Category Archives: Research & Innovation

Latest news from the ACU – The Association of Commonwealth Universities

We are members of the ACU





ACU member introduction: International collaboration by Professor (Dr) C Raj KumarFounding Vice-Chancellor at ACU member OP Jindal Global University, India.

The future of the world will depend upon our ability and capacity to deal with adversities and challenges. From responding to COVID-19, to protecting the environment and building peaceful, pluralistic communities, our fragile planet will continue to face challenges – most of which will concern the sustainability of our future. Addressing such global challenges requires collective imagination and thoughtful action.

It is against this backdrop that the work of the ACU, including bringing together young minds across the Commonwealth, becomes increasingly important and significant. The future of our planet will depend upon our commitment to developing resilience and this work begins at the universities of the world.

Earlier this year, O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) partnered with the ACU, British Council, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNESCO-Chair in Community-based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, PRIA Youth Foundation and UNESCO-MGIEP to host youth leaders from 15 Commonwealth countries for the second Commonwealth Futures workshop on ‘Inspiring global citizens’. Marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the workshop examined multidisciplinary themes relating to the concept of global citizenship such as participatory democracy, community engagement, peace, non-violence, and prevention of violent extremism.

Universities have a critical role to play in preparing young minds to go on and create sustainable futures. Key focus areas include developing curricula and pedagogies oriented towards sustainable development, fostering global networks and communities of knowledge, and building close networks with local communities.

At JGU, we are striving to work on a pan-university, multidisciplinary strategy to explore innovative and sensitive ways to teach, learn, work, and live. As a demographically diverse university, in a semi-rural region in northern India that still faces enormous social and economic developmental challenges, we are particularly conscious about creating a transformative institutional model in higher education.

Given the current global health emergency, the need to innovate within higher education is more pertinent than ever. Universities across the world are demonstrating agility and an openness to change as they adapt to new ways of teaching and working. At JGU we seek to do justice to the goals and aspirations of our students, even in times of such crisis, while ensuring the safety and wellness of our students, faculty and staff. Therefore, JGU was prepared to handle the unanticipated and complete immersion into virtual learning and online teaching, and a strong academic and digital infrastructure enabled us to smoothly transition to the online world to deliver over 400 courses online this summer.

We are delighted to have been able to be part of the Commonwealth Futures and ACU Digital Now events, and we look forward to further opportunities to collaborate with the ACU’s extensive network.

With warm regards,

Professor (Dr) C Raj Kumar
Founding Vice-Chancellor
OP Jindal Global University

Association of Commonwealth Universities – series of free virtual events

Kia ora colleagues I have received the following through our membership with the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU). Please promote – the topics are wide, covering:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Research management
  • The Sustainable Development Goals
  • Library
  • HR, and more.

Given the time zone differences, these times are unlikely to suit you. I note from their website that the sessions will be recorded and I can get copies so let me know if you are interested in that. I hope everyone is staying well, Karen

“International collaboration remains at the heart of the ACU and its work.  We are committed to ensuring that our extensive global network continues to engage and collaborate during this challenging time and beyond.

COVID-19 continues to heavily impact higher education across the globe. To support member universities as they adapt to this changing world, we are offering a free series of virtual events to share best practice and guidance. Featuring webinars and Q&As, the events will touch on a variety of topics relating to HR, teaching and learning, research management, the SDGs, and more.

Stay connected with colleagues across the Commonwealth. Register online to attend one or more of the following webinars:

Moving assessments online – lessons learned | 12 May, 15:00 BST

Managing a research office in lockdown | 20 May, 14:00 BST 

HR in HE responding to the COVID-19 crisis | 27 May, 12:00 BST

University libraries beyond the campus walls | 3 June, 14:00 BST

Please feel free to share this email with colleagues who might be interested in these topics. You can keep informed of future events by checking our events page.   If you have any questions about our events, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at

We send our best wishes and support to all of you.  Kindest regards, The ACU.”

UC membership in The Conversation gains momentum

By now, we hope you’ve heard the exciting news that UC is a member of The Conversation, which has the primary and lofty goal of “democratizing knowledge.”

The Conversation is an independent, non-profit publisher of commentary and analysis, authored by academics and edited by journalists for the general public. These pieces are syndicated by media outlets across the world.

In addition to the measurable visibility through readership of The Conversation and its network of re-publishers (national and international journalists and media outlets), authors report significant increases in requests for further academic collaborations, support for current or future grants or funding support, citations for scholarly articles, influence on policy by decision-makers and requests for media interviews (radio, print and TV).

