History of IOU

> live classes over the Internet from 2010 to date

International Open University

The International Open University (IOU) is the brainchild of Dr. Bilal Philips, who envisioned a higher-learning institution that offers intensive fully-accredited online undergraduate and graduate programs.

IOU’s journey began in 2007 with the launch of free online Diploma courses in its Open Campus. In 2010, after just 3 years, the Bachelor of Arts (BA) program was launched.

The University now has seven colleges offering accredited online degree programs: College of Education, College of Islamic Economics, College of Banking & Finance, College of Psychology, College of Islamic Studies, College of Business Administration, College of Information Technology, and the College of Arabic Language and Linguistics.

The University also offers offline courses in the Gambia, Somaliland, and Guinea Bissau.

In addition, IOU’s Global Qur’an Memorization Center presents a unique opportunity for students across the globe to study the Qur’an online.

IOU’s History and Development


IOU was launched with free Diploma courses, which are now available at the General Diploma in Islamic Studies section.



The IOU introduced an online Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies (BAIS) program based on a modified curriculum derived from the Islamic University of Medina in Saudi Arabia, Omdurman Islamic University in Sudan, and Al-Azhar University in Egypt. This ground-breaking initiative utilizes advanced open-source online learning technology to make low-cost, university-level education accessible worldwide to anyone who has access to a computer connected to the Internet.

Hence, the IOU operates on two virtual campuses: the Degree campus, and the Diploma campus. which are both hosted on the university’s private server.



This year IOU received global accreditation and a university license that was granted by the government of Somalia’s Ministry of Higher Education and was added to the list of accredited universities in Somalia that are recognized by the UN as well as globally.

The IOU’s online magazine ‘Insights’, and the Global Qur’an Memorization Center were successfully launched this year.

IOU launched a pilot Intensive English language course for madrasah graduates in the Gambia to meet their immediate needs and enable them to pursue higher education in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) and the General Secretariat for Islamic and Arabic Education (Amanah). The program is now being offered in three different countries: the Gambia, Somaliland, and Guinea Bissau.

Community service was made a mandatory graduation requirement of IOU undergraduate and postgraduate programs.



In 2014, the IOU received a license to operate as an online university in The Gambia from the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science, and Technology in The Gambia.

The IOU also introduced new colleges: College of Education, College of Islamic Economics, College of Banking and Finance, and College of Psychology offering a Bachelor’s degree, Diploma, and Certificate programs.

In addition, a new college of Arabic Language and Linguistics was launched, offering a 2-year Intensive Arabic program. The IOU also introduced a BA in Islamic Studies in Russian, an Ijaza program, and a prison initiative.

In 2014, IOU’s Android App was launched in a modern step towards enhancing the virtual study experience, It allowed students to access courses, study and appear for exams directly by using handheld devices and smartphones.



The IOU launched many new programs for the youth including the Youth Dual Credit Program (YDCP), which offers the opportunity to enroll in IOU courses for educational enrichment. Upon successful completion of a high school diploma and the required YDCP courses, graduates receive an Associate’s Degree.

The Open Education Program was also launched for students who do not hold a high school diploma, It enables these students to join various university-level programs at the IOU and receive attested diplomas upon successful completion of the required courses.

In addition, the IOU became a member of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) founded in 1938 in Canada as the International Council for Correspondence Education. Today, the ICDE is the leading global membership organization for open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning, with members from 60 countries representing every continent.

Online programs including Master of Arts in Islamic Studies, Diploma, and Certificate programs in Information Technology and Business Administration were also launched in 2015.

IOU joined international higher education institutions and quality assurance bodies in 2015, including the Association of African Universities (AAU), International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), African Quality Assurance Network (AfriQAN), International Council of Islamic Finance Educators (ICIFE), Association of Quality Assurance Agencies of the Islamic World (IQA), and the Talloires Network.

In the same year, students and staff were granted access to online journal databases like JSTOR and Oxford University Press free of cost, which further enhanced the University’s aim to offer quality higher education opportunities for all.

In 2015, the University also held its first Online Mental Health Conference on the theme ‘Psychological Well-Being’. The aim was to spread awareness of psychosocial issues in communities across the globe and provide practical solutions for change. The conference covered various topics like domestic violence, self-esteem, unhealthy relationships, marital conflicts, sexual abuse, effects of trauma on children, depression, and mental disorders.



IOU joined the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) and added the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and B.Sc. in Information Technology programs to its expanding range of programs.

The University received accreditation for its B.Sc. in Islamic Economics, Banking, and Finance program from the International Council of Islamic Finance Educators (ICIFE), and is opening four country chapters of ICIFE in India, Somaliland, the Gambia, and Sierra Leone this year.

The university participated in the MoodleMoot New Delhi 2016 conference where a case study on the University’s usage of Moodle was presented by Mr. Farhan Karmali, Lecturer, College of Information Technology, International Open University.

IOU reached another milestone in April 2016, by conducting over 46,000 live classes over the internet from 2010 till date.



The International Open University (IOU) has grown and evolved over a decade into a center of excellence among the leading online educational institutions. Over the course of this journey, the university felt the need to change its name to reflect the fact that it is providing education in fields that are not identified as falling under Islamic Studies and it does not discriminate on the basis of religion.

However, the IOU teaches them with an Islamic ethos. IOU now offers Certificate, Diploma, and Degree programs in Psychology, Education, Business Administration, Information Technology, Arabic Language, and Islamic Economics.

Given this rich and diverse offering, the name of the University has been changed to the International Open University. We continue to have our headquarters in The Gambia.

Despite the change in the name, the vision, mission, and ethos of the university would remain firmly Islamic

Over the years, the IOU has concluded and signed various memorandums of understanding with international universities and higher education institutions, which can be viewed in detail on our Accreditation page.

The IOU has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to the spread of beneficial knowledge by evolving from providing free certificate and diploma level courses to now offering accredited BA and MA degrees in various fields of study.

The university is making higher education easily affordable worldwide for the benefit of individuals, communities, and humanity in general. Equal access is provided for all students to an education that few could afford if they were to attend traditional institutions of higher learning around the world.