Professor Colin Riordan CBE appointed as the ACU's next Secretary General and Chief Executive

Colin ACU

London, 13 February 2024 – Professor Colin Riordan CBE, former President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, UK has been appointed as the Association of Commonwealth Universities’ (ACU) next Secretary General and Chief Executive following a competitive recruitment process.  

Before joining Cardiff University, he worked as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex, UK having been appointed in 2007. Prior to this, he was Pro Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Newcastle University in the UK since 2005.  

Professor Riordan taught English as a foreign language at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg in Germany (1982-84) and was Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in German at Swansea University (1986-1998). He became Professor of German at Newcastle University in 1998, where he remained until his move to Essex in 2007.  

He has published widely on post-war German literature and culture, including writing and editing books on the writers Jurek Becker, Uwe Johnson and Peter Schneider. Other research interests include the history of environmental ideas in German culture.  

Professor Riordan will be leading the ACU into its next strategic phase, ensuring it plays a key role in the modern Commonwealth, responding to global challenges while upholding the legacy and values it has historically espoused. He will provide strong internal leadership and serve as powerful external ambassador for the ACU. 

Professor Riordan commented on the news: ‘It is an honour and a privilege to have been appointed as Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, having acted in an interim capacity since September 2023. The ACU has been in existence for more than a hundred years, is an accredited Commonwealth organisation and is the voice of higher education in the Commonwealth for its more than 400 members, their 10 million students and 1 million staff. I am very pleased to be able to continue working on behalf of all our members, helping to amplify their exceptional commitment to building a better world through higher education.’ 

Professor Cheryl de la Rey, Chair of the ACU Council added: ‘Professor Riordan’s appointment comes at an important time for the ACU, as we develop a shared vision for our next strategic plan for 2025-30 and prepare for significant Commonwealth events such as the Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa in October. I look forward to working with Professor Riordan and our members to realise the full potential of the ACU’s diverse network of universities and to ensure higher education remains at the top of Commonwealth governments’ agendas.’