The Open University of Mauritius Act of 2010 (OUM, 2010) describes in eight substantive parts, the legal framework within which the Open University of Mauritius will operate. In this section we shall concentrate on those parts that are relevant to teaching, learning and research. The first element of attention is the objects of the University. The first object of the university as per the act is that it seeks to advance and disseminate learning and knowledge through a diversity of means, with emphasis on information and communication technologies. This clearly means that the University will focus on ICT as its main driver for operation and that distance e-learning will be the preferred form for knowledge dissemination. The second object of the Open University is to widen access and promote lifelong learning. While the third one is related to the use of open and distance learning methodologies, the fourth object talks about research at the University. The fourth object makes the University a specialised research institution in educational technology and related matters. It is clear from the above paragraph and in the context of this reflection, that the objects of the University are nothing more than those of the e-learning initiative of the University but supposedly on a larger scale.
The Open University, as per its act of 2010, will have the following structure:
- Academic Affairs Division
- Multimedia and ICT services section
- Quality Assurance and Capacity-Building division
- An Open School Division
- An Administration Division
- A Finance Division
- A Confucius Institute
- A Language Institute and
- Such other divisions and institutions as may be specified in the Statutes.
From the act, the Council of the University which is the supreme governing body will have powers to create Schools and other centres if there is the need to. Looking at the above super-structure of the University, any school will have to fit in the Academic Affairs Division. Will it make sense in this institution to have schools in a similar way as Faculties in the classic Universities? This might be an option but what is unclear is how will the concept of open and distance education be articulated with the concept of having Faculties and Schools which will be composed of academics? Let us assume that such a University will have a unit named the School of Law and Management. In reality, any University with a School of Law and Management will comprise of academics in the area and who will be research-active persons in the field of Legal Affairs, Business Management and other related areas. The paradox of this is that among the five core objects of the Open University of Mauritius, the clause related to research reads “encourage and promote scholarship and conduct research and development in educational technology and related matters’’. Amongst the functions of the Open University, there are two distinct clauses that capture attention, namely the clause stating that the Open University will “provide services and consultancy especially in open and distance learning” and “make provision for research and development in educational technology, instructional design, learner support and related matters”.
Although these may be amended in the future to reflect more the field realities of Universities whether open or not, it cannot be theoretically conceived that all academics in the different schools in a University will be doing research in one field namely education technology. In the same logic of things, we cannot expect a University to be offering services and consultancy in one field only. There are two possible explanations for such paradox to occur in the Open University of Mauritius act. The first one is that there has been clearly a misconception that above all an Open University is a University and the mission of any University is basically to create and disseminate knowledge. The second possibility is that policy makers and legislators did not want to be under the criticism that this is yet another University in such a small country where three or four public Universities doing the same thing would be seen as a wrong strategy. The second reason is therefore mainly political in nature. If we take the Open University of UK as a point of reference, we can find that the University consists of seven faculties and two institutes. There is the Institute of Educational Technology and the Knowledge Media Institute. On top of that the University consists of five interdisciplinary research centres among which there is one on computing, and one on education research and educational technology.
While the main vehicle for knowledge dissemination in the Open University concept is considered to be distance education and e-learning modalities, it should by no means overshadow the real philosophical concept of a University. If the same logic is followed, then why it is that research on face-to-face teaching is not the main area of investigation for all traditional universities?
 Open University of Mauritius Act http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/assemblysite/file/act0210.pdf