Setting Higher Education Priorities for the Commonwealth | Report from the second day of 21CCEM

Published on 29 April 2022

The second day of the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM) saw higher education priorities for the next three years agreed, with unprecedented recognition of the role that universities play in the social and economic development of their nations.

The acknowledgement came after the ACU made a series of recommendations to ministers on behalf of its member universities worldwide, calling for greater recognition of higher education’s critical contribution to sustainable development and for quality higher education to be made available to all those who would benefit.

The final statement issued by government ministers from across the Commonwealth endorses and includes a number of the ACU’s proposals. It is the first such statement at CCEM to directly recognise the essential role that higher education plays in sustainable development and the need for further investment to reduce the barriers preventing many from accessing vital learning opportunities.

Dr Joanna Newman, the ACU’s secretary general, welcomed the statement, saying: ‘Higher education is vital to sustainable development and will be essential in realising an economic and social recovery from the pandemic worldwide. I am immensely pleased that education ministers have recognised this critical role universities play and showed support for action to further strengthen this contribution.   

These statements lay the foundations to bring about real change through the power of higher education, and we must now work together to ensure no learner is left behind and our universities are supported to realise the full potential of their role in driving development.’  

Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan

The second day of the conference also saw the ACU report on the progress of the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) -  a unique international framework that enables young people to study in Commonwealth countries other than their own.

As custodians of this important scheme, the ACU took the opportunity to highlight the profound impact that Commonwealth Scholarships have on individuals, institutions and nations, with examples drawn from some of the 38,000 alumni to have benefitted to date.

The presentation demonstrated the value of Commonwealth Scholarships in building the lasting links between people and places, promoting collaboration on global challenges, and improving skills and knowledge. Ministers were asked to support the growth and continued future of the CSFP by hosting scholarships for Commonwealth students within their countries and by contributing to the programme’s endowment fund.

As the only representative body for higher education in the Commonwealth, the ACU represented not only Commonwealth but also global higher education stakeholders in Nairobi during the hybrid event, speaking on behalf of The International Association of Universities (IAU) and The Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF).  

The trio collectively represent more than 2,000 higher education institutions from across all continents and have agreed a formal partnership to strengthen the representation of universities on the global stage, including at CCEM.  

The outcomes secured by the ACU at 21CCEM will feed into discussions at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, to be held in Rwanda in June 2022, where the ACU will again present on the priorities for higher education.