A NETWORK for Commonwealth studies experts was launched in London last week.
Many academics interested in the Commonwealth work in isolation in developing countries. Two years ago the Symons commission called for an umbrella body to put them in touch with others.
More than 80 people attended the launch of the Association for Commonwealth Studies, which is backed by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Commonwealth Institute.
The association intends to lobby for more support at the ACU's conference in Ottawa in August.
Michael Gibbons, ACU secretary general, said: "With vice-chancellors' support, resources could be made available that are not going to cost them money."
One possibility is that schemes, such as Commonwealth scholarships and awards, earmark a portion for Commonwealth studies.
Organisers do not want to restrict membership to academics whose first interest is purely in the Commonwealth. Pat Caplan, director of London University's Institute of Commonwealth Studies, who has been part of a small working group seeking to get the idea off the ground, said: "This association will be the people who join it and the nature of the activities we engage in. Like the Commonwealth itself, it should be not something that just looks to the past."
The association is likely to explore some of the recommendations of the Symons commission, which have been largely dormant since it reported in June 1996, including the creation of a database and reviews of the ways business may benefit.
A progress report is to be made in the autumn and a full-scale academic conference may be held in South Africa to coincide with the next heads of government meeting there in 1999.