Charting the future: ACU hosts vice-chancellor summit convening university leaders and education ministers in London

ACU Vice Chancellor Summit 2024 Panel Discussion

On Wednesday 15 May we were delighted to host the ACU vice-chancellor summit 2024 in London - our largest in-person gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic - for an inspiring day of high-level policy discussions, networking, and exchange.  

Over the course of the day and evening we were honoured to welcome over 100 distinguished guests from more than 20 countries across our unique network - from Coventry to Colombo - including ACU member vice-chancellors, Commonwealth education ministers, and international higher education stakeholders.  

The event explored the theme ‘charting the future of higher education through funding, employability, excellence, and the digital frontier.’ Through a prestigious line-up of expert speakers, panellists, and policy discussions, we delved into some of the most pressing issues facing universities and vice-chancellors today, including finance and funding in higher education, graduate employability and skills, fostering excellence in research management, and artificial intelligence in higher education.  

The ACU vice-chancellor summit 2024 provided an opportunity for ACU members to contribute to high-level policy discussions and network with fellow vice-chancellors, thought leaders, ministers, and international higher education peers. Our event then culminated with an evening reception attended by Commonwealth, parliamentary and sector stakeholders. 

Outcomes from the multiple policy dialogues that ran throughout the ACU summit fed into the 22nd Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (CCEM) meeting which took place in London from 16-17 May. Here, we represented our members at CCEM through the new ACU-led Commonwealth Higher Education Taskforce, sharing many of the invaluable insights gathered from the vice-chancellor summit. 

Higher education: the heart of the common good  

The opening keynote was delivered by Hon Dr Ezekiel Machogu, EGH, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kenya, in which he outlined some of the common challenges facing higher education systems around the world. 

Next, delegates heard from Dr Eric Nkansah, Director General, Ghana Education Services, who shared insights and inspirational examples of pioneering education programmes that have been implemented throughout the Republic of Ghana.

Former UK Higher education minister and President of Zoom Abroad, Bill Rammell, delivered our afternoon keynote address, asserting that universities are at the ‘heart of a common good’ to society.  

We were honoured to welcome the following education ministers to the summit:

  • Hon Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum (MP), Minister for Education of the Republic of Ghana
  • Dr Ezekiel Machogu, EGH, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kenya
  • Dr Ismail Shafeeu, Minister of Education, Maldives
  • Baroness Diana Barran MBE, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, Department for Education, UK

Policy discussions 

A series of rich policy dialogues took place throughout the day. Sessions included ‘Finance and funding: making the case for higher education funding’ chaired by Dr Gavan Conlon, Partner at London Economics, with a key theme emerging that different funding models are needed to make the global north-south divide better for mutual benefit. 

Delegates also participated in a discussion on ‘Navigating the digital frontier: digital access and artificial intelligence in higher education’ co-chaired by Prof Wendy Thompson CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London and Lord Ranger of Northwood, President of Tech UK, which addressed issues of ethics, governance, partnerships, teaching and learning, and assessment. 

An equally stimulating discussion on ‘nurturing future-ready graduates: advancing employability and skills in higher education’ took place chaired by Professor Moses Oketch from University College London. Key themes from this dialogue included the importance of transferable skills such as written and verbal communication, industry partnerships and the role of higher education in producing holistic graduates. 

In the afternoon, we held further policy dialogues including one on ‘Fostering excellence: global perspectives on research management, collaboration and assessment’ chaired by Kathryn Bailey from the Ethical Data Initiative. Key themes from this session included the shift towards impact-focused assessment, how to create a level playing field for meaningful and impactful research collaborations, and the geopolitical political influence on research collaborations. 

For the final day session, we also convened a panel sharing insights from ACU member vice-chancellors, spanning the breadth of the Commonwealth itself, including Prof Sir Hilary Beckles, University of the West Indies; Prof Sibongile Muthwa, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa; Prof Rhonda Lenton, York University, Canada; and Prof Raj Kumar, O.P Jindal Global University, India, chaired by ACU Secretary General Prof Colin Riordan CBE. 

Evening reception 

Our event culminated with an evening networking reception. We were honoured to also welcome inspiring guest speakers to the evening portion of the event, including the Commonwealth Secretary General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, Nobel Peace Laureate Mr Kailash Satyarthi, and Baroness Diana Barran MBE, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, Department for Education, UK alongside ACU Secretary General Prof Colin Riordan CBE. 

Image gallery

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