Association of Commonwealth Universities and Commonwealth Secretariat launch Higher Education Taskforce

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The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and the Commonwealth Secretariat today launch the Higher Education Taskforce, formed to represent the voice of higher education in the Commonwealth and drive forward progress on education policy commitments. The Taskforce is made up of Commonwealth university vice-chancellors.

Meeting for the first time today, the Taskforce will support Commonwealth member states to realise the education policy commitments made at the 21st Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM) and drive forward policy implementation.

In 2022, Education ministers at CCEM in Nairobi, Kenya, issued a joint statement in which they recognised the urgent need to increase investment in education and skills at all ages, with particular focus on ensuring foundational skills for all. The meeting marked the first time Ministers recognised the important role of higher education in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The new ACU-led Taskforce will discuss these policy issues and others from the 21CCEM Ministerial declaration to develop a programme of activity to support Ministers in realising each commitment before the 22nd CCEM, which is taking place in May 2024 in London.

The high-level focus of the Taskforce will be:

  • Equal access and inclusion to higher education, including gender and disability  
  • Funding and finance for higher education
  • Higher education for sustainable development including research ecosystems 
  • Digital divide including access to technologies and artificial intelligence-informed learning  
  • Entrepreneurship and skills

The ACU was invited by the Commonwealth Secretariat to form and lead this new Higher Education Taskforce to support and facilitate the work of the Commonwealth Accelerated Development Mechanism for Education (CADME). CADME was formally set up in June 2015 to help Commonwealth member states meet the SDGs and assist the Commonwealth Education Ministers Action Group (CEMAG) in realising progress against SDG 4.

The Taskforce will meet twice per year. Sub-groups will be convened on priority issues, with additional members from relevant stakeholder bodies invited to progress each work stream. ACU will convene roundtables and other events to engage members, shape policy and practice and hear from industry experts. A calendar of activity will be developed and scheduled over 2024-25. 

As an accredited representative body for higher education, the ACU will represent and advocate for the sector and its members at Commonwealth Ministerial meetings including CCEM in May 2024 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October 2024.

Commenting on the news, Professor Colin Riordan CBE, ACU Secretary General and Chief Executive, said: 

‘The ACU serves as the sole representative body for higher education in the Commonwealth, holding a unique position with global representation of over 400 members across more than 40 countries.

We are therefore extremely pleased that the Commonwealth Secretariat has invited us to convene the Higher Education Taskforce to drive forward vital education policy commitments. Building on the momentum of the 21st CCEM, we must now work together to accelerate progress in key policy pledges, ensuring that no learner is left behind, and that universities are supported to realise the full potential of their role in driving development.’

Layne Robinson, Head, Social Policy Development, Commonwealth Secretariat, added:

‘The launch of the Higher Education Taskforce is a milestone moment for the Commonwealth's education programme. This initiative will help us boost our support to countries working hard to meet their Sustainable Development Goals.

Through its collective power, we can expand the reach, positive impact, and sustainability of quality higher education, as well as foster critical thinking, innovation, and the lifelong learning essential for navigating today's complex and challenging world. Together, we can facilitate higher education practices and policies that empower many more people to thrive in diverse professional environments.

We look forward to contributions from the Taskforce at our Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers in May.’

The ACU-led Taskforce is one of four working groups that the Commonwealth Secretariat has commissioned to address Ministerial recommendations. These working groups will be an important vehicle for ensuring member states can realise their commitments made and drive forward global progress in SDG 4 – ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

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About The Commonwealth Secretariat

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal countries. It is home to 2.5 billion people and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-three of our members are small states, including many island nations.

Our member governments have agreed to shared goals like development, democracy and peace and are supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat to achieve their aims.


  • are a voice for small and vulnerable states;
  • champion young people;
  • promote justice and human rights;
  • address threats like climate change, debt and inequality;
  • help grow economies and boost trade;
  • support decision-makers to make good laws and deliver policies;
  • help strengthen governance and build inclusive public institutions;
  • provide technical help and training;
  • send experts and observers to countries to give impartial advice and help solve national problems; and
  • provide systems, software and research for managing resources.

Our values and principles are expressed in the Commonwealth Charter