Delegates to the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) conference in Liverpool have thanked Secretary-General Patricia Scotland for her continuing support and ‘inspirational’ leadership.
In her keynote speech at the seminar organised by the ACU at Liverpool Hope University in the UK, Secretary-General Scotland said there was “a special role” for faith-based universities and other institutions of learning in rejecting intolerance.
Secretary-General Scotland addressed the biennial ACU Conference of University Leaders last year in Ghana, weeks after being elected to office. Professor John Wood ACU’s Secretary-General said she has made a significant contribution to this year's conference.
“She was fantastic. She came to our annual conference last year in Accra, and challenged over 250 vice chancellors, who represented more than 30 million students, to actually get off their feet and do something about the world's problems. She re-emphasised that and acknowledged that faith-based universities have a big role to do and to lead in terms of values and approaches to students.”
The Secretary-General stressed the Commonwealth’s role in building “partnerships” – one of five ‘P’s which guide the Secretariat’s work, including “people, planet, prosperity and peace”. Liverpool Hope University’s vice chancellor, Professor Gerald Pillay said, “The Commonwealth certainly links universities together in a way they certainly can't normally do themselves. Secretary-General Scotland, by attending this meeting of Vice Chancellors, signals the special contribution universities can make in promoting respect. She spoke so clearly about how the goals of the Commonwealth can be achieved through the various universities that the ACU brings together. The Commonwealth is set to play a much bigger role in global university life in the future given the various political realignments now taking place.”
The pro-vice chancellor of Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya, an Indian university near Haridwar, one of India’s holiest cities at the foothills of the Himalayas, Dr Chinmay Pandya, said that the world was living in turbulent times.
“Tensions are rising, conflicts are actually increasing, tolerance is vanishing, harmony is disappearing and at this time a Commonwealth effort is most remarkable. To bring everyone from different faith groups in one forum and allow them to think about the common good is the significant steps taken.
“It's easy to motivate people but it's difficult to inspire. She is one of those people who had been a great influence for everyone. She inspired everyone, had creativity and honesty and her speech about how people from different backgrounds can get together and do something meaningful for the coming generation, that's inspiring for all of us.”
Sixty percent of the Commonwealth are under 30 and Secretary-General Scotland said the Commonwealth Secretariat aimed to be “a fulcrum for action and beneficial change”, supporting youth-led organisations to help young people address social exclusion, ethnic or religious prejudice. Another delegate, CS. Helen Pauline Ambasa Director/Legal Services & Company Secretary from the United States International University-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya said the conference was ‘very critical’ to universities.
“With the way the world is changing, issues of faith are so dear and also so usually emotional to sit around a table and discuss. So this is a great opportunity for me particularly coming from a secular university,” she said. “Without the Commonwealth, we would not be here. Every time I meet the Secretary-General, I'm inspired as a young woman in the legal profession. I think having her here set the right tone, that the Commonwealth takes this issue very seriously, that these are issues very dear to her heart and her speech was inspirational.”