'Universities are vital in the Commonwealth'

December 7, 2007

The Association of Commonwealth Universities' new head has a world - view to match the ACU's global reach.

If being well travelled is in the job description, the new secretary- general of the Association of Commonwealth Universities fits the bill. John Tarrant, the former vice-chancellor of Huddersfield University, was chosen from a shortlist of four, with each candidate hailing from a different continent.

Professor Tarrant, who will lead an organisation representing almost 500 universities in most of the Commonwealth's 53 countries, brings with him a wealth of managerial experience and a global perspective.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he worked briefly with Muhammad Yunus, an economics professor who - frustrated with the commercial sector's failure to provide credit to the very poor - set up the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. The concept of micro-credit, which the Grameen Bank pioneered, spread worldwide, and last year Professor Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Professor Tarrant said: "What better example could we have of the vital role of universities? They are vital throughout the Commonwealth, and I will ensure that the ACU will do everything it can to help."

He believes the association has a key role to play, especially in tackling HIV/Aids. "Universities are in a unique position as they are affected by the pandemic and they have the capacity to research and to train people in treatment, care and prevention. The effects on students and staff at many Commonwealth universities, where anti-retroviral drugs are not widely available, put all our other difficulties in perspective."

He said the Commonwealth's shared language, traditions and 100-year history were a great starting point, and pledged to keep the ACU relevant to the 21st century.

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