Brief Introduction:

The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), formerly known as the International Council of Correspondence Education, was founded in 1938 and changed its name to ICDE in 1982. The ICDE established its permanent secretariat in Oslo, Norway in 1988 and now has over 190 institutional members from over 70 countries.

The ICDE is a professional global distance education institution and is a non-governmental academic organisation recognised by UNESCO. It follows the core principle of UNESCO, that is, the universal right to education for all. Members from all over the world provide it with knowledge and experience, expertise, new teaching methods, and various innovative teaching technologies related to distance open education, which has cemented its international status.

The ICDE is committed to promoting open and distance education, online education, and flexible learning, supporting its members in carrying out cross-cultural exchange and communication, promoting international cooperation, and providing various academic forums for global open and distance education in order to attract member institutions and individual members to conduct academic and professional exchange activities in the field of open and distance education. Its main academic exchange activities include the biennial World Conference and the annual Leadership Summit.

Contacts with the OUC:

Since China Central Radio and TV University (CCRTVU) (now the open University of China (OUC)) joined the ICDE in 2000, the university has engaged in academic exchanges with other members, sent staff to participate in the ICDE SCOP and the World Congress, and received many visits from representatives of the ICDE as well.

In October 2011, the 4th ICDE World Conference was held in Bali, Indonesia. The CCRTVU was elected one of the six New Executive Committees. At the end of the conference, it was announced that Tianjin RTVU would host the 25th ICDE World Conference.

In February 2012, Gard Titlestad, secretary-general of the ICDE visited the OUC Wukesong Distance Education Building in Beijing and had a meeting with OUC President and ICDE Executive Committee member Dr. Yang Zhijian.

In November 2012, Yang Zhijian, OUC president attended the 2012 ICDE Standing Conference of Presidents (SCOP) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The conference was followed by a policy forum, providing an opportunity for consultation on ICDE’s strategic plan for 2013-2016. Members of the ICDE Executive Committee discussed a possible cooperation between ICDE and UNESCO with Dr. David Atchoarena, UNESCO director of Division for Teacher Development & Higher Education. Issues concerning the 25th ICDE World Conference in 2013 in Tianjin were also discussed. During the conference, Yang Zhijian spoke with Dr. Greg Von Lehmen, senior vice-president of the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) for the cooperation between the two universities. He also had an interview with Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, chancellor of Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University.

In September 2013, OUC President Yang Zhijiang was re-elected to the new Executive Committee with votes from over 130 institutional members, a recognition of the OUC’s achievements in open and distance education in China by its global peers. Such recognition will help continue to enhance the OUC’s influence and expand its international collaborations via the ICDE platform.

The 25th ICDE World Conference was held from 16-18 October 2013, and the OUC helped Tianjin RTVU prepare for it. OUC President Yang Zhijian attended the conference as both an ICDE Executive Committee member, and a member of the core team of conference organisers, in which he gave a keynote speech entitled “New Strategies and Advances in China’s Open and Distance Education”. The session on assisted learning (otherwise known as “education for the disabled”) was presided over by OUC Vice President Yan Bing. The closing ceremony included an award ceremony, at which the OUC was honoured with several prizes.


The ICDE think tank and seminar, Mind to MOOCS, organised by the OUC, was held in Beijing on 20 October 2013. At the seminar, members of the ICDE Executive Committee and representatives of the world congress held discussions on MOOCs. Fred Mulder, holder of the chair and coordinator of Open Education Resources of UNESCO, Ulf Daniel Ehlers, chairman of the European Foundation for Quality of E-learning and representative of the MOOCS quality project, and Alan Bruce, vice president of the European Distance and E-Learning Network, gave keynote speeches on the situation, importance, and influence of MOOCs in different places around the world and how to use MOOCs in higher education. Zhang Shaogang, former deputy secretary of the Party committee of the OUC gave a report entitled "MOOCs: What Should the OUC do?" After the seminar, the OUC hired Alan Tait, member of the Executive Committee of ICDE and professor of Open University, UK, as a senior consultant at the Engineering Research Centre for Technology Integration and the Application of E-Learning.


The 26th ICDE World Congress, which had the theme of “Growing Capacity for Sustainable Distance e-Learning Provision,” was held in South Africa from 14-16 October 2015. Over 900 representatives from 67 countries in five continents, including a delegation of nine from the OUC, attended the congress. At the congress, Dr. Li Wei from the OUC and Dr. Ashok GABA from Indira Gandhi National Open University won the ICDE Innovation and Best Practice Award for their paper, “Comparison of Distance Education Development between China and India: A Policy Based Perspective.”

