ICDE Q&A with the Expert: Sir John Daniel, Past ICDE President and co-chair of the expert meeting that put together the 'Advisory Statement for Effective International Practice

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ICDE asked a past president of ICDE and co-chair of the expert meeting that put together the 'Advisory Statement for Effective International Practice: Combating Corruption and Enhancing Integrity' a few questions. 

About Sir John Daniel: Sir John Daniel is a 40-year veteran of ODL who was president of ICDE from 1982-85. His ODL appointments include Québec's Télé-université, Athabasca University, the UK Open University (Vice-Chancellor 1990-2001) and the Commonwealth of Learning (President 2004-2012). He served as Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO from 2001-2004. The Queen knighted him for services to higher education in 1994 and in 2013 appointed him Officer of the Order of Canada for his advancement of open and distance learning in Canada and around the world.

What is the background to your compiling the report?
Both the US Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the International Institute for Educational Planning at UNESCO have a continuing interest in ensuring the integrity of higher education because it is the foundation for quality assurance. Noting the increasing frequency of press articles about corruption in higher education all over the world these two bodies convened an expert meeting on the topic in Washington in March 2016 for which I was the co-chair and rapporteur. The report is the outcome of our discussions.

Is there any particular part of the report that you feel should be highlighted to ICDE members who have in interest in ethics in the field of online, open, flexible and distance education?
Whereas many used to accuse correspondence education of having unethical practices with regard to fee collection and student support, modern distance education probably operates with greater integrity than most campus institutions. Three reasons for this are: 1. Many ODL institutions have open admissions: 2. Most operate at scale: and 3. Staff teamwork is the norm. The first removes temptations to offer bribes for admissions; the second means that processes such as marking assignments are usually done anonymously and the third ensures checks and balances. The key to avoiding corruption is to verify regularly that all steps in the processes of teaching, learning, assessment and certification are conducted with integrity.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge to ensuring ethics in higher education?
It boils down to a question of institutional will at all levels. Governments should take pride in the integrity of their higher education systems by ensuring due process and transparency in appointments to regulatory bodies. Institutions must make ethical practices a central focus of their internal quality assurance processes. Protection for 'whistle blowers' (people who find and publicise corrupt practices) is particularly important. The temptation for administrators to sweep rumours of unethical practices under the carpet must be avoided.

View the full statement here.