19 Nov 2009

The Open University wins Queen's Anniversary Prize for Teacher Education Programme in Africa

Teachers and pupils benefit from the TESSA project

Teachers and pupils benefit from the TESSA project

The Open University is one of 20 winners of the prestigious Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education, announced today at St James's Palace.

The Queen's Anniversary Prizes are awarded for exceptional contributions by institutions in the higher and further education sectors to the wider community. The Open University’s winning entry was the ground-breaking Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa programme.

Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) is now Africa’s largest teacher education research and development community, extending across thirteen institutions and nine African countries. Since 2005 this consortium has established an extensive bank of original open education resources to support improvements in teachers’ classroom practices leading to more effective learning experiences for pupils.

TESSA, designed and led by The Open University, has developed a unique open content model to address the challenges of delivering high quality programmes of school-based professional learning for teachers in Africa. The model is scalable and cost-effective, seeking not only to increase numbers of trained teachers but also the quality of training programmes focusing on the development of teachers’ practice. More than 200,000 teachers will use the TESSA materials in 2009, building to 300,000 in 2010.

The TESSA website ( provides access to eleven country-specific versions of the materials in four languages (Arabic, English, French and Kiswahili) in various formats alongside tools to support communication and sharing of amended and adapted materials through an pioneering space – TESSA Share.

Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Martin Bean said ‘We are celebrating our 40th anniversary as an academic community dedicated to increasing access to higher education of the highest quality. This innovative and collaborative programme with its basis in research on new methods of delivery typifies our work and represents our unique mission. We lead the world in delivery of flexible learning. I am proud of the people who conceived and deliver the programme and of the benefits it offers to generations of students in Africa”.

Professor Bob Moon, founding Director of The Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) programme, said ‘The award is great news for us but also for the hundreds of academics across Africa who have worked to make this happen. By the end of next year up to half a million teachers will be training using The Open University designed TESSA programme’.

Freda Wolfenden, current director of the TESSA programme, said ‘new communication technologies have enormous potential to address some of the educational challenges in Africa and TESSA is one of the pioneer projects’.

Funding for the programme has come from the Department for Education and Skills in England, the Alan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and donations from alumni of the Open University.

Editor's Notes
1. The Royal Anniversary Trust produced the national programme to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Queen's accession to the throne, and created The Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education

2. The Queen's Anniversary Prizes reward universities and colleges that demonstrate work of a world-class standard of excellence. The winning entries highlight the breadth of our educational institutions' contribution to the well-being of the nation.

3. The award will be presented by the Queen at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace on 19 February 2010.

4. The Open University is the UK’s largest university with more than 150,000 students and over two million alumni. It was ranked top among UK universities for student satisfaction in the governments National Student Survey, 2009.

5. In the 2009 Research Assessment Exercise 2009 The Open University rose 23 places with more than 50% of its research classed as Internationally Excellent and 14% as world leading

6. The Open University previously won a Queen's Anniversary Prize in 1996 for its Postgraduate Certificate in Education programme for teachers. This was the first programme in the world to offer this qualification by distance learning.

7. Professor Moon and Freda Wolfenden are available for interview.

8. We have an extensive library of photographs of the programme and a video from which rights-cleared clips can be used in coverage of this item.

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