On April 28th and 29th of 2014, OUC President Yang Zhijian attended the ICDE's second Executive Committee Meeting in Oslo, Norway. This was the first opportunity for President Yang to meet other ICDE Executive Committee members after he was elected to the committee himself, being the second meeting this year, the first one being held via teleconference. At the same time, he also attended the “International workshop on policy for OER and less used languages”, where he also gave a discourse. During the seminar, President Yang Zhijian delivered the five-minute speech “Open Educational Resources in China”. He focused on the OUC's introduction of newly developed Uygur-Han and Mongol-Han bilingual educational resources and mass-produced five-minute courses, which gained the attention of the other members.

The ICDE Standing Conference of Presidents 2014 (ICDE SCOP 2014) – the Presidents’ Summit on Open Education Models was held in Indonesia from November 18th to 22nd. OUC Vice President Li Ling attended the meeting. During the meeting, Li Ling met Tian Belawati, the president of Indonesian Terbuka University, the organiser of the meeting, and Gard Titlestad, the secretary-general of ICDE. Representatives from France expressed their intention to cooperate with the OUC to develop online Chinese teaching resources.   

Mr. Yang Zhijian, president of the OUC, attended the Executive Committee Meeting of International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) held in Paris, France on June 8, 2015. It is the second meeting after the ICDE Executive Committee took a conference call in April 2015. In the conference, six Executive Committee members including Mr. Yang Zhijian, OUC president, Dr. Tian Belawati, president of ICDE and rector of Universitas Terbuka, Indonesia and Mr. Gard Titlestad, the ICDE sectary-general etc. reached consensus and made decisions after in-depth discussions on 20 topics related to the 26th ICDE World Conference, ICDE strategic development plan for the years of 2016-2019, and future development direction and policies for open and distance education.

The Global High Level Policy Forum: Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education for the Future We Want organised by UNESCO in partnership with ICDE was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 9-11 June 2015. Over 200 participants from 57 countries around the world participated in the forum. Mr. Yang Zhijian, OUC President shared the university’s practice in promoting education equity based on information technology in the forum.

The 26th ICDE World Conference had the theme of “Growing Capacity for Sustainable Distance e-Learning Provision,” was held in South Africa from 14-16 October 2015. Over 900 representatives from 67 countries in five continents, including a delegation of nine from the OUC, attended the congress. At the congress, Dr. Li Wei from the OUC and Dr. Ashok GABA from Indira Gandhi National Open University won the ICDE Innovation and Best Practice Award for their paper, “Comparison of Distance Education Development between China and India: A Policy Based Perspective.”

From 20th to 23rd November 2016, the ICDEPresidents’ Summit 2016 was held in Sydney, Australia. A five-person delegation from the OUC led by President Yang Zhijian attended the conference. The summit was hosted by Charles Sturt University and was themed around “A New Era of Leadership & Quality: The Business of Open and Distance Learning in 2020,” with a focus on new trends in leadership development, changes to education models, and the ongoing improvement of education quality. The OUC delegates attended the summit’s parallel sessions and listened to keynote speeches such as Learning Analytics Marketplace; Plenary Panel: The Australasian Online, Open and Flexible Learning Landscape; ODL Quality: Political, Economic and Service Implications; and Challenges Facing Smart Learning in Higher Education: Lessons from the Middle East. In addition, the delegates attended the ICDE strategic planning session and ICDE presidents’ meeting, exchanging views on the above-mentioned topics with global leaders of ODL institutions and discussing future leadership and implementation methods in regional and global ODL. Presidents of open universities offered keynote speeches at the summit, OUC President Yang Zhijian delivered a keynote speech on Leading Reform in a Changing World: A Case Study of the OUC.

The ICDE Leadership Summit and ICDE-UNESCO Leadership Forum were held from 22-24 May 2017 in Nancy, France and at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris, respectively. The themes of the meetings were “Leadership: Transforming Education through Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning" and “Visionary Leadership for Digital Transformation.” A delegation of five people from the OUC, led by vice president Qi Yanwei, attended the conferences. Dr. Wei Shunping from the OUC gave a presentation entitled “The Impact of Learning Analytics Strategy on Universities Management” during a panel on The Application of Big Data and Learning Analytics in Universities Management: Practices from the Open University of China, which garnered widespread attention.

From 16-19 October 2017, the 27th ICDE World Congress, which had the theme of “Reexamination of Learning and Teaching in the Digital Age,” was held in Toronto, Canada. Nearly 1,300 distance education researchers and practitioners from 95 countries and regions in five continents attended the congress. A delegation of ten people from the OUC attended the meeting and delivered seven papers at the concurrent forum.

The OUC was awarded the sole ICDE Institutional Prize of Excellence at the congress. Titlestad explained that the OUC was awarded the Institutional Prize of Excellence for its outstanding achievements in promoting educational equality, improving teaching quality, reforming and innovating both the educational and learner development model, the in-depth integration of information technology into education, constructing a “credit bank” that realises the accreditation, accumulation, and transfer of learning outcomes, and creating a uniquely Chinese path for development recognised and supported by both the Chinese government and the Chinese people.