A chair in Commonwealth studies at London University is to be the first in British higher education to be named after a contemporary African, Chief Emeka Anyaoku.
But despite contributions from some of the smallest and poorest Commonwealth nations, the UK government has not responded to a £2 million appeal to establish the Anyaoku chair at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.
Nigerian Chief Anyaoku was secretary-general of the Commonwealth from 1990-2000. The Anyaoku chair is the centrepiece of an initiative to revive contemporary and comparative study of the 54-member organisation.
The academic appointed to the chair will play a major part in highlighting the significance of the Commonwealth as a working model of multiracial and intercultural association at an international level, developing a research agenda that explores priorities of human rights, democratisation, civil society and good government.
An expansion of degree programmes at masters and doctoral levels will draw on the expertise the appointment will bring. Funding has been assured to make an initial five-year appointment through an appeal under the patronage of the duke of Westminster. The eventual goal for the campaign is £2 million. The duke, who this week hosted a fund-raising reception at his Cheshire estate, said: "Putting the Anyaoku chair on a secure long-term basis is critical to the initiative."
Donations have come from a wide range of sources including the governments of Nigeria, Malaysia, the Bahamas, the Maldives and Cyprus. The private sector, organisations with a Commonwealth focus and individuals have also given money.
While supporters accept that the chair is not an aid project and that the ICS is already funded through the Higher Education Funding Council for England, there is regret that no arm of government was able to make a direct contribution.
The ICS, the only postgraduate academic institution in the UK devoted to the study of the Commonwealth, faced closure last year. At that time a review identified the chair, and the developing academic programme that it supports, as key elements of a necessary academic realignment.