Profile of Professor G. Ram Reddy
Professor G. Ram Reddy


The sudden death of Professor G. Ram Reddy, on 2 July 1995 in London, leaves the distance education community poorer and the vast circle of friends cut off forever from a wise and generous soul. COL in particular has lost a patron and friend who served it in various capacities. He died a few days after receiving the meritorious Award of Excellence, co-sponsored by The Commonwealth of Learning and the International Council for Distance Education, in Birmingham. He was 65.

Born in a small village in the former Nizam's Dominion, where educational opportunities were fewer than those available in other parts of colonial India, he was one of the very few from his district to attend high school and college. Obtaining his MA from the Osmania University, Ram Reddy did further graduate studies at the London School of Economics before joining Osmania as a lecturer in public administration in 1959. His reputation as a teacher and researcher ensured quick promotion to full professorship within a decade.

When the newly established Social Sciences Research Council created regional centres, Professor Reddy was chosen to head the first regional unit located in Hyderabad. In 1977, at the age of 48, he became the Vice-Chancellor of his alma mater, the Osmania University.

While he distinguished himself as a scholar in public policy studies, it was in the field of higher education administration that he reached commanding heights as is attested by his adorning the Chairmanship of India's University Grants Commission and Chairman of the Social Science Research Council. As UGC Chair, he piloted the establishment of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council to promote quality assurance in higher education in India. This is the first of its kind in the South Asian region.

It was during his tenure as Vice-Chancellor of Osmania that his association with distance education began. It would be no exaggeration to say that he is the father of open learning in India. Almost single handedly, he founded India's first open university, the Andhra Pradesh Open University (now called Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University) in 1982. This led to the Central Government asking him to prepare the groundwork for the establishment of the Indira Gandhi National Open University of which too he became the founding Vice-Chancellor in 1985.

As India's most prominent open learning expert, he was invited to be associated with every stage of the establishment of The Commonwealth of Learning. He was a member of both the Briggs and Daniel committees and, later, India's representative on COL's founding Board of Governors. Such was his attachment to COL that he agreed to join as its first Vice-President in 1989 and helped to lay the firm foundations of the management of the organisation.

Professor Reddy's role on the global distance education scene was equally significant. He was elected as the first Secretary General of the Association of Asian Open Universities and was an active member of the International Council for Distance Education. It was thus most appropriate that he should be one of the first recipients of the COL-ICDE Award of Excellence for meritorious services to distance education at ICDE's conference in Birmingham this year. He was also honoured by being made Life Member of ICDE. It is a tragic but fitting irony to this career that he died within days of receiving these honours.

His services to COL have been legion. Perhaps no other person served COL in as many capacities as he did. He was present at its creation and nurtured it as its first Vice-President. Equally significant had been his role as the Indian representative on the Board where he played a great role as liaison between the organisation and the government of India and academic and professional bodies in the country.

Enviable as these achievements were, even more enviable were his personal traits. To say he had the knack of making friends does not do justice to the authenticity of his affections towards others and the spontaneity of his generosity. While his modesty was transparent, behind it lurked a firm determination to pursue goals. He couched idealism in the rhetoric of incrementalism which made his decisions and recommendations palatable to governments and bureaucracies. In fact, the way he brought about the ideal of greater access to education through wide acceptance of distance learning is a good example of idealism wrapped around pragmatic pleadings.

All in all, he was a wonderful human being the likes of whom are rare in any age and more so in our times.

Prof. R.V.R. Chandrasekhara Rao October 1995