CW Day Flags

ACU celebrates Commonwealth Day 2023 and ACU’s 110th Anniversary

Published on 13 March 2023

Today marks Commonwealth Day – an annual celebration observed by people all over the Commonwealth in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, the Pacific and Europe.

This year’s Commonwealth Day also marks the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter, which was signed by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 11 March 2013.

The theme for Commonwealth Day 2023 is ‘Forging a sustainable and peaceful common future’. The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), alongside Commonwealth member states and organisations, is actively committed to supporting the promotion of peace, prosperity, and sustainability, to secure a better future and improve the lives of all Commonwealth citizens.

2023 also marks the ACU’s 110th anniversary. Through a host of projects, grants, and scholarships across our diverse membership of more than 500 universities, we have been building a better world through higher education for more than century and helping to forge a sustainable and peaceful common future.

Throughout this week, we will share the inspiring stories from some of our longest serving members who have been with us since the beginning, on what being a member of the ACU means to them.

Driving sustainability and climate action

Universities across the Commonwealth are tackling climate change and building climate resilience worldwide – through cutting-edge research, global and local partnerships, and educating the next generation of climate leaders.

We are proud to support universities, and the people who research within them, in tackling marine pollution and supporting sustainable environmental practises – two of the most pressing issues of our time.

In 2022, the ACU and Cefas launched new marine science scholarships for students in the South Pacific, funded through the UK’s £500 million Blue Planet Fund. Hosted by the University of the South Pacific (USP), the Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCPP) Scholarships focus on tackling marine pollution, enabling scholars to undertake world-class research and innovation in this area and strengthen climate research capacity in the region.

Alongside other international partner organisations, the ACU is currently working with the government of Antigua & Barbuda to support the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the University of the West Indies' Five Islands Campus.

The ACU sits on the International Steering Committee for the project, and supports it through convening universities from across the Commonwealth and developing the networks and collaborations which underpin research-led solutions.

In addition, the ACU is dedicated to supporting universities, staff and early career researchers with climate research and grassroots climate action through a host of innovative programmes and projects, including our Climate Resilience Challenge Grants, Commonwealth Futures Climate Research Cohort, Blue Charter Fellowships, and Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme.

As an accredited Commonwealth organisation, the ACU was pleased to send delegations to COP26 and COP27 to participate in the high-level meetings, roundtables and events with key partners. We also profiled the vital role that universities play in delivering climate action on the global stage, emphasising their readiness to support the realisation of the COP commitments.

Peace and Reconciliation  

Truth and reconciliation processes are critical in addressing colonial legacies and realising the modern vision of the Commonwealth.

The ACU’s Commonwealth Peace and Reconciliation Network brings together an interdisciplinary collective of academics, researchers and professional staff from more than 40 universities across the Commonwealth, who work in the fields of peace, truth, justice, and reconciliation.

The network aims to connect and support those interested in peace and reconciliation, facilitating collaboration and sharing approaches to truth-telling and reconciliation in society and within universities themselves.

The ACU also offers annual Commonwealth Peace and Reconciliation Challenge Grants. Open to academic and professional staff at ACU member universities, and the grants can be used to support initiatives advancing peace, reconciliation, and indigenous knowledge.

Commenting on the news, Dr Joanna Newman, Chief Executive and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), said:

‘The theme of this year’s Commonwealth Day with its focus on sustainability and global peace, could not be more pertinent to the global challenges we collectively face. As the ACU celebrates its 110th Anniversary this year, I am incredibly proud of the ACU’s strong track record of supporting universities in over 53 countries in building a greener, fairer and more peaceful world.’

What our members say

'As we are celebrating the diamond jubilee of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, we are most grateful to the ACU for providing a fitting platform for us to work with its members to address global challenges for the betterment of humankind. Our faculty members have greatly benefitted from the many ACU programmes and initiatives to strengthen their global collaboration, and our latest engagement in virtual student exchange with the ACU has allowed us to enhance SDG awareness and intercultural sensitivity among our students. Congratulations to the ACU on your 110th Anniversary!'

Professor Alan Chan, Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Provost