Group of staff pose in front of screen showing new ACU strategy

Our team

ACU Leadership Team

Joanna Newman MBE Headshot

Dr Joanna Newman MBE FRSA is Chief Executive and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) – an international organisation dedicated to building a better world through higher education, with more than 500 member universities in over 50 countries. She is the first female Secretary General of the ACU, and in this role also directs the administration of the UK government’s three main international scholarship programmes – Chevening, Commonwealth, and Marshall Scholarships – as well as the multilateral Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships.

Joanna’s career has been in the service of British and international higher education. Before joining the ACU in 2017, she was Vice-Principal (International) at King’s College London, where she was instrumental in forging new international research and teaching collaborations. Her previous roles include Director of the UK Higher Education International Unit (now known as Universities UK International), where she led the development of a UK-wide international education strategy; and Head of Higher Education at the British Library, where she commissioned the Google Generation report, the first study of Generation Y researchers.

Joanna serves on a number of boards, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s Leadership Council, the High-level Advisory Group for Mission 4.7, and as a lay member of the Council of Cardiff University. She is a Senior Research Fellow in History at King’s College London. Her most recent publication is Nearly the New World: The British West Indies and the Flight from Nazism, 1933-1945. In 2014, Joanna was awarded an MBE in recognition of her work promoting British higher education internationally.

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Caroline Harrison Cropped

Caroline Harrison is the Chief Finance Officer at the ACU. Before joining the ACU, Caroline worked as Director of Finance and Planning at Richmond, The American International University in London where her remit included facilities and estates, as well as finance. Prior to that, Caroline worked at Middlesex University, holding a number of senior positions before being appointed Director of Finance. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (ACMA).

Sharon Memis (1)

Sharon Memis is the Chief Operating Officer at the ACU. Prior to joining the ACU, Sharon held a variety of senior posts with the British Council including in India, the United States, Brussels and London, contributing to the internationalisation of education and culture for the UK. Sharon has also worked as a consultant in international cultural relations and both presents and writes on a range of topics related to international engagement including strategy and impact evaluation.  As a qualified teacher, Sharon has taught at schools and universities in the UK and overseas. A linguist by background, Sharon speaks six languages.

Duncan Barker

Duncan Barker is Interim Director of Scholarships and International Mobility at the ACU. He oversees all the ACU-managed scholarship and mobility programmes, ensuring best practice and innovation is shared whilst preserving the strong brand identity of the different schemes. International student mobility and scholarships are transformational for individuals and society, and central to achieving our mission. Building on our proud track record in managing these life-changing opportunities, Duncan ensures that the ACU continues to serve our existing programmes and increase opportunities for students across the world to benefit from transnational exchanges. Duncan has extensive experience of fundraising and alumni relations in UK higher education and was most recently Development Director & Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. He also worked on the Scholarships Fund and established the Development Office at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and before that worked as a fundraiser at the Royal College of Music. 


Khairul Bashar is Director of Finance at the ACU. Khairul is responsible for financial planning, reporting and statutory accounts, ensuring the ACU complies with best practice in audit and risk and continues to meet our financial obligations. Khairul and his team also ensure our financial and audit integrity, helping the ACU make the right decisions today and for the future. Before joining the ACU, Khairul worked at the Education Development Trust, helping them improve their financial processes. Prior to that, he worked at the Lawn Tennis Association, where he gained experience managing all financial functions. 

Beth Button

Beth Button is Director of Strategic Communications at the ACU. She is responsible for an integrated internal and external strategic communications strategy to maximise the value and impact of the work of the ACU and its members and influence impactful policy change. Beth provides strategic leadership to the Marketing, Communications and Events, and Strategic Partnerships and Policy teams, and works to build effective external engagement and position the ACU as a high impact partner. Before joining the ACU, Beth worked at University Alliance where she was Head of Communications and Public Affairs. A skilled campaigner and strategic communicator, Beth has a wealth of experience gained in positions at Universities UK and the European Students Union, where she led the organisation’s work on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Jonathan Jenkins

Dr Jonathan Jenkins is Director of Research and Insight at the ACU. He leads the research, insight and evaluation strategy that underpins our strategic plan. From impact studies that help build the ACU's reputation, to data that demonstrates how our membership services, programmes and scholarship schemes contribute to developing resilience in global higher education, Jonathan and his team provide the evidence base that influences thought leadership and policy decisions. Jonathan brings to this role huge expertise gained in his previous role leading the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) team. Prior to working in scholarships, Jonathan carried out research in universities in the United Kingdom and the United States in the field of quantum chemistry. 

Barbara Kasumu 2022 (1)

Barbara Kasumu is Director of Membership, Programmes and Development at the ACU. Barbara is responsible for providing strategic leadership to the Membership, Programmes and Business Development teams. Membership services are the core mission of the ACU. Barbara oversees the membership strategy working with teams to create a dynamic, responsive, and relevant offer that meets the needs of our diverse member base. She also oversees the development of Programmes and Business Development Strategies, supporting the design and funding of best-in-sector programmes that will have a meaningful impact on ACU Members across the Commonwealth and beyond. Before joining the ACU, Barbara worked at the National Union of Students where she was Director of Membership, Talent and Inclusion. Barbara brings with her over 15 years of senior leadership and board experience working across a range of sectors and organisations. An award-winning third sector leader, she has represented the UK on international platforms including at the G8 and G20 summits.

Tarrance Ryder Downs

Tarrance Ryder-Downes is Director of People at the ACU. He is responsible for setting the overall people strategy for the ACU and delivering excellent People and Office and Facilities services across the organisation. The ACU is a great place to work and has a range of benefits that support people to do their best. Tarrance and his team are responsible for creating a high-performing and inclusive culture and encouraging talent, passion, and success across the ACU. Tarrance has over 14 years’ experience in HR, including extensive experience across the not-for-profit sector. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. 

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