The front page of The Commonwealth Scholar from summer 1966

Our history

The ACU is the world’s first and oldest international university network, established in 1913 to provide a forum for universities to share information, knowledge and ideas.

Congress of Universities of the Empire, University of London, UK – 1931 Congress Of Empires 1931

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. The office of the Universities Bureau of the British Empire was accordingly opened in London in 1913. In 1948, the Bureau’s name was changed to the Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth. 

In 1963 (our 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, became Patron of the ACU. After 33 years of service, Her Majesty passed on her patronage to The Duchess of Sussex, who became Patron of the ACU in 2019. In 2021, it was announced that the Royal patronage of the ACU would return to Her Majesty.

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​