Part of the  School of Advanced Study at the University of London, the Institute sits at the crossroads of research, policy, human rights practice and international relations. Its vision is that people around the world, including throughout the modern Commonwealth, live in societies grounded in democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Founded in 1949, the Institute contributes towards this vision by developing effective, evidence-based policy solutions to the challenges facing the modern Commonwealth; supporting the modern Commonwealth's global network of civil society; engaging with Commonwealth stakeholders, including its Member States; and offering groundbreaking MAs in understanding and securing human rights, including by distance learning.

The Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies is Professor Kingsley Abbott.