Strategic development for advancing ODL institutions: A SWOT analysis from the Open University of China

Wei LI, Wenjian Yao and Na Chen
The Open University of China
Beijing, China

The role of open and distance learning institutions has been evolving in the 21st century worldwide. In 2012, the Chinese government decided to establish the Open University of China (OUC) on the basis of the Chinese Radio & TV University system for promoting lifelong learning and a learning society. In the same year, the OUC put forward its ten-year strategy aimed at being a brand-new member in the Chinese higher education system and one of the world's top open universities with Chinese characteristics and a pillar of the Chinese learning society. This paper aims to find out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in OUC's future development through a SWOT analysis, and provide strategic options. Key research findings include the following:

1 Its strengths are its open philosophy, unique function, nationwide network, advanced use of technology and an increasing international influence.
2 Its weaknesses are an unestablished modern university system, incomplete quality assurance, ineffective management, low social prestige and a shortage of funding sources.
3 Its opportunities are the government's determination to build a learning society, a huge social demand for continuing education due to economic and demographic change, and rapid development of the Internet and information technology.
4 Its threats are emerging competitors, such as MOOCs providers in conventional universities and Internet companies, the disorder in the distance education market, and the supreme value of elite education.
5 There are four feasible strategic options ST, SO, WO and WT strategies. A combination of SO and WO strategies should be the best option, given the current situation of OUC.
6 The optimal recommendations for advancing OUC are as follows: to accelerate capacity-building while gaining more support from the government and society; to expand the openness and social involvement of the education network; to promote degree and non-degree education by building a good credit transfer mechanism; to facilitate in-depth integration of technology and education; to raise the quality and to improve the management; to put connotative development as the core task of development; and to facilitate international cooperation and exchanges.