Our response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Published on 20 March 2020
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Dr Joanna Newman Photo Approved Compressed
Dr Joanna Newman

Dr Joanna Newman is Chief Executive and Secretary General of the ACU. She joined the ACU in April 2017 and is responsible for fostering and promoting the aims of the ACU, as defined by its membership, in developing inter-Commonwealth relations in the field of higher education.

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As our members will know, international collaboration underpins everything we do at the ACU. Working together is, we believe, the best way to advance knowledge, promote understanding, and improve lives. But international collaboration begins with connections between people, and it’s about these connections that I wanted to write to you today.

As the COVID-19 pandemic causes doors and borders to close, our challenge – as organisations, universities and societies – is to sustain these connections and become a global community that not only endures but thrives at a distance.

The health and wellbeing of the ACU community, including our staff and our members, is our top priority. We have already made the difficult but necessary decision to postpone or cancel a number of events and to advise our staff to work remotely. Our focus now is to ensure that we continue to create meaningful opportunities for our global network to engage, collaborate, and come together during this challenging time and beyond.

We warmly encourage you and your colleagues to explore and join the ACU’s range of thriving virtual networks. These include:

  • Our HR in HE Community, which brings together staff working in HR at 222 universities in 34 countries to share their knowledge, experience and good practice, showcase ideas, and discover potential avenues for collaboration
  • Our Supporting Research Community, connecting staff at 145 universities in 30 countries who are involved in supporting the research process, including research management and administration, research impact and uptake, and library services
  • The Commonwealth Climate Resilience Network, which links 109 universities in 33 countries to address the practical needs of universities and communities directly affected by climate change, while providing a platform for universities to connect with policymakers and develop effective approaches to resilience and disaster preparedness
  • The Commonwealth Peace and Reconciliation Network, which connects and supports an interdisciplinary collective of academics, researchers and professional staff from 86 universities in 24 countries working in the fields of peace, truth, justice, and reconciliation
  • Our Higher Education and the SDGs Network, drawing together academics, staff and students at 175 universities in 32 countries who are directly engaging in the in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda

Work is already underway to expand our virtual platforms and to shift the focus of our international study and conference grants towards supporting local initiatives that can be shared internationally for wider impact – more on these opportunities to follow.

We look forward to keeping you updated and I welcome your thoughts on what the ACU could provide that would be of greatest value to you at this time – you can share your suggestions with us by emailing membership@acu.ac.uk. In the meantime, please be assured of our sincere support and solidarity in these unprecedented times.