Some recent UC articles include:

If you want to know more or need support to submit an article contact your dedicated communications advisor or Margaret Agnew:

Breeze RobertsonArts
Aleisha BlakeBusiness and Law
Breeze RobertsonEducation, Health and Human Development
Hannah SeeleyEngineering
Corrina DonaldsonScience


How it works

  • Academic staff submit brief “pitches” for possible stories to The Conversation editors, in response to topic-specific requests, or proactively to share research, scholarship or creative work of interest to the public. Pitches can be made directly to editors through a simple online form, or with facilitation from their dedicated Communications Advisor*.
  • The UC Communications team also receives an expert callout email each day from The Conversation and will follow up directly with relevant academics to see if they can write an article.
  • Once a pitch is accepted, academics collaborate directly with editors from The Conversation to develop the article. Once complete, the piece is published in the online edition of The Conversation, included in the outlet’s outbound emails and made available to a network of potential re-publishers. UC Communications also shares content by its authors through appropriate UC channels, including UC News, e-newsletters and social media. 
  • As with other news media, “pitches” need to be topical and timely. Once accepted the articles need to be quickly written and approved for publication, otherwise the moment is lost.
  • Authors have access to an analytics dashboard and can see the number of reads the article has received, the geographic location of readers and where the piece has been republished. Dashboards also monitor all engagement on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as well as comments on the site, which authors can respond to, providing an opportunity to network with other academics.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to Jayne Austin at or Margaret Agnew at, Communications and Events:

UC contributes to fight against COVID-19

From the maths behind the lockdown, to a prototype face shield for health workers – UC staff and students are providing a range of important contributions in the fight against COVID-19.  

Below is a snapshot of just some of the incredible research and work our community is currently involved in. Tangata Tū, Tangata Ora – Engaged, Empowered, Making a Difference.

  1. Shayne Gooch and other staff are collaborating with Professor Alexander Slocum from MIT to evolve a new design for a low-cost ventilator based on a Bag Valve Mask (BVM) type, which is commonly used to provide positive pressure ventilation in emergency care situations.
  2. Distinguished Professor Geoff Chase is working with his          former PhD student Dr Yeong Shiong Chiew (now based at Monash University, Malaysia) and his EU H2020 research consortia partner Dr Thomas Desaive (University of Liege, Belgium) along with their ICU partners at CHU de Liege, to develop a way to safely ventilate two patients on one ventilator.

    There is strong interest in ventilating multiple patients on a single ventilator due to the overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients – especially in areas like Italy and New York City. They have developed a low-cost, simple design that removes the risks associated with current proposals for ventilating multiple patients, and creates a safe, effective way to put two patients on a single ventilator. Professor Merryn Tawhai (University of Auckland and Director of the MedTech CoRE) has joined the team, which brings together world leaders in lung modelling and intensive care research, and has strong clinical links in Europe and locally with Christchurch Hospital Senior ICU Specialist and University of Otago School of Medicine Professor Geoff Shaw. They are now applying for funding to prototype and prove their ideas, translating them to low-cost, easily used hardware, and intend to share their design worldwide for everyone’s benefit.

We know there is a lot more great work like this happening at UC. If you’d like to share your work, email

Intelligent Automation empowering University staff

For the past seven months, the University of Canterbury (UC) has been undergoing an extensive Intelligent Automation programme that has seen 11 process improvements through building software robots that complete manual, repetitive, high volume tasks. UC has been building an internal team to identify and improve business processes from various departments including Finance, HR, Student Services and Academic Colleges.

UC’s approach to intelligent automation has been exemplary, PwC Director Matthew Whitaker says. “The culture UC has grown to support this programme has led to innovative uses of automation from a technology solution application perspective but more importantly UC has cultivated the human led thinking to drive the opportunity identification and solutioning that is not constrained by a single technology to achieve the outcome.”

The programme is part of achieving a key theme in UC’s 10 year strategy, organisational efficacy. By building robots to complete the manual, repetitive tasks, it empowers staff to complete more value-added work. Already approximately 7,000 hours are to be saved per annum through automation and process improvement.  

UC CFO Keith Longden is impressed with the programme and believes the programme will bring a wide range of benefits to the university.

“There’s been a realisation on how beneficial RPA can be, and how it can apply to part of a process and not the whole process. Because of the success, it’s made it easier to open doors in other areas of the university. Teams have seen that their own process has been looked at by the university, so they’ve felt more valued.”

The robot squad so far:

  • BUCK: Validates differences in pay for staff
  • Reubot: Reconciling the daily bank statement
  • Manwell: Registers students to the recreation centre
  • Murray: Transfers data from various systems into Dynamics 365 (CRM Tool)
  • RoboMatt: Calculating and processing agent commission payments
  • HireMe: Onboards new staff administration through Peoplesoft
  • PayMe: Invigilator timesheets entry
  • AutoBnB: Processes applications for student accommodation to send to students’ hall of first preference
  • Unicorn: Contract Management

More information on each process completed so far can be found on the UC Intranet

If you know of any processes you think would be great to automate, please get in touch with the automation team at: