Since 1986, Elizabeth II had been the organisation’s first patron. This is one of the Duchess’s first royal patronages, in which she will provide publicity to recognise ACU’s achievement and contributions.
“She believes passionately in the power of higher education”
She will also visit the organisation both on a private and public basis.
“Moving of the patronage to the Duchess of Sussex is really exciting because she is also someone who has made it very clear that she will hold the values of the Commonwealth very dear to her heart,” ACU chief executive and secretary general Joanna Newman MBE told The PIE News.
One of ACU’s key principles is the role of higher education ‘as a common good’ to society and the conviction that this value is enhanced by international collaboration.
“She is also someone who has made it very clear that she believes passionately in the power of higher education to make a change to transform society,” Newman added.
As a graduate of Northwestern, the Duchess understands the value of higher education, Newman said. Reportedly having spent time in Spain and completing an internship at the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she is aware of the importance of international collaboration.
Through the organisations vast network of more than 500 members in around 50 countries, she will be able to continue her interest in issues including social mobility, empowerment of girls, better access to education, human trafficking, modern slavery, and climate and resilience.
The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry was appointed Commonwealth Youth Ambassador in 2018, and announced an ACU scholarship for four Pacific Island and Caribbean students to study climate master’s during the tour of the Pacific in 2018.
The Duchess of Sussex also announced two ACU administered gender grants to fund new learning initiatives aimed at empowering female university staff and promoting gender equality, during the tour.
As patron for 33 years, the Queen has been of “immense value” to the world’s first and oldest international university network, ACU, and its members, Newman stated.
The Queen’s patronage has greatly helped ACU offer Commonwealth scholarships to more than 35,000 students to come to the UK or other Commonwealth countries.
“She has been a firm supporter… through lending her name to the Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships, which fund scholarships to lower middle income countries, through occasionally hosting receptions,” she added.
“Having someone who has such an important role in the Commonwealth and espouses its values has been very valuable to us.”