In the news: John Daniel

February 8, 2002

As former vice-chancellor of the Open University, Sir John Daniel was identified as the highest paid university head in the same week that the United States Open University he founded announced it was to close.

Sir John, 59, is assistant director-general for education at Unesco, the United Nations' educational and cultural organisation, in Paris. He is responsible for promoting education as a human right and furthering quality and innovation in the field. He joined Unesco in July 2001 after 11 years at the OU. He is also president of the USOU, a sister organisation that he founded in 1998.

Sir John is proud of the growth that took place while he was OU vice-chancellor. Between 1990 and 2000, student numbers doubled. There are 140,000 undergraduates and 45,000 postgraduates. An evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach to technology - said to be favoured by the students - has led to 150 OU courses using information technology, with just 14 being delivered via the internet.

He is a prolific author on new technologies and distance learning, but his academic background is in engineering. He studied metallurgy at the University of Oxford in the 1960s before undertaking postgraduate studies at the University of Paris.

He started his professional career as a lecturer at the Institut National des Sciences et Techniques Nucleaires in Saclay and moved to the University of Montreal in Canada in 1969. Sir John, who was knighted in 1994, has joint British and Canadian nationality A year after it was established, Sir John became director of studies at the Tele-Universite, the distance-education arm of the University of Quebec. Five years later, in 1978, he joined Athabasca University, an open university with students throughout Canada. Sir John also held posts at Concordia University and Laurentian University before leaving Canada for the OU in 1990.

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