Twenty-five Commonwealth organisations have issued a letter urging further consultation by the University of London on the proposed closure of Institute of Commonwealth Studies. A joint letter signed by the 25 organisations has been sent to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, Professor Wendy Thomson, urging further consultation on the unexpected announcement to close the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) early next year. [See more recent letters and reactions at the bottom of this page.]

Here is a copy of the Commonwealth organisations’ letter:

Professor Wendy Thomson
Vice-Chancellor University of London [email protected]

Professor Jo Fox Acting
Dean of the School of Advanced Study University of London [email protected]

CC: SAS organisational restructuring: [email protected]

RE: Possible closure of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our concern at the unexpected announcement to close the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) early next year. While consultation is still on-going, we urge the relevant stakeholders to reconsider this decision.

The Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) is at the heart of the Commonwealth ‘family’ and many Commonwealth organisations have worked with the Institute over the years on different projects and programmes. Founded in 1949, ICwS is one of the only dedicated resources of its kind in the Commonwealth devoted specifically to the study of the contemporary Commonwealth. The Institute is a national and international centre of excellence for policy-relevant research, research facilitation and teaching.

Commonwealth organisations benefit hugely from its world-class research library, from key projects like the Human Rights Consortium and the Refugee Law Initiative, and the ICwS’s many interdisciplinary academic events, workshops and conferences, which many of our organisations have spoken at, attended and supported. Commonwealth citizens from across the world have also benefitted from the invaluable support given to early career scholars through the ICwS’s competitive fellowships and grants schemes.

The threatened closure of both ICwS and the Institute of Latin American Studies would be a huge loss to the Commonwealth ‘family’ and to the wider study of Commonwealth and Post-Colonial Studies.

We are acutely aware of the very difficult circumstances that all institutions and organisations are finding themselves due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. However, we would urge that any decision on the ICwS is carefully considered in the context of the importance of the strong international links and research interests across the Commonwealth. Commonwealth studies are vital to maintaining these connections and to the ongoing relevance of the Commonwealth in many countries.

As signatories to this letter, we would kindly ask for consultation with stakeholders across the Commonwealth, and with the staff and students at the university, on the possible closure of Page 2 of 2 the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) and its long-term future and viability. We would be very happy to offer our feedback to any consultation into the future of the ICwS in a collaborative and constructive way, either via email, survey or a meeting.

Yours sincerely,

  • Lord Howell of Guildford, President of the Royal Commonwealth Society and Chair of the Council of Commonwealth Societies
  • Stephen Twigg, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)
  • Lord Chidgey, Co-Chair, Commonwealth All-Party Parliamentary Group, UK Parliament
  • Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP, Chair and Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, Vice-Chair, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch
  • Dr Nicholas S. J. Watts, FRSA, Chair, Independent Forum of Commonwealth Organisations (IFCO)
  • Lord Black of Brentwood, Chairman, Commonwealth Press Union Trust
  • Rita Payne, Chair, CJA-UK and President Emeritus, Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA)
  • Owen Tudor, Deputy General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation on behalf of the Commonwealth Trade Union Group
  • Beth Kreling, Honorary Secretary, Commonwealth Consortium for Education (CCfE)
  • Sonny Leong CBE, Chair, Council for Education in the Commonwealth
  • Brigid Watson, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Lawyers Association
  • Dr Karen Brewer, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association
  • Dr Greg Munro, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF)
  • Richard Rieser, General Secretary, Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum
  • Professor Kathleen McCourt, President, Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation
  • Arif Zaman, FRSA, Executive Director, Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBWN)
  • David Gomez, Director, The Ramphal Institute
  • Andrew Larpent OBE, Chairman, CommonAge
  • Mabutho Cele, Convener, Commonwealth Teachers’ Group (CTG)
  • Trevor Peel, Chair, National Liberal Club Commonwealth Forum
  • Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director and Sneh Aurora, Director, London Office, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  • Mark Robinson, Chairman, Commonwealth Human Ecology Council (CHEC)
  • Victoria Schofield, Chair of the Editorial Board, The Round Table, The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs
  • Judge (R) Sandra E. Oxner, Founding President of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute

Please contact [email protected] regarding this letter

Related items [Please note that this area will be updated as new announcements and statements are made on this topic]:

The Editorial Board of the Round Table statement on the proposed permanent closure of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies

‘Guilty conscience’ over colonialism may be behind plans to close Institute for Commonwealth Studies, former secretary general Chief Emeka Anyaoku warns – The Telegraph

Letter by four former Commonwealth secretaries-general on the proposed closure of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Message from the Commonwealth Foundation Director-General on the planned closure of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Letter to the Times from scholars of imperialism, decolonisation and Commonwealth studies – 31 October

Letter from SCOLMA (the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa) – 31 October

Closing the Institute of Commonwealth Studies – a retrograde step: Opinion by Sir Ronald Sanders at  and

Move to close Commonwealth studies unit infuriates academics around the world – Trevor Grundy, 1 November

Proposed closure of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies – EDM (Early Day Motion)1064: tabled on 02 November

Letter from the President of the European Association of Development Research and Training Institute (EADI)

Save Institute of Commonwealth Studies from the axe – University World News, 7 November