A new partnership between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Association of Commonwealth Universities will boost the impact of international higher education on social and economic development initiatives across member countries.
The initiatives include improving and influencing national education policies to support international development and the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals; addressing issues such as graduate employability; helping to prevent gender-based violence; and fostering a culture of respect and understanding of different cultures and beliefs.
The agreement will also see the two organisations collaborating on relevant aspects of the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (20CCEM) in Fiji in February 2018, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the United Kingdom in April 2018.
A memorandum of understanding formalising the partnership was signed on 15 September by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and the Chief Executive and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Speaking at the signing, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said,
“It is important for us to be consolidating our partnership with the Association of Commonwealth Universities, in terms of creating a new bridge for us to explore the opportunities there are for education and well-being. And I’m incredibly happy that we are about to launch this new chapter of the relationship.
“I’m also delighted that, as the first female Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and the first female Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, we are signing this agreement.”
Dr Joanna Newman, Chief Executive and Secretary General of ACU said,
“I am signing this on behalf of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which has more than 500 member institutions across more than 50 Commonwealth countries.
“Higher education has extraordinary power to transform our world for the better and tackle the grand challenges of our time. Universities will be central to meeting every one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals – not only through the vital research they undertake, but also through the skilled and globally aware graduates they produce.
“I am looking forward to working even more closely with the Commonwealth under the leadership of the Secretariat and respective Commonwealth governments. This partnership is a really powerful way of harnessing the power of universities for the common good.”
The agreement will lead to collaborative working in a number of areas, such as sharing the Commonwealth Secretariat’s iLibrary, the official repository of more than four decades of formally published research and data. The online resource currently contains more than 800 e-book titles, nearly 9,000 chapters and 215 working papers. In addition to providing an invaluable research tool for university students and academics, subscription sales will also help to fund the digitisation of further publications. In addition, the Commonwealth Secretariat maintains the library and archives that contain collections of books and research material produced through activities with member governments since 1965.
Among the attendees that witnessed the signing were representatives from the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth Teachers Group, the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Consortium for Education.
The memorandum of understanding comes a few days after the Commonwealth Secretariat signed a similar agreement with the Commonwealth Students Association and the All-African Students Association.