The Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) is a network of small countries committed to the collaborative development of free content resources for use in an educational context. Participating countries focus on the collaborative development of post-secondary, skills-related courses in areas such as tourism, entrepreneurship, disaster management, life skills, use of information and communication technologies, and small fisheries management. The materials produced by the VUSSC countries are non-proprietary and are readily adaptable for use in specific country contexts.
It is important to note that the VUSSC is not a tertiary institution. Rather, it is a mechanism for small countries to collaboratively develop, adapt and share courses and learning materials. It is also a forum for institutions to build capacity and expertise in online collaboration, eLearning and information and communication technologies (ICT) in general.
The idea for VUSSC was originally envisioned by the thirty-two Ministers of Education of the small Commonwealth states at their triennial conference in Halifax, Canada, in 2000. Following the Halifax meeting, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) chaired a technical advisory committee and helped draft a proposal for the VUSSC. A small group of Ministers, meeting in the Seychelles in March 2003, reviewed the proposal and recommended it to the Edinburgh Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in October 2003.
VUSSC member countries then met on two occasions in Singapore. At the first meeting in September 2005, a Letter of Intent and a Singapore Statement were agreed. In the Statement Ministers of Education and representatives from 22 small states of Commonwealth agreed to work together to develop free courses that could be implemented widely in Commonwealth countries and that will be recognised by participating institutions.
All participating countries contribute their available resources and expertise to the VUSSC initiative. The small states (usually defined as having populations of fewer than 1.5 million) make up two-thirds of the 53 countries in membership of the Commonwealth. Each of the countries usually has one national university. The intention of VUSSC is to stimulate an increase in the course offerings in these smaller countries and to create a mechanism to enable the transfer of credits and qualified people across borders of countries.
Ministry officials and institutional representatives from each of these participating countries serve as interlocutors, representing their countries during VUSSC planning meetings. The interlocutors are responsible for nominating participants for the course development and training workshops (Bootcamps). They also participate directly in planning meetings and the Transnational Qualification Framework meetings.
The broad developmental objective of VUSSC is to increase the human resource capacity that small states of the Commonwealth require to ensure that they are able to participate effectively in global economies and thrive as equal members of the world community.
Donate to VUSSC
COL now actively looking for funds to support VUSSC content creation. Development agencies and others that are interested in pursuing this opportunity are encouraged to contact Mr. John Lesperance, COL, Education Specialist, Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth.