Princess Anne urged to take stand against closure of Institute for Commonwealth Studies

Princess Anne has been urged to take a stand against the closure of the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, as a former secretary general says her intervention could save it from being axed.

The institute, which is part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Studies, faces closure due to the “real and pressing financial challenges” which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Princess Royal, who is chancellor of the university, has been urged to intercede by Chief Anyaoku, who was secretary general of the Commonwealth from 1990 to 2000.

 "She is the chancellor of the university and she should be aware of what is happening," he told The Telegraph. "She should be aware of the strong feelings of academics throughout the Commonwealth and beyond the Commonwealth.

"I would hope that if she is inspired by the presentations she wouldn’t want to have a word with the university authorities. The impact of closure of the institute will be felt throughout the Commonwealth.

"I would hope that the university would take serious notice of her intervention if she were minded to intervene. I would greatly welcome her intervention."  

Chief Anyaoku has previous warned that a “guilty conscience” over colonialism may be behind misguided plans to close the Institute for Commonwealth Studies.

 The Commonwealth should not be viewed “through the perspective of colonial history”, according Chief Emeka Anyaoku who said there is a “danger” in focussing on the past.  

Chief Anyaoku and three other former Commonwealth secretary generals have written to Prof Wendy Thomson, vice-chancellor of the University of London, urging her to reconsider.  A copy of their letter was also sent to The Princess’ office. 

The director general of the Commonwealth Foundation, one of the Commonwealth’s three major intergovernmental agencies, has also said that she was “dismayed” to learn of the institute’s planned closure and asked the university to review its decision. 

Last month, the University of London unveiled its “new strategy” for the School of Advanced Study.

It explained that due to the “significant” financial challenges faced by the School, it must “now consider all means of preserving viability and securing its future”. The Institute of Commonwealth Studies along with the Institute of Latin American Studies are earmarked for closure, with “key academic initiatives” and staff to be redeployed to other parts of the School.

A University of London spokesman said: "We are coming to the end of a formal consultation with staff and it would be inappropriate to comment further." Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

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