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The paper explores the changing nature of the roles of universities in developing countries at the outset of the 21st century. It argues that, while remaining centres of academic excellence and creative thought, they must be prepared to add to these roles if they are likely to continue to attract public funding. They must become institutions which seek to provide their knowledge and academic expertise, which they create through much research and traditionally passed on through on-campus teaching, to a much wider community than could ever be reached in this way. This is the role of a university of open and lifelong learning. In previous generations univeristies have argued that they could only pass on their knowledge to the number of students they could accommodate in their classrooms. Modern ICT facilities make such restrictive criticism no longer viable. Universities can now, through distance learning techniques and open learning philosophies, reach out to the whole community in which they serve. This required not only new approaches to teaching and delivering their degrees and diplomas but also an acceptance that the most sophisticated concepts can be taught in formats and language that adults, however limited their formal education, can understand. The paper argues this is the role of the university and uses current debates and developments in the University of Namibia to illustrate how this transformation could take place.