Association of Commonwealth Universities Conference Preview

August 29, 2003

ACU - Belfast 2003

Can universities worldwide make a difference to the viability and quality of the societies in which they are located, or are they expensive luxuries? Vice-chancellors and other senior university figures from around the Commonwealth will be making the case for their relevance during this week's general conference of the Association of Commonwealth Universities at Queen's University, Belfast.

The theme is "Universities: Engaging with their Communities", and on these six pages THES reporters describe the relevance and vitality of university interventions in crucial areas such as the HIV/Aids pandemic, the rights of indigenous peoples to benefit from commercial exploitation of their traditional knowledge and the preservation of endangered cultures.

Planned speakers at the conference include Senator George Mitchell, former US senator and chair of the Northern Ireland peace talks, Mary Robinson, former Irish President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002, Kader Asmal, South Africa's education minister, and Charles Clarke, England's secretary of state for education.

More than 500 universities in 35 counties and regions around the Commonwealth are members of the ACU, making it one of the most effective international networks in higher education.

BT is the lead sponsor of the conference, while Belfast City Council will host a dinner. Co-sponsors are the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Department for Employment and Learning, Invest Northern Ireland and The THES.

A book based on the ACU's investigation into The Idea of Engagement: Universities in Society, edited by Svava Bjarnason and Patrick Coldstream, will be launched at the conference, as will Cudos, a web database offering subscribers access to 175,000 senior staff, their research interests and study areas in 22,000 university departments.

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