The Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) is a unique institution of higher learning offering Open and Distance Learning to students in Zimbabwe, in the region and in the international arena. It started off as an offshoot of the University of Zimbabwe and has since grown into a fully fledged University. A Centre for Distance Education was established in 1993 by the University of Zimbabwe, in the Department of Educational Administration. This was in line with the Government's realisation, after independence, that the majority of the people in Zimbabwe was hungry for tertiary education and had missed the opportunity of going to college when they were still young, due to the colonial restrictions that had denied them the chance. The ZANU-PF Government, whose 1980 Election Manifesto made education a human right, facilitated the development of distance learning to accommodate those people who would not have been in a position to go to conventional, residential tertiary institutions for an education because of lack of sufficient funding and other commitments, for example, work commitments.
In 1996, the Centre became the University College of Distance Education headed by Professor Graham Hill. Three years later, on 1st March 1999, through an Act of Parliament, the University College became the first open and distance learning University in Zimbabwe. The first Vice Chancellor for the University was Professor Peter Dzvimbo. Dr Kurasha took over as the head of the Zimbabwe Open University in 2003 and she made history by becoming the first female Vice Chancellor in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Open University is a multi-disciplinary and inter-faculty institution of higher learning offering Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes. ZOU offers degree and non-degree programmes through distance teaching and open learning to youth and adult learners.
With a combination of cutting edge technology, print materials and face-to face tuition, the Zimbabwe Open University provides knowledge, competencies and dispositions necessary for the development of competitive human capital. In a dynamic and fast changing global village, a philosophy of lifelong learning for social inclusion is our guiding beacon!
At inception, then in 1993, the Centre for Distance Education was offering one programme only, i.e. the Bachelor of Education to 652 students. Today, ZOU offers more than 30 degree programmes to over 10000 students each semester. Since its first Graduation Ceremony in 2003, ZOU has graduated 27 074 students. ZOU Graduates are found in every sector of the economy in Zimbabwe, in the region and worldwide.
The Zimbabwe Open University confers Certificates, Diplomas, Undergraduate Degrees, Masters Degrees, Master of Philosophy (M.Phil) and Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil) Degrees. This year ZOU graduated the second M.Phil and D.Phil cohorts, making a total of 14 Doctoral graduates to date. To support all these quality programmes, ZOU employs both full time members of staff and part time staff members. This year the University is celebrating the 20th year of its existence including the period it operated as a Centre for Distance Education. ZOU hosted the 10th Graduation Ceremony on 30 November 2012 where 1 568 graduands were capped by the Chancellor of the University, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde. Robert Gabriel Mugabe. This marked a critical milestone in the University's endeavour, in pursuit of quality ODL and academic excellence!