The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) is the world’s first and oldest international university network, established in 1913.
In 1912, on the initiative of the University of London, representatives of 53 universities assembled in London, UK, to hold a Congress of Universities of the Empire. One of their main decisions was that a bureau of information for the universities of the Empire should be established, and that its affairs should be managed by a committee representing both UK and overseas universities. The office of the Universities Bureau of the British Empire was accordingly opened in London in 1913. Read testimonials from our Founding Members.

In 1919, the Bureau was incorporated under licence of the Board of Trade and a grant of GBP 5000 made by the British government for office premises on condition that the universities undertook to provide adequate funds for maintenance.

In 1948, the Bureau’s name was changed to the Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth (AUBC).

In 1963 (its jubilee year), the Association received a royal charter under its new name: The Association of Commonwealth Universities.

In 1986, Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, agreed to become Patron of the ACU.

In 2019, HRH The Duchess of Sussex became Patron of the ACU. 

An informal history of the Association from 1913-1963 is given by Lord Ashby in Community of Universities. The Commonwealth of Universities, by Sir Hugh Springer in collaboration with Dr Alastair Niven, covers the history of the ACU from 1963-1988 and was published in 1988 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Association. A new history of the ACU was published in 2013 to mark its Centenary. Edited by Deryck M. Schreuder, the book, titled Universities for a New World: Making a Global Network in International Higher Education, 1913-2013, is available from SAGE Publications.

Secretary Generals of the ACU

  • 2017-present Dr Joanna Newman
  • 2010-2017 Prof John Wood
  • 2007-2010 Prof John Tarrant
  • 2004-2007 Dr John Rowett
  • 1996-2004 Prof Michael Gibbons
  • 1980-1996 Dr Anastasios Christodoulou
  • 1970-1980 Sir Hugh W Springer

Current Secretary General

Dr Joanna Newman

Dr Joanna Newman