Gender Programme

The ACU plays an active role in supporting the recruitment and retention of women in higher education leadership and management. We work with universities to promote gender equity as an integral institutional goal, and improve safety and access for students and staff.

Annual grants

  • ACU Gender Grants support member universities to run a project promoting gender equity and equality in higher education.

  • The Martha Farrell Memorial Fellowship is an ACU Fellowship which provides training and support for the fellow to initiate an anti-sexual harassment initiative at their home university. 

Ongoing projects

  • Building gender mainstreaming capacity of university faculty and staff in Sri Lanka is a project funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of Sri Lanka in which the ACU is using its expertise on gender mainstreaming to assist in building capacity locally. The project will run until 2018.

  • ACU Measures is the ACU’s annual online benchmarking exercise for university management. One of the four areas it specifically looks at is gender: it allows institutions to benchmark their performance in this in gender equity and gender mainstreaming across other areas of activity within the university.

Recent events

  • The ACU worked with Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan to organise a workshop for Women in Leadership and Management in Higher Education, in February 2017. Participants designed individual and institutional development plans which will guide their and fellow female academics’ progression in their institutions.

  • The ACU and the University of Nairobi in Kenya jointly held two events in September 2016 which looked at enhancing gender equity in the management and leadership of higher education. A one-day conference considered how higher education institutions are using the Sustainable Development Goals framework to achieve gender equity and equality, and was followed by a four-day leadership training workshop.

  • The ACU led a session on educational leadership and gender mainstreaming at the Inaugural Women's Forum of the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta. The new forum raised awareness of women’s issues in Commonwealth countries and highlighted the positive impact of women’s contributions to the political, economic, and social spheres.

  • In collaboration with Eastern University in Sri Lanka, in July 2015 the ACU organised a two-day conference entitled ‘Addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in south Asian institutions of higher education’. The event brought together scholars and experts who mapped out action points to address and end impunity for SGBV at universities across the continent.

Useful resources

  • Female staff numbers in Commonwealth universities: the ACU commissioned a series of reports (published in 1998, 2003, and 2008) to review data from the 1998 and 2008 surveys of Commonwealth universities which looked at the representation of women in higher education. The reports demonstrate the degree of change in the gender balance in the leadership of, and in a broad range of senior academic and administrative positions in, Commonwealth universities.

  • Training programme on women's leadership in higher education: Between 1985 and 2015, the ACU worked with the Commonwealth Secretariat, UNESCO, CIDA, and the Carnegie Foundation on developing a comprehensive training programme. As a result, the ACU produced nine free, user-friendly training modules, written by women in universities all over the Commonwealth. These resource materials aim to promote and enhance leadership and management skills, and can be adopted or adapted for educational purposes anywhere in the world.