Saturday, February 20, 2016

Australian Virtual Colombo Plan helped fund the African Virtual University

In looking at research on international distance education I stumbled across the "Virtual Colombo Plan" (VCP). This which was a $230M Australian Government/World Bank initiative from 2001 to 2006, to fund on-line education for developing nations (Curtain, 2004 and McCawley, Henry and Zurstrassen, 2002). The VCP ended in 2006 with little ceremony, but it did help fund the African Virtual University, which continues today (Wolff, p.25, 2002).

The original "Colombo Plan" was a cold war era multi-nation effort to combat the rise of communism, through education and scientific aid to developing nations. Australia funded students from developing nations at Australian universities. The Australian Government later again appropriated the "Colombo Plan" name for its own national program, in the form of the "New Colombo Plan" in 2013. The New Colombo Plan reverses the approach of the old, sending Australian university students to nations in the region, as part of their education.

Also, the Australian Academic Research Network (AARnet), in a submission to the Australian Government  Draft National Strategy for International Education, proposed a “Digital Colombo Plan". This was similar in aim to the Virtual Colombo Plan, to provide high speed broadband to universities in developing countries in the Pacific to improve education, participially for on-line courses from Australia. The proposal was not adopted.


Curtain, R. (2004). Information and communications technologies and development: Help or hindrance. AusAID Virtual Colombo Plan. Retrieved from

McCawley, P., Henry, D., & Zurstrassen, M. (2002, March). The Virtual Colombo Plan: Addressing the ICT Revolution. In Global Summit of Online Knowledge Networks Conference, Adelaide, Australia (pp. 4-5). Retrieved from

Wolff, L. (2002). The African Virtual University: the challenge of higher education development in sub-Saharan Africa. TechKnowLogia, International Journal of Technologies for the Advancement of Knowledge and Learning, 4(2). Retrieved from

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