Higher education must now capitalise on the strengths of both developed and developing institutions, according to Chief Emeka Anyaoku, secretary general of the Commonwealth.
Chief Anyaoku, speaking at the Association of Commonwealth Universities' council meeting at Aberdeen University this week, said one of the most important lessons the Commonwealth had learned was that the most successful partnerships were based on the premise that each had something to contribute to the welfare of the other.
"For many years, we have spoken in development theory about the centre-periphery syndrome to describe the relationship between developed and developing institutions and countries.
"And there is often the question: when would the periphery become the centre, and the resources and knowledge begin to flow in reverse?" he said.
"Happily, we now see in the Commonwealth that some of the newly industrialised countries are prepared to play a more dynamic and central role in the multilateral Commonwealth cooperation in higher education."
He pointed out that Malaysia's prime minister had last month opened the Malaysia Commonwealth Studies Centre at Cambridge University, in association with the Commonwealth secretariat, which would carry out research on contemporary issues facing the Commonwealth.
"The fact that its establishment has been made possible by resources raised mainly from the private sector in Malaysia is an example of the changing shift in relationship between developed and developing countries, between what was once regarded as the 'centre' and the 'periphery'."
Anastasios Christadoulou, retiring secretary general of the ACU, said Malaysia was virtually unique among the ACU's 33 member countries, along with Singapore and Hong Kong, in giving higher education enough resources to expand without a deterioration in staff-student ratios, libraries and buildings.