2013 year in review - Part II

2013 year in review - Part II

Published on 21 January 2014

2013 got off to a flying start with three Perspectives talks, a well-received lecture series by Sir David King and an evening at the residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons in celebration of the ACU turning 100. The first half of the year also saw ACU staff work tirelessly behind the scenes to put in place plans for the organisation's main event of the year, the ACU Centenary Conference. But even in the lead up to October's centrepiece conference, there was still plenty else going on at the ACU...


The Great Park of Windsor in England, UK, provided the picturesque backdrop to 2013’s Commonwealth Residential School. 60 scholars from across the Commonwealth descended on Cumberland Lodge for a memorable five days in which they came together to devise policies designed for the world in 2113. The Seychellois Minister for Environment and Energy, Professor Rolph Payet, was the keynote speaker and he warned that global warming threatened the very existence of some nations, such as his very own low-lying Indian Ocean island.

Vice-Chancellors from universities in 14 Commonwealth countries were appointed to the ACU Council for the 2013-2015 period. Professor Olive Mugenda (Kenyatta University, Kenya) and Professor Jan Thomas (University of Southern Queensland, Australia) would later be appointed as Chair and Vice-Chair respectively, taking over from Professor Nigel Harris and Professor Madeleine Atkins CBE, who was appointed the Chief Executive of HEFCE.

That Professor Atkins was appointed to lead HEFCE, and that two women were elected to lead the ACU Council is perhaps an indication that the tide is gradually turning against the gender imbalance that still exists in the upper echelons of higher education. Since 1985, the ACU's Gender Programme has sought to enhance and increase the participation and profile of women in the leadership and management of higher education.

This year’s Women, Gender and Leadership in Higher Education programme, which took place in Mugenda’s home country of Kenya at the end of August, was indeed themed ‘Enhancing gender equity in the leadership and management of higher education’.



Throughout the year, we take pleasure in welcoming visitors to our offices. In fact, it’s a tradition that’s almost as old as the ACU itself!

On 4 September, we were honoured to receive Cameroon’s Minister for External Relations, HE Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, to the ACU. He met Cameroonian scholars on award in the UK and, supported by Cameroon’s High Commissioner to the UK, discussed how Cameroon could help better reintegrate returning scholars into society and the workforce.

In mid-September, the 24 participating DRUSSA institutions convened for the DRUSSA Champions’ Symposium in Nairobi. The ACU’s Liam Roberts wrote a blog about how the programme – and the Symposium in particular – was helping to improve the research cycle in sub-Saharan Africa.



October was, doubtless, the apex of our Centenary year. It started off with a hugely enjoyable staff party and ended with a delegation attending the hugely spectacular WISE Summit. In between, there was, of course, the ACU’s own showpiece conference – The ACU Centenary Conference – which took place at Senate House and saw 250 delegates from across the Commonwealth meet to discuss the future of international higher education.

A comprehensive review of the Centenary Conference can be found here, and the event's salient points can be retrieved via the #ACU100 hashtag.

It is still worth highlighting that, during the three-day think fest, several mention-worthy things happened:

  • Deryck M. Schreuder launched a book exploring the rise and relevance of the ACU titled ‘Universities for a New World: Making a Global Network in International Higher Education, 1913-2013’
  • The ACU launched its campaign asking whether universities were prepared for the challenges of the world post 2015. ‘Beyond 2015 – is higher education ready’ is an interactive and collaborative digital campaign that seeks to state the case for the importance of higher education in planning for tomorrow’s world

October also saw the fifth annual Publishers for Development (PfD) conference in which current developments in scholarly communication were explored, including their impact on publishers, researchers and information professionals in the global South. The rapid growth in open access, the potential for social media to increase communication of research, and also new measures for the way research is used were all topics viewed from a Southern perspective. A round-up of the PfD conference can be found here.



The 300-strong 2013/2014 cohort of Commonwealth Scholars met each other for the first time on the 11 November at the CSC Welcome Programme held in London’s Senate House. They heard from Commissioners and former scholars alike who welcomed them warmly to the UK and gave them useful tips on how to maximise their time on award here.

Just as a new set of Scholars were beginning their journies, one Scholar was concluding his. Andrew Harvey studied in Tanzania on an ACU scholarship and, en route back home to Canada, he stopped by the ACU’s office to thank us for the opportunity afforded to him by virtue of being a the recipient of an award supported by the CSFP endowment fund. He shared the deeply personal story of his year in rural Tanzania and expressed his gratitude that his scholarship had enabled him to carry out vital fieldwork on a language facing extinction.



As our Centenary year drew to a close, regrettably, so too did the life of a true ACU stalward at the age of 83. Peter Hetherington OBE worked at the ACU for an astonishing 36 years, retiring in 1993. Of his time at the ACU he wrote 'At the risk of sentimentality, I declare that the abiding memory of ACU is of the quality of people... in the member universities with whom 36 years of delectable responsibility have brought me contact and friendship."

2013 was indubitably one of the busiest years on record at the ACU. As it wound to a close, we looked back not only on a year of celebration and achievements, but also on a century of progress, change and partnerships, on a century where we’ve interacted and impacted on members in all corners of the Commonwealth, forged and fortified partnerships and created a common wealth of memories. Maybe this goes some way to explaining why, after 100 years, some of our founding members continue to value being part of the ACU.

Whilst it would be normal for centenarians to reach that epic milestone and look back at how far they’ve come, throughout the ACU’s Centenary year, we’ve been encouraging ourselves and our members to look forward. Indeed, we are already laying the foundations for the next 100 years of the ACU and, through the recently launched Second Century Campaign, we are committed to continuing on our quest to transform lives through education.