As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued much longer than most of us expected, we have become far more aware of how interconnected our lives are, and that what happens in one part of the world may have impact over geographical distances and time zones. From the initial manifestation which was perceived as localised, the variants of the virus have impacted every part of the world disrupting travel, prompting lockdowns and other forms of restrictions on mobility.
We have learned to work from our homes, to teach online and to meet virtually. We have been amazed at how much is possible with the use of technology and yet, we have become aware of just how essential human connection is to our well-being and quality of life. At the University of Canterbury, we were impressed with the large number of students who persevered and returned to the campus after lockdown despite continued online teaching. From seeing students connecting in study groups, in the library and other common spaces, there was evidently a strong desire to be with peers even with safety protocols in place.
Connecting for a common purpose is the mission that brings 500 member universities together as the ACU. As the one of the world’s oldest university networks, the pandemic has seen the ACU show innovation in continuing to foster and promote international connection and collaboration in higher education for the greater public good. The pandemic has cast the global spotlight on the value and impact of university research. Through the convening power of the ACU’s network, universities across the Commonwealth are working together to tackle the global challenges we all face. From public health to the climate crisis, ACU member universities are spearheading research and innovation, educating the next generation, and engaging the public in debate and action.
Guided by our foundational belief that international connection and collaboration is key to the transformative power of higher education, the ACU has leveraged multiple channels to ensure that its members have stayed connected throughout the pandemic. At the same time, however, there are countries and communities that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Now, more than ever before, universities need to harness our collective expertise, draw on our diverse communities and work together for a more equitable and sustainable world.
As the newly elected Chairperson, I am honoured to have the opportunity to work with university leaders across the ACU network. From broadening access to higher education through innovative blended learning programmes to expanding international mobility opportunities through virtual and physical modalities – I am eager to see what we can achieve as a global community in 2022.
As we look ahead, I look forward to working with ACU member universities to use the considerable innovation and creativity universities have shown over the last year to contribute to building a future focussed on equity, sustainability and wellbeing.
The ACU Council is our governing body and is responsible for overseeing the organisation’s activities and determining its future strategic direction. Council members also act as our Trustees.
The Council is made up of a maximum of 23 members, who are vice-chancellors of ACU member universities from across the Commonwealth, elected by their peers within the ACU membership network.