and activities in the UNESCO Chair programme. The jury recognized the deep impact Prof. Mulder’s work has had beyond his institution.


  • Institutional prize: Shanghai TV University, China

  • Individual prize: Asha Kanwar, President & Chief Executive Officer, Commonwealth of Learning, Canada

  • Lifelong contribution to the field : Gary E. Miller,  Executive Director Emeritus of Penn State World Campus

  • Outstanding contribution to ICDE: Fred Nickolmann, former President, SATURN, The Netherlands (the photography illustrating this article shows them receiving their Prize)

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  • Institutional Prize: The Open University of the United Kingdom

  • Prize for Lifelong Contribution to the field: Prof. Dr. Bernard Loing, former Rector of the CNED (France) and senior ICDE representative to UNESCO.

  • Individual Prizes of Excellence: 

    • Prof. Brenda Gourley, Vice Chancellor, The Open University of the United Kingdom, and

    • Prof. Dr.-ing. Helmut Hoyer, former Rector of the FernUniversität, Germany.


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Institutional Prize: shared by: 

  • University of Maryland University College (USA) and

  • Athabasca University (Canada).

Prize for Lifelong Contribution to the field: Prof. David Sewart (The Open University, UK)


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ICDE Prize of Excellence for Lifelong Contribution to the field of open learning and distance education: Torstein Rekkedal, Director for Research and Development, NKI, Norway

  • ICDE Prize of Excellence for Institutions: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia), Spain

  • ICDE Prize of Excellence for Individuals:

    • S.W. Tam, President, Open University of Hong Kong, SAR, China and 

    • Gabriel Ferraté i Pascual, Rector, Open University of Catalonia, Spain


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ICDE Prize of Excellence for Lifelong Contribution to the field of open learning and distance education:

    • Börje Holmberg, Rector, Private FernFachhochschule Darmstadt, Germany and Otto Peters, Professor Emeritus, FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany

  • ICDE Prize of Excellence for Institutions:

    • Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region, China and

    • University of Southern Queensland , Australia

  • ICDE Prize of Excellence for Individuals: James C. Taylor, Director, Centre for Distance Education, University of Southern Queensland, Australia 

 ICDE members and community are very welcome to contribute to this article with additional information, anecdotes and illustrations.