Welcome Address by Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President at the Ground Breaking of the New USP Solomon Islands Campus on 24 August 2017, 2-3pm
Honourable Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands
Mr Takehiko Nakao, President of the Asian Development Bank
Honourable Government Ministers
Honourable Members of Parliament
Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council, His Excellency, Ambassador Winston Thompson
Excellencies and members of the diplomatic corps
Representatives of our Development Partners
Representatives of Kramer Ausenco
Director, staff and students of USP Solomon Islands Campus
Ladies and Gentlemen
Hallo, bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you.
On behalf of the Pro Chancellor and the The University of the South Pacific community, I warmly welcome you all to the official ground breaking ceremony of USPís new SI Campus here in Honiara.
This is indeed a momentous and historic occasion for the Government and people of SI, our member Governments and for USP.
We are deeply honoured by the presence of Mr Takehiko Nakao, President of the Asian Development Bank who, with the Hon. Prime Minister, will shortly be doing the official ground breaking of the new SI Campus.
Your Excellency, we thank you for the support of the ADB, for making this project a possibility through a soft loan of US$15.4m for the development of the new SI Campus, and US$1.5m grant under ADBís Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility (CEFPF) for the construction of a solar panel photovoltaic system which will meet 75% of the energy needs at the new Campus.
Excellency, through this project we have also increased our engagement with ADB and we have recently signed a cooperation agreement to boost knowledge collaboration between our two organisations.
I also thank the Hon. Prime Minister and his Government for ensuring that the new USP SI Campus becomes a reality. Prime Minister, Sir, the University greatly appreciates your leadership and support without which we would not be celebrating this ground-breaking today.
New SI Campus
Ladies and gentlemen, some key features of the new building design include facilities such as a fully digitised library, outdoor performance space, and moot court, specialised study areas with device charging ports, smart classrooms/lecture theatres and a large multi-purpose hall.
This will be USPís first campus to have distinctive features such as roof mounted Solar PV panels, Public Health facility and an overall Pacific theme. It also comprises a well-thought-out disability access throughout the campus together with disability seating provisions at the lecture theatres.
The new SI Campus will have enhanced ICT-based education with state-of-art ICT equipment and internationally accredited ICT based learning programmes. With the wide expanse of about 33 million km2 between our 12 member countries and 14 regional campuses, the only means for effective learning and teaching and the integration of operations is through investment in ICT systems.
The new SI Campus will allow students to learn through face-to-face, and flexible learning (FL) or blended modes.
The new Campus, (which is also referred to at times as the 4th Campus) has been under planning for the past 3 decades. I have been privileged to have been personally involved in its evolution and efforts to build a new campus since I became Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) in 1990 and especially since I led a planning mission to Solomon Islands as the Acting Vice-Chancellor in 2003.
The new Campus will enable the University to accommodate the growing student enrolment numbers in SI. The Campus will have 6000 square metres, serve as a symbol of a green campus and a representation of how powerfully we can use ICT for our learning and teaching needs.
The major regional anchor programme for the new campus will be Public Health, although all the programmes offered by the University will also be available here in one form or another.
USP, SIG Partnership
The Government of SI has continually lent its unwavering support for this project. USP shares a strong relationship with the governments and people of its 12 member countries, amongst which, SI is a valued partner.
The SI Government has provided us with this land for the new campus. It also paid for the relocation of staff previously on this land. In addition, the Government will also be providing Tax & Import Duty Exemptions for the Project. This assistance, speaks volumes of the commitment by the Government towards higher learning in SI and to its regional university.
As we celebrate the ground breaking of this new Campus, let us remind ourselves that we have come a long way since USP Centre was first opened in SI in November 1971. On 4 November 1977, the Centre moved to its current location at Lawson Tama. With the continued steady growth in student numbers, the SI Centre was finally designated a USP Campus in 2006.
We have grown from just a handful of students to around 4,309 students, who are currently enrolled at this Campus as at August, 2017. Today, there are around 5,684 SI students studying at USP across its 14 campuses, of which, 1,076 students study at the Laucala Campus. The rapidly increasing number of students over the years is a clear reflection that youths in SI continue to be motivated to participate in higher education.
The Government of SI and USP believe that providing access to quality and relevant education is crucial for the future prosperity of SI. This new and enlarged campus in SI will help address the demand for higher education over the long term and also will be a practical solution for addressing issues such as climate change and sustainable development.
USP will provide more academic staff to teach at the new campus. We are committed to ensuring that the new campus becomes a vibrant intellectual hub of the Solomon Islands and a source of solutions to major development problems.
In addition to this, many more students will now have the opportunity to complete their study programmes and courses without having to travel to the main Laucala Campus in Fiji, reducing the cost of tertiary education significantly.
Emphasis on Quality
The University continues to place emphasis on the quality of its programmes through international accreditations and recognitions which is an important external validation of quality. So far, USP has 23 accreditations and 6 recognitions and we are working on getting all our programmes accredited.
USP is in its 5th year of implementation of the Strategic Plan 2013-2018 and has already embarked on developing a new Strategic Plan (2019-2024). The process for developing the new Strategic Plan will be extensively consultative. The new Strategic Plan will be considered and approved by the University Council at its November 2018 meeting.
Moving forward, USP hopes that the construction of the new campus starts soon with the tender released this week. We already have our project consultant Kramer Ausenco on board.
While the new campus will not solve all of the challenges facing SIís education sector, I am confident that it will surely help train generations of young people who will lead and contribute to realizing the bright future that lies ahead for Solomon Islands, and to improve tertiary and general education that is the foundation of development of all countries.
Tangio Tumas, Vinaka and thank